adventure around: california- down the pacific coast highway

california

This past week I had the great opportunity to travel all around the state of California with my family for my little sister’s graduation trip. I had been out to Los Angeles when Auburn played in the National Championship in Pasadena but did not get the chance to really adventure around the city.

We had a lot of sightseeing and walking packed into the seven days we were on the west coast starting with a great few days in San Francisco.

Keep reading to see our trip through the what seemed like million pictures I took and read about the amazing places we went and restaurants we ate yummy food at, complete with the location’s address at the bottom of the post!

Day 1: San Francisco

We arrived at the San Francisco airport in the mid-afternoon so we had plenty of time to start sightseeing. Since San Francisco is the birthplace of Uber and we did not have our rental car yet, so we utilized Uber to get from place to place.

After checking into our hotel, the Marriott at Fisherman’s Wharf, we headed to the Wharf to get a bite to eat. We walked over to the Franciscan Crab Restaurant located on Pier 43½ that boasted beautiful views of the bay and Alcatraz.DSCF7226

As you walked up the stairs you saw the wall lined with black and white photos of celebrities that have eaten at the restaurant, you know if they have this big of a Hollywood crowd the food must be good.
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We started off with an amazing bruschetta appetizer
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Then picked our entrees, I had the Foggy Wharf crab slider
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while my dad decided to try a whole two pound crab.

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We then went down to Pier 39 to check out the main section of Fisherman’s Wharf.

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I of course had to stop in a souvenir shop to get a magnet, my touristy souvenir of choice. Sadly I was let down by this area, it was a lot more dirty and touristy than I expected it would be. I enjoyed the Pier 43½ that we ate dinner at much more than the main Pier 39.

We got our exercise in by walking down to Ghirardelli square and passed a beautiful sunset.

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When on vacation these days you have to have a selfie stick, right?

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We made our way inside to get a delicious hot fudge sundae and even got to see how Ghirardelli makes their chocolate.

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To walk off all the chocolate we thought it would be a good idea to walk and see Lombard Street, the “crookedest street” in the world. I knew San Francisco was known for being quite hilly but I felt like we were mountain climbing. A little out of breath we finally made it to Lombard to see a breathtaking view of the city.

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We ended up coming back to Lombard Street when we had our rental car so I could take a video going down the street, yes I was hanging out of the window of our Chevrolet Malibu to get the shot.

After our crooked street adventures it was time to make the long walk back to the hotel to get some sleep for day two in San Fran.

Day 2: San Francisco

No wonder Train named an entire album about this awesome city, it’s so beautiful.

We started the morning with an Uber ride to Mama’s, a local favorite.

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TIP: Websites warned us about the long line at Mama’s, but if you get there around 7:40 (20 minutes before they open) like we did, you will be one of the first tables seated, no hour to two hour wait for you!

We made our way through the line to order our breakfast, deciding just one thing to order was hard.

I decided to get an omelet with Sonoma goat cheese

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But Grace won the best breakfast award for her bagel with the freshest salmon I’ve ever had.

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My meal was complete with the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had!

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We had the best waitress and even made friends with locals outside waiting in line. The atmosphere and amazing food made Mama’s a definite go-to breakfast spot in San Fran.

To walk off our breakfast we conquered the San Fran hills by walking to Coit Tower.

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The views from the tower were insane, for $8/ person for out of towners like us, it’s a great place to view the entire city. You can even see the Golden Gate Bridge from Telegraph Hill.

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After soaking in the beautiful views we jumped back in an Uber to head to Union Square, what I called the 5th Avenue of San Francisco, where all your favorite upscale designers have adorable shops. Our Uber driver gave us a two for one deal, we not only were riding in a taxi but a roller coaster apparently as he sped up and down hills.

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We went in the most beautiful Louis Vuitton store, one of my favorite designers, gotta say I experienced a little purse envy.

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We then walked across the street to Neiman Marcus to see their famous rotunda.

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A short walk later we were deep in China Town. If you love a good China Town with yummy restaurants and fun souvenirs, San Fran has the best China Town.

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We went to Old Shanghai to pick up some treasures, I got a little Buddha and a magnet.

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After walking through the lantern lined streets we were ready for some lunch, at the well known House of Nanking.

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To start we got their pot stickers that had a delicious peanut sauce and their famous Sesame Chicken.

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It was by far the best Sesame Chicken I’ve ever had.

Did you know: fortune cookies originated in San Francisco?

After our Chinese lunch we had to go to Golden Gate Fortune Cookie to get freshly made fortune cookies.

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TIP: You have to pay .25 to take pictures of the sweet ladies making the fortune cookies.

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After our adventures in China Town it was time to hop back in an Uber to go to the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion to see the magnificent bridge. The gift shop is worth stopping in to pick up a souvenir, either a magnet like I got or a book like my mom got.

I was so excited to see the bridge in person, when you think San Francisco, you think of this bridge.

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After taking a good amount of pictures from afar we decided to walk across the bridge. I had never walked on a bridge like that, it being so high up, so I got a major case of vertigo.

TIP: Be prepared for the heights of the bridge and winds on the bridge that make it feel like your phone will be swept out of your hand and into the bay.

Once we made it half way across the bridge I finally got over my fears and took even more great pictures.

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This day was non-stop, our next stop being the Palace of Fine Arts. I can’t say this enough, San Fran is BEAUTIFUL, Palace of Fine Arts being one of the most beautiful. The architecture made for some fantastic pictures,

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And a great family selfie.

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After all that walking and sightseeing it was time for a good dinner, so we went to Fior d’Italia, the oldest Italian restaurant in America.

Mom, dad and I shared a delicious bottle of red wine,

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And started the meal with delicious prosciutto wrapped shrimp.

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Mom and I then shared the prosciutto wrapped chicken with a side of crunchy green beans.

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The ambiance of the restaurant was set by a great, old school jazz band.

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After enjoying our Italian food it was time to call it a night to prepare for our next day. We were pretty tired considering we took 13,970 steps that day, yep you read that right.

Day 3: Muir Woods // Napa Valley

Early in the morning on day 3 we walked over to pick up our rental car, a great Chevy Malibu that had an outlet to plug in my phone to play music and listen to directions and everything!

We then drove over the Golden Gate Bridge (so cool) to make our way to Muir Woods.

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We were among the giants that day, the pictures don’t even do it justice.

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Everywhere you turned there was a patch of clovers, Grace tried to find a four leaf clover but sadly failed.

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After our hike through the Red Woods we made our way North to wine country, Napa Valley.

Along the way we stopped in a little town in the valley, Calistoga, where we had lunch at Hydro Grill.

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Once I saw the BLT on the menu, I had to get it. It was complete with avocado and lime mayonnaise with a side of out of this world parmesan and truffle oil fries.

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Don’t worry, I ate every bite.

We continued to walk down the cute Calistoga Street to find Calistoga Olive Oil Company.

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Napa Valley is not only known for its wine but its olive oil too!

With the assistance of Rose, one of their great workers, we got to have our own olive oil tasting, where we learned a little more about olive oil and how it was made.

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The store even offered organic popcorn with lime olive oil drizzled on top with pink Himalayan salt.

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We ended up buying three bottles of olive oil and one bottle of balsamic vinegar (the best I’ve ever had).

We then went on to our next tasting, my favorite, wine tasting. When I was looking for a vineyard to visit online, I didn’t want to just go stare at grapes all day. I then found Castello di Amorosa and thought it would be perfect.

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The castle was built in the late ‘00s but was modeled after a 13th century Italian castle, with great attention to detail and old pieces flown over from Europe.

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Apparently, it isn’t a real castle unless there’s a torture chamber.

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We continued to walk around until we entered a great room full of barrels where we had a barrel tasting, where you try a young wine straight out of the French wood barrel.216222After the tour of the castle it was time to go down to the wine tasting room in the cellar.

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We got to taste five different wines, a majority of mine being red wines and sweet wines.

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My favorite wine was the 2013 Gewurztraminer Late Harvest that was grown in Anderson Valley, a succulent and deliciously spicy white wine loaded with aroma and flavor, made in a “Noble Rot” dessert, or very sweet, style.

We then went to the gift shop, where I got a bottle stopper and a magnet of course, shaped like a bottle that had the name of one of the wines I tried on it.

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After a day of nature, olive oil and wine, it was time to make our way back down toward San Fran, first stopping in Sausalito.

We went to Sweet Ginger for a great selection of sushi and the best edamame I’ve ever had. I ate it so fast I didn’t even get a picture of it.

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We wanted to see a little more of Sausalito so we walked across the street to Dunphy Park where they had a beautiful gazebo.

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A short trip back over the Golden Gate Bridge it was time to watch the sunset over the bridge and the bay at Fort Mason.

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Before we froze to death because the wind off the bay is so cold, we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for a day of traveling down the coast.

Day 4: Carmel-by-the-Sea // Big Sur // San Simeon

It was hard to say goodbye to San Fran, but it was time to jump on the Pacific Coast Highway to make our way down the coast.

We started in Carmel-by-the-Sea and drove straight to a beautiful beach.

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After soaking in the beautiful views, we went to Island Taco for a delicious meal complete with guac and street style tacos.

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After a filling lunch, we went to Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo, a beautiful Catholic Church that opened in 1793. I of course has to go to the gift shop, where I got a magnet and a saint medal for a friend.

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We went to Tuck Box, a local favorite in Carmel-by-the-Sea that looks like it is straight out of a storybook.

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After we fell in love with Carmel-by-the-Sea

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it was time to say goodbye and head down to Big Sur.

On the way to Big Sur we passed Bixby Bridge, famous for its appearance in car commercials.

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Google Maps had been our saving grace this trip, getting us around the confusing streets and interstates of California. Well until we were heading to Big Sur… We were following the directions when we stopped to see the Bixby Bridge and turned onto a dirt road to get better pictures of the bridge. The dirt road, Old Coast Road, was supposed to bring us to Big Sur. Instead, it brought us up a cliff then down into a state park with huge Red Woods and a one way road… Thanks Google.

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Sadly, it was kind of foggy when we were in Big Sur so we did not really get to see anything, but we did get to stop for a yummy hot chocolate with a great rooftop so we could admire the view.

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Next up was a short hike to see  the beautiful McWay Falls. The falls, located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park located right off Hwy 1, were a beautiful sight as the waves were crashing on the beach.

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After the slight hike to the falls we made our way farther down the coast to San Simeon. This city is the home of Hearst Castle but due to time constraints we did not get a chance to visit the mansion, but did get to see the Hearst Castle zebras running around… it was a weird sight, we thought our eyes were playing tricks on us.

Before we checked into our hotel we stopped to see the elephant seals, what interesting, huge animals they are. They tend to fight each other, then one of them just gives up and puts their head back down.

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The viewing area also had beach squirrels that were way too friendly toward humans…

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A quick drive down the beach road we were in San Simeon and checked into our hotel, it was interesting to say the least. This was a last minute hotel choice because we weren’t sure what part of the state we would be in by the time we wanted to go to sleep so we couldn’t expect much. Even a drive over to Cambria for dinner was uneventful compared to the beginning of the trip, we went to a local grill where I got a mediocre burger. The patty was made better by the addition of avocado, that was amazing because it was so fresh.

Day 5: Santa Monica // Sunset Strip

Early the next morning we jumped out of bed to get back in the rental car to make the four hour drive to Los Angeles. After passing through the San Fernando Valley, yes A Cinderella Story fans, it’s a real place, too bad we didn’t see Chad Michael Murray.

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Also, Snapchat had the coolest Geofilters throughout California, I tried to catch as many as possible as we passed through the state.

After a little bit of traffic on I-10 we FINALLY made it to Los Angeles!!

First thing to do: eat dinner.

We went to Sushi Roku right off Ocean Avenue where I got a delicious baked lobster roll.

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Next up, the Santa Monica Pier. Since it is right across the street from our hotel we walked over to see this tourist attraction in person.

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When you’re on the pier you have to ride the Ferris Wheel, but be prepared to pay $8/person per ride.

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TIP: If you are in the area on a week day I suggest going to visit the pier then, since it was super crowded on the Sunday afternoon when we went.

After the pier we went to check into our fabulous hotel, The Georgian. This art deco hotel was absolutely fabulous, my favorite hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

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The rooms were spacious and still had the charm of a 1940’s hotel room.

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Next, we decided to unwind with drinks at the restaurant on the front patio, The Veranda.

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I had a Georgian Express, a yummy drink with rum and pineapple juice with a splash of grenadine.

After drinks we went out and about to walk around the Third Street Promenade and came across The Misfit, a super cool bar and restaurant. We got to sit outside on their patio to enjoy our delicious meal.

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My mom and I split the avocado toast with grapes and tomatoes (a weird combo but really good) and the backed mac and cheese with prosciutto.

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I had the Festival de las Flores, a drink with tequila, grapefruit and fresh thyme.

You HAVE to get their milk chocolate and sea salt cookies, they were to die for! You could buy a bag of 6 for just $3!

Since it was our first night in Los Angeles, and the only weekend night we would really be able to do anything, my dad had a crazy/fun idea: to go out on the Sunset Strip.

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Down to Whisky a Go Go we went and man did we stick out. Everyone in the bar was wearing black, tattooed and pierced listening to the head banging band Sisters of the Black Moon. I can proudly say we stayed for their entire set and officially say I went out on the Sunset Strip.

After our head banging adventures it was time to head to bed to get ready for a packed day adventuring all around Los Angeles.

Day 6: Hollywood // Beverly Hills // Santa Monica

To start our first full day in Los Angeles, we made our way through what seemed like a million interstates to visit Griffith Observatory.

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TIP: If you are heading somewhere around breakfast time but you think you can make it to your destination to eat breakfast there, you’re wrong. We did not eat before we left Santa Monica so we were starving by the time we made the 45 minute drive to Griffith Observatory.

The Observatory was beautiful and supplied perfect views of the Hollywood sign!

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“Look to my right and I see the Hollywood sign.”

Yes, I just quoted Party in the USA.

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We then traveled into the heart of Hollywood to visit the Walk of Stars and Chinese Theater.

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TIP: DO NOT take pictures with the people dressed in costumes or take a CD from anyone as you make your way down the Walk of Stars. They will tell you it’s free, then ask for a $20 “donation/tip” when you are about to leave.

We did not fall victim to the ploy because I experienced it last time I was in LA, but a little boy took a picture with Spiderman then the costumed man signaled the boy’s dad over and said that would be $20. When the man did not want to pay it Spiderman wouldn’t leave him alone, you don’t want to deal with that!

We saw a true Hollywood spectacle with our own eyes, the premier for the new Terminator was that night so we saw them setting up the gray carpet (not red) and the assembly of a standing Terminator statue, so cool!

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Too bad we didn’t have time to stick around and watch the celebs arrive.

After walking through the congested Walk of Stars, we were ready to head to Beverly Hills to walk down Rodeo Drive.

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What can I say, who doesn’t love Rodeo Drive? From the beautiful shops to the fast, very expensive cars zooming down the street, it’s a cool place to be.

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It was almost lunch time but we passed the cutest French macaron shop, so of course we had to have dessert before our meal.

Le Mervetty was beautiful with the cutest woman working in a white tutu apron!

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After enjoying our delicious macarons, it was time to get lunch at a California favorite, In-N-Out.

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Sadly, my first In-N-Out experience was not the greatest. We went to the location by UCLA so the burger joint was swarmed with students grabbing a bite on their way to their next class.

When the burgers and fries made it to our table (after my dad had to ask where our order was) the food was lukewarm at best…

Hopefully the next time I go to California I will have a better In-N-Out experience!

After a full day we were pretty tired, so we made our way down Wilshire Blvd to get back to our hotel.

When we got back we saw the most beautiful sunset from Palisades Park right off Ocean Avenue.

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After watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, it was time to eat dinner.

We went to Thai Dishes on Broadway and man was it good!

I had the most delicious coconut soup I’ve ever had, it was so rich and creamy.

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Grace and I then split pad thai, one of my favorite thai dishes.

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After our tasty thai meal, it was time for bed to get ready for our last full day in California.

Day 7: Venice Beach // Beverly Hills // West Hollywood // LACMA

We started off the day with breakfast on the front porch of the hotel.

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The Veranda is known for its french toast souffle, so I had to get it. That dish lived up to the hype, it was complete with fresh blueberries and strawberries and a side of super crunchy bacon.

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Once we were all full from a yummy breakfast we were ready to bike ride down to Venice Beach. The bike ride was absolutely beautiful, I highly suggest renting your bike under the Santa Monica Pier, it’s only $7/hour to rent a bike that comes with a basket, how cute!

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TIP: Even if doesn’t feel too terribly hot, on the water it’s usually a little chilly if there is wind, still put on sunscreen! When we went bike riding I didn’t and I ended the ride with a painful sunburn on my arms (even the tops of my hands) and a watch tan…

Venice Beach was as eclectic as everyone told me it would be, from the vendors selling a variety of goods on the street to the skate park.

We had to visit Muscle Beach, the famed work out area on the beach in Venice.

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My Iron Tribe obsessed dad loved it!

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We had another true “LA/ Hollywood” moment. We rode past signs that said we could potentially be on a movie “The Perfect Match,” so that would be cool!

We then saw another set, so we asked what was going on. The man responded, “you have perfect shoes for it,” in regards to Grace’s tennis shoes, NIKE.

I then rolled my bike over to the famed Venice Beach basketball courts where I saw none other than BLAKE GRIFFIN, yes LA Clippers Blake Griffin.

Once I realized it was Blake I ran over to the family to tell them to hurry over. We got to see him warm up and dunk a few times.

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I think that selfie counts as getting a picture with Blake!

For a quick bite we went to Hummus Express, a Mediterranean restaurant with yummy Schnitzel.

After lunch and another short drive down Wilshire Blvd, we were back in Beverly Hills to adventure around Greystone Mansion. Gilmore Girls fans this stunning mansion may look familiar to you, it was used as the set of Rory’s high school, Chilton.

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Even though the house was closed to the public, the grounds made the trip worthwhile.

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After roaming around the property we jumped back in the car to head to Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood to eat at Gracias Madre.

This restaurant may be vegetarian and plant based, but it sure was GOOD.

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I started off the night with one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had, the La Purista.

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The sweet orange salted rim puts the cherry on top!

My life has been made because I just found the recipe to this amazing drink, you’re welcome:

•••

INGREDIENTS

2 oz organic reposado tequila
1 oz fresh-pressed lime juice
1/2 oz organic agave nectar
3 dashes homemade orange bitters
lime peel
housemade sweet orange salt (see below)

Housemade Sweet Orange Salt Rim
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch sugar
orange zest
lime wedge

DIRECTIONS

Combine sea salt, sugar and orange zest. Rub orange zest into the salt-sugar mixture. Use the lime wedge to moisten the rim of double rocks glass, then dip the rim into the mixture to coat.

In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, and orange bitters. Shake and strain into the glass. Add fresh rocks and a lime peel.

•••

This will be my go-to margarita recipe for the rest of my life, it’s that good.

We then had delicious guacamole and street corn that was to die for.

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Next up was the main course, coconut ceviche tostadas.

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You would never guess this meal had zero meat in it, it was so flavorful!

If you’re in the West Hollywood area, Gracias Madre needs to be on your list of places to go.

After our vegetarian meal it was time to go look at some art, man we sound like LA locals.

We made our way to LACMA- Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Urban Light was on my list on must see things in LA, it’s a beautiful piece of art with different light posts that makes for beautiful pictures.

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What a great way to end our last night in Los Angeles, looking at fabulous art.

At this point, day 7, I was ready to go home but didn’t want to leave the beautiful state of California.

Day 8: LAX // Chicago Midway // Delays

After a caramelized banana and pecan oatmeal at the hotel, it was time to make our way to LAX for our flight.

TIP: Get to LAX as early as possible. Obviously, LAX is a huge, very popular airport. It took us almost an hour to just make it through the line to check in.

We said bye to Los Angeles and hello to a four hour flight, thank you Southwest for the option to stream live TV to our phones, I got to watch some of my favorite Bravo shows.

Once we touched down at the Midway airport I went straight to the Nuts on Clark popcorn stand, a delicious snack.

I enjoyed my popcorn and charged my phone as our hour layover turned into a two hour delay, but we got to fly over Chicago at night, that was pretty cool!

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A touchdown in Birmingham at 11:45 left me quite exhausted after a week-long trip, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything!

What I left California with:

· A new 32 GB memory card- because a 4 GB memory card doesn’t cut it on a week-long vacation

· Nine magnets- because they’re my favorite souvenir

· A bad sunburn- from not putting on sunscreen before biking to Venice beach

· A sandal tan- from wearing the same pair of shoes the entire trip

· Memories to last a lifetime- because I was with my fantastic family

LOCATIONS

Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf (1250 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133)

The Franciscan Crab Restaurant (Pier 43 1/2 Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133)

Pier 39 (Beach Street & the Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133)

Ghirardelli Square (900 North Point Street, #E100, San Francisco, CA 94109)

Lombard Street (1070 Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA 94109)

Mama’s (1701 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133)

Coit Tower (1 Telegraph Hill Blvd San Francisco, CA 94133)

Union Square (333 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94108)

China Town

House of Nanking (919 Kearny San Francisco, CA)

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie (56 Ross Alley, San Francisco, CA 94108)

Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion (Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA 94129)

Palace of Fine Arts (3301 Lyon Street, San Francisco, CA 94123)

Fior d’Italia (San Remo Hotel, 2237 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94133)

Muir Woods (1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941)

Hydro Grill (1403 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515)

Calistoga Olive Oil Company (1441 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515)

Castello di Amorosa (4045 St Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94558)

Sausalito, CA

Sweet Ginger (400 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965)

Fort Mason (2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123)

Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Island Taco (The Crossroads, 173 Crossroads Blvd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923)

Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo (3080 Rio Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923)

Tuck Box (Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923)

Bixby Bridge

Big Sur, CA

McWay Falls (Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park)

Sushi Roku (1401 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401)

The Georgian Hotel (1415 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401)

The Misfit (Third Street Promenade, 225 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401)

The Sunset Strip

Whisky a Go Go (8901 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

Griffith Observatory (2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027)

TCL Chinese Theater (Hollywood & Highland, 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028)

Beverly Hills, CA

Rodeo Drive

Le Mervetty (319 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210)

In-N-Out (all over LA)

Palisades Park (down Ocean Avenue by the Santa Monica Pier)

Thai Dishes on Broadway (123 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401)

Venice Beach, CA

Muscle Beach, CA

Greystone Mansion (905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210)

Gracias Madre (8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

Urban Light (5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036)

•••

Hopefully ya’ll can {adventure around}

|all pictures taken by yours truly|

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