California Dreaming: Monterey and Carmel

7 July 2014

Feels good to be back in California! :) When last we left off, John and I were in the quiet and beautifully green woods of Big Sur. We woke up in our little cabin in the woods and set off for an early morning hike at Pfeiffer Falls.


The two-mile hike lead to a valley view first, then down to a pretty waterfall. I was so glad we were there in the morning – the towering redwoods made it feel a bit like we were in an enchanted forest.


Rounding a corner in the trail on our way back up, I found myself face to face with a baby deer!! She didn’t seem at all concerned at the sight of me, and continued her leisurely walk down the trail. Once she was about six feet from me, though, she decided that it might be unwise to walk directly past me, so she cut through the switchback instead. We watched her continue down the trail to the waterfall at a stately pace, open-mouthed. I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to a deer!



We grabbed a yogurt and granola parfait to go from the state park lodge and brought it back to eat by the Big Sur River at Glen Oaks before getting back on the road.


Our next destination, Carmel, was only about 45 minutes north of Big Sur. We stopped at several turn-outs along the way, including the famous Bixby Bridge (to the left in the photo below!). As you can see, it was another beautiful day, but windy on the Pacific Coast Highway!



We arrived in Carmel with time to walk its shaded and lovely streets before sitting down to lunch. To us, Carmel felt European, classic, and sedate. The feel is definitely more “old money” than “hip” – lots of cute fairytale-looking houses with names. We stopped briefly by the Carmel Mission, but chose not to go inside (there is an entrance fee).


After lunch, we left Carmel briefly to head next door to the Monterey Bay Aquarium! We had heard great things about it. While it was neat and the location can’t be beat (perched on a tide pool!), we agreed that we wish we had spent our time elsewhere, if only because we had seen otters and seals in the wild so recently and impressively!



If we hadn’t spent the time and money at the aquarium, it might have been neat to kayak in Monterey, but honestly, once we reached our destination for the night, we realized we would have been thrilled to spend even more time there! From the minute we drove onto Carmel Valley Ranch’s property, we knew it was special. (The frolicking deer and wild turkeys that accompanied our drive up the hill might have been a giveaway.)

Carmel Valley Ranch was without a doubt a splurge, but we had some Jetsetter credits squirreled away from birthdays and holidays that made it more palatable. However, John would want me to add that he thinks it’s a bargain at almost any price (and I would agree). That was at least in part due to the size of our suite’s bathroom:



After checking in and dropping off our luggage, we headed out to the Huff ‘n Puff Trail, one of several routes on their 500-acre property. We were captivated and delighted from the first step!


We were, indeed, huffing a bit as we made our way up several hundred feet through trees draped with trailing lace lichen. I tried out some poses as we caught our breath on the yoga platform at the top of the property.


I was incredibly delighted to see that CVR offered their weekly hilltop class at the civilized hour of 10am, instead of the ridiculous crack of dawn time-slot usually reserved for yoga. Much appreciated by people like me, who love their sleep! I would have LOVED to take a class, but they’re only offered on Saturdays, and we were there on a Wednesday.





We followed various trails through the rest of the main property, including the vineyard, the lavender fields, and the vegetable garden. They even have chickens!




There are several tree swings throughout the property, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.


On our way back to our room, we had another wildlife encounter! We saw a herd of deer mix with a herd of wild turkeys, and surprisingly, the turkeys came out on top.


After our hike we changed and got ready for dinner. Our suite was within walking distance of the main complex, which included the Lodge restaurant and the main pool. I loved the design of the restaurant – it was the perfect balance of rustic cabin and modern openness, with a giant bar and fireplace anchoring the space. I couldn’t find a great photo, but here’s a peek:


Our dinner was leisurely and absolutely delicious all around – one of our favorites on the trip. Like many California restaurants, the Lodge uses as many local and in-season ingredients as possible (many from their own property!), and you could taste how fresh everything was. We finished our evening with s’mores around a fire pit, then a dip under the stars in the infinity hot tub, open 24 hours a day!



Spoiler alert: our time at Carmel Valley Ranch was over much too soon! But we were on to great things, so we couldn’t be too sad. Yosemite is up next!

Day one: Malibu, Ojai, Montecito
Day two: Santa Barbara, Montana de Oro, Cayucos
Day three: Cambria, San Simeon, Big Sur

All photos personal except restaurant and infinity tub photos!

July Goals

3 July 2014

Contrary to appearances, I have not abandoned my blog. I got back after midnight last night from eight days of traveling, and though I had hopes to continue my California posts while on the road, it just didn’t happen. And that’s okay! Carmel and Monterey will be up next (and there will be photos and text when I finally get my act together – ha!), but in the meantime, let’s talk monthly goals!


Boxes of peaches at Kalawi Farms in Eagle Springs!

First, a little note about the fact that it’s July. Like many other people, I have the tendency to say the following or similar:
Where has the time gone?!
This year is flying by!
This year is almost over!
The summer’s basically over, and before we know it, it will be fall!

I’ve recently decided that phrases like these can not only become self-fulfilling prophecies, but they can feed into the manic tendency of our culture, normalizing the urge to always be on to the next thing. It’s July 1 – summer is NOT almost over. I’m trying to cut these phrases out of my conversation as a mini rebellion, and am interested to hear what you think :)

June goal recap:
Install a rain barrel (Still not done… our house budget is recovering. Adding it to July!)
Finish taking house photos and post tour (Photos are 75% done? Hoping to post in July.)
Finally buy Cuyana bag Yes!! Observant readers spotted it in this photo.
Hang new mirror in our powder room (Mirror purchased – yet to be hung.)
Finish preparing for and co-host a baby shower and a few other very fun events Yes! So much fun.
Pay off our second car loan and celebrate becoming debt free aside from our mortgage! Hooray!
Set a date for our Blacksburg adventure (I have an email in my inbox waiting for a response – underway!)

July goals:
– Install a rain barrel
– Finish taking house photos and post tour
– Finalize and print last third of household maintenance doc
– Clean out our “art storage room” – hang everything we like and organize/donate/sell/get rid of the rest
– Pick blueberries
– Celebrate John’s birthday!

Keeping things simple to hopefully have a 100% success rate! If you’ve posted your monthly goals, I’d love to take a peek.

California Dreaming: Cambria, San Simeon, Big Sur

23 June 2014

Welcome back to the California coast! We’re picking up with breakfast at Cass House on day three, and though it’s not as much of a production as dinner, it is similarly delicious and exquisitely presented! The lavender and rosebud tea, made from plants on the property, was really light and lovely.


Before we got back on the road, we moseyed down the Cayucos boardwalk a bit and happened upon this adorable urban farmhouse. I was ready to move in!!



Enough house hunting – our first order of business for the day was driving about twenty minutes up the coast to Cambria, a quaint little seaside town that reminded me of Maine – it smelled like the ocean and pine trees!


Sunset Magazine had recommended the East West Ranch hike (also known as Fiscalini Ranch Preserve), and we’re happy to vouch for that recommendation. It’s an easy one mile loop, but so beautiful!



More otters and seals playing just off shore! We even saw a seal pup nursing – so cool.



With that beautiful start to our day under our belts, we headed just a smidge farther up the road to San Simeon and Hearst Castle. Before we could even turn into the visitors’ center, the wonders began – zebras grazing by the side of the road! They were as casual as could be, and happily mixed with the cattle.


William Randolph Hearst, the owner of Hearst Castle, kept what was at one time the world’s largest private zoo, and though most of the animals (including giraffes, elephants, and polar bears!) had been donated to public zoos, the zebras still roam free!


Hearst Castle itself is one of the few attractions we actually paid for on this trip – most of the rest of our entertainment was provided for free by nature. In this case, John and I both agreed that the fee was worth it. Hearst wanted his house to feel like a European cathedral, and he went to great lengths to piece together whole ceilings and other architectural details from churches and monasteries overseas, so it was really neat to see. We chose the “Grand Rooms” tour, which was an hour, and also included entrance to the grounds. Not a bad view :)


While you did get a good feel for the property, I wished the tour had been much longer – compared to the Biltmore Estate, which we’ve also recently toured, the “Grand Rooms” experience seemed pretty restrictive, as you only visit about four rooms.


Highlights included the jaw-dropping pool, all the beautiful citrus trees, and the movie theater where Hearst and his guests would watch films every night! All fifty seats were velvet chaise lounges that looked extremely comfortable.


After a quick backtrack for lunch in Cambria, we headed a few minutes up the coast to the elephant seal colony at Piedra Blancas. There was quite a crowd gathered at the pull-off, and for good reason – there was quite a crowd of elephant seals! To be honest, they were not the most comely things, between the molting, grunting, and fighting. We only stayed a few minutes, but I did like these guys:


San Simeon was our last stop before one of our longer chunks of driving. The good thing about this trip, though, is that the drive is part of the adventure! We were on a really classic stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, and yes, it is just as rugged and breathtaking and hairpin-y as it looks. And scary – there are very few guardrails! There are, however, plenty of scenic pull-offs, and we helped ourselves to many of them.



Mostly, we were SO incredibly thankful for the weather we had on day three – clear as far as the eye can see! It can be really foggy along the PCH, so we didn’t take this for granted.

While we had plans to make a few stops along the way, we ended up only doing two (mostly because we missed the other trailheads – oops). Up first was McWay Falls, possibly the most iconic PCH view.



A waterfall on the beach?? I mean, come on. Just stunning. This stop was a bit crowded (with good reason, of course), which made our next step even more pleasant in comparison – Partington Cove!


I loved the Partington Cove hike because even though it was just a mile long, you passed through so many different environments. From the road, you hike about a mile down a fairly steep and dry canyon.



At the bottom, the path narrows through Big Sur redwoods, then passes through a 60-foot tunnel before opening into a rocky and secluded cove. A nice family offered to take our picture :)


This was the first side of the cove, where we sat for awhile just soaking in the beauty, an hour or two before sunset.


And this was the second side, which had some pretty impressive waves (not that you can tell from this photo, though):



Okay, people, hang with me here! I know this is an epic day, but we’re almost done. After we hoofed it back up the hill (past the pretty cascade above!), we hopped back in the car for the short drive to our spot for the night, Glen Oaks Big Sur.


We were really lucky with all of our accommodations, but I think Glen Oaks might have been John’s favorite – or at least it was tied for first place with day four’s accommodations. Our home away from home was an adorable little cabin tucked in amongst towering redwoods. It had a fire pit right outside our door and a fireplace inside, as well as heated bathroom floors and a s’mores kit! This definitely wasn’t your standard campground cabin.


The Glen Oaks property was incredibly beautiful – quiet, green, ancient-feeling. The Big Sur River ran between the cabins, and we even saw a mama skunk and three baby skunks walk along the riverbank as we relaxed before dinner!





We finished the day with dinner reservations at the woodsy Big Sur Bakery, which we had heard a ton about. It didn’t disappoint. Wood fired pizza and a delicious arugula salad by candlelight were exactly what we were in the mood for at the end of an adventurous day. Like the rest of Big Sur, the Bakery and Glen Oaks were such a neat juxtaposition of humble surroundings and artisanal style. A magical place, and without a doubt a must-do on the Pacific Coast Highway!

Up next: Monterey and Carmel!

Day one: Malibu, Ojai, Montecito
Day two: Santa Barbara, Montana de Oro, Cayucos

Watercolor house portraits

18 June 2014

California posts will resume tomorrow, but I had to take a small break to tell you about something time-sensitive! Southern Weddings is currently hosting a giveaway for a custom home watercolor by Lucky Luxe, and if you adore Erin’s work as much as I do, you must drop everything and enter immediately!!



Erin’s watercolors are very much in the style of Rebekka Seale, which I love, because I was fairly obsessed with Rebekka’s house illustrations. Erin loved them, too, and when Rebekka stopped doing them, Erin asked her if she’d mind if she picked up where she left off – and Rebekka gave her blessing, thankfully for all of us!

The giveaway is open until Friday – go here for all the details, then post your photo on instagram to win! Seriously, I don’t know why there aren’t 1,000 entries already.

In the meantime, you should take a look at all of the posts in the Southern Newlywed series — I have been loving them! Just a few of my favorite moments:




I had to restrain myself from re-posting every photo of Erin and Ben’s home tour. It is that good, and the interview is even better. Go read it now, please.



I also loved Caroline and Aaron’s apartment, and their thoughts on small space living are inspiring!



I pinned many a photo from Landon and Jordan’s tour – and you must go see their adorable chicken coop!!

Lots of inspiration to be had!

California Dreaming: Santa Barbara, Montana de Oro, Cayucos

13 June 2014

While we considered eating breakfast at Tupelo Junction Cafe or Jeannine’s, we decided getting our day started early was the priority, and our homemade muffins would do. I snacked on mine in our private courtyard, while John took a shower under the blue sky nearby!



Once we had packed up our bags, we drove over to Santa Barbara and wound our way up the Alameda Padre Serra, or APS. Its sinuous path takes you through the foothills to the Old Mission Santa Barbara, with views around each curve. We arrived around 10am, and were surprised to see folks directing traffic – we didn’t expect it to be that busy. Unbeknownst to us, though, we were visiting on the day of an Italian street painting festival!




We poked around outside but couldn’t go in because a church service was in progress. While it would have been neat to attend, we decided to worship at the First United Methodist Church of Santa Barbara, which was also lovely, and in the cutest neighborhood!


For lunch, we indulged John’s taco craving again with a visit to La Super Rica. It’s a very unassuming, very small, and very teal spot, but it also holds the distinction of being Julia Child’s favorite.


We arrived 15 minutes after they opened and still stood in line for about 45 minutes, so make sure you have enough time in your schedule if you’re thinking about going! It was neat to watch the tortilla lady in constant motion behind the window, and our food was delicious (thank you, Julia).

After lunch we left Santa Barbara behind and drove north through beautiful, golden rolling hills. We would have loved to stop in Solvang, Los Olivos, or San Luis Obispo, but we had another destination in mind: Montana de Oro State Park!


The hike we chose (the Bluff Trail) followed the edge of the cliff for about a mile. We were a little bummed by the marine layer that rolled in, but it didn’t block our views too much.


And happily, by the time we arrived at the beach at the far point of the hike, it was all blue skies and sun!!


We had so much fun poking around in the tide pools – they were filled with anemones, periwinkles, and sea urchins! There were also lots of coves and beach canyons to explore, all set against a mountain backdrop.




Before heading back to the car we had to loop back around to take another peek at the cove in sunshine :)



Our last stop for the day was brief, but totally worth it. Morro Bay is the name of a town, state park, and very large rock. It’s about ten minutes from Montana de Oro. We didn’t really know what to do with the very large rock (look at it?), but as soon as we parked the car, we followed the small crowd to the edge of the harbor and saw… otters!! A small pod of 10-12 swimming, playing, grooming, and sleeping. They were unbelievably adorable.



Our accommodations for the night were just a hop and a skip away from Morro Bay, in the tiny, sleepy seaside town of Cayucos. There’s not much in it except for the Cass House Inn – but the Inn is enough. Our friend Meredith recommended we stop here, and I’m so glad she did!


There are only six rooms in the house. We stayed in the Ocean Terrace, and it did indeed have a private terrace with a gorgeous view of the ocean! It also had brown butter cookies upon check-in, and really delicious-smelling bath products.


Since Cass House is only about a block from the waterfront we had time to stroll out onto the pier and through their gardens before dinner. I had never seen anything like the coastal rosemary hedges – they were twelve feet tall!



Though our trip had no shortage of delicious meals, our dinner at Cass House was one of the most memorable. Their tiny dining room (about ten tables) only serves one locally sourced, seasonally inspired tasting menu a night. Many ingredients actually come from their garden, and it includes 14 – yes! – courses, each beautifully presented. Our meal lasted about three and a half hours :) We were full and happy when we went to bed on day two!


Up next: Cambria, San Simeon, and Big Sur!

Part one: Malibu, Ojai, Montecito