The second leg of our California trip was a road trip to Los Angeles! (In case you missed the recap of my visit to San Francisco, check it out!)
We rented a car and hopped on Rt. 1, AKA the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH. We woke up super early, hoping to get to LA by the time Avis closed (we didn’t…) so the first hour of the trip was driving through a cloud of fog. Finally, we took a pit stop at Duarte’s Tavern – an old nostalgic type of place right off the coast that was an awesome word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend. (“Where everybody knows your name” was singing in my head.)
I had an omelet and some OJ (to kill the cold I had somehow picked up on vaca, blah) and Tom had the “hot cakes” with olallieberry syrup. (Confession: I JUST learned that these are the same as pancakes. Tom gave me the you-call-yourself-a-food-blogger stare. But hey, I knew what olallieberries were!) Even though we didn’t need it, we finished off with some olallieberry pie, which they’re known for. I’m not a pie person, but this really made me a pie person. Perfectly sweet fresh berries, flavorful and flaky crust … this is worthy of creating a new meal. I call it “bressert.”
Next we got back on the highway (into the cloud) and apparently we were riding along the Pacific the whole time. Eventually, the clouds opened up and we got a look at this view, which we chased the rest of the trip.
I do have a fear of heights and OF COURSE I trust Tom’s driving. Well, this really tested that trust. It was gorgeous, amazing, awe-inspiring, seemingly Photoshopped. I’ve never seen anything like it. But I had to grip the door for a while and gasped like a grandma every time we went around one of these turns. We took several pit stops so I could
catch my breath take some beautiful pictures.
Next stop, Castroville, CA! The highway moved slightly inland where the weather was a little gloomy and Castroville reminded me a bit of a town you would find on a road trip to the South. They’re known as the Artichoke Capital of the World and the fact that you can get 12 artichokes for $1 really reminded me we weren’t in NYC anymore. We were still stuffed from all that pie, but we got a coffee to wake up (stay alert for those windy roads!) and an artichoke cake so we could check out this place for what it’s known for. The verdict? Artichokes in cake are surprisingly moist and amazingly delicious. Next time I’ll try the deep-fried artichoke!
The next stop was Big Sur, the coastal region where the mountains and the Pacific meet for spectacular views. There are several restaurants that look out at this view, and we pulled in at Nepenthe. Still stuffed from our snacking, we just sat at the café and sipped a smoothie while I snapped away at this unreal scenery.
Hearst Castle was next on our list, but the timing didn’t agree with us because all the tours were sold out and we would have had to wait an hour. So we looked at it from afar and considered it a fancy and cultural bathroom break. Back in the car, we continued along the coast, stopping to check out these guys. I thought they were gigantic boulders from the car window ….
Our last foodie stop was at Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab for a sweet treat as the weather got warmer traveling south. Mm… even the hard ice cream was the perfect consistency, just soft enough to taste every flavor and melt in your mouth.
The rest of the ride went a little further inland, which probably should have been uneventful. But California must have known we were on a little adventure and wanted to give us the full experience. So, we drove through a forest fire. NBD.
We even watched the helicopter dip into the lake and suck up some water in an attempt to smother it. Luckily, it was a pretty deserted area.
And then, after 12 hours of road-tripping excitement, we arrived in Los Angeles! After some chaos of trying to dispose of our rental car (and some really expensive cab rides), we settled into our Beverly Hills hotel and then headed to the Sunset Strip for a quick dinner at Saddle Ranch Chop House, a western bar and grill reminiscent of Johnny Utah’s back home (mechanical bull and all). As always, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so my BBQ Sloppy Joe made for a great dinner and my truffle mac and cheese ended up being lunch the next day! Carb-filled and delicious!
Finally, our short (less than 24 hour) stay in LA was almost over. So the next morning, before heading to the Amtrak station, we walked up Rodeo Drive (before the rest of the city was awake apparently) and became the picture-taking, oo-and-ahh-ing tourists that I scoff at in NYC. It was MY turn to be an annoying tourist! “That’s right, I’m on vacation while you’re on your way to work!”
And then it was the Pacific Surfliner (much more relaxing traveling the coast by train) all the way to our next and final destination…