New year… new blogger? Nah, not new, just more motivated. I always get super motivated to get back to blogging when I’m on breaks from school. It’s so much easier to focus on blogging when you don’t have 5 classes to think about, tests to study for, Greek life… you get it. So here I am. Again. Every time I do this I find it really hard to get back to blogging and it takes time to get the groove again. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about how to get back into the swing of things after a blogging hiatus, actually. Let me know in the comments below if you’d be interested in reading something like that!
On to the real stuff. For those of you who are in college, you know that Christmas break is awesome for maybe the first week or so, but then it starts to get… old. Last year, my family did a little Kansas City staycation which was a fun little “escape” during the break, but this year we didn’t plan anything. I knew I would need to break up my month long vacation by doing something. Luckily for me, my best friend from school lives in the Bay Area in California. Temperatures above freezing? Wine? Besties? Yes please. It didn’t take long for me to quickly hit “buy” on a plane ticket and pack my bags.
After getting into Danville, where my bestie Kate lives, late on a Saturday night, we set out the next morning for the big city. We needed to pick up our bestie Emily from a friend’s apartment and decided to make a day of it. Luckily, Emily was staying right next to Ghirardelli Square, home to- you guessed it- Ghirardelli Chocolate. Naturally, we had to start our morning out with some of the amazing Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate. I’ve heard their sundaes are pretty amazing as well, so if you have a sweet tooth, you need to check this place out. We took our hot chocolates to go and walked along the water all the way to Pier 39. This is totally a tourist-y spot but it had some good views of Alcatraz and the bay in general!
After wandering around for a while, we made our way to Union Square to catch a glimpse of the giant Christmas tree before it was taken down for the season. We snapped some pics then attempted to trek to our next spot, but soon realized it was about a 30-minute walk… uphill. No thank you. God Bless Uber! We were craving seafood (which this midwestern girl doesn’t get a whole lot of…) so we chose to go to Pier 23 Cafe. This place was seriously adorable. It was a nice enough day so we sat on the insulated patio and even though we couldn’t see much, it was still so cute! But enough about the views, let’s talk food. My mouth is watering again just writing about it. I’m a big fan of fish & chips so as soon as I saw that on the menu, my mind was made up. I was not disappointed. It was so good, y’all. It was one giant piece of fish with garlic fries and pineapple cole slaw… O. M. G. I want another one right now. My friends got the clam chowder and agreed it was equally as delicious. If you’re ever in San Fran, this place is a must.
We then set off with the intention of getting dessert and cute pics at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse aka the “I Got Baked in San Francisco” place, but when we got there, there was a sign on the door that said they were sold out for the day. Sad!
A little disappointed, we were determined to finish our day in the city on a high note. We wanted to get some good views of the Golden Gate Bridge, which turned into accidentally getting on the bridge… and then eventually ended up at Baker Beach, which has great views of the bridge. It was the perfect spot for a photo op!
We called it a day and headed back to Danville for a little down time. But don’t forget- this was New Year’s Eve, so the night was still young! All three of us are pretty old souls and didn’t find clubbing in the city appealing for ringing in the New Year so we ended up getting dressed up and meeting up with some of Kate’s high school friends. It was a very low key night, which was exactly what I wanted!
On the first day of the year, we started our day out with a hike and then packed our bags yet again! This time we set off to beautiful Carmel, CA, a beach town south of the Bay Area. If you haven’t been to Carmel, it’s a must. It’s home to the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course and just about the cutest little town ever. Once we got there we went straight to the beach to catch the sunset while sipping on wine and nomming on some hummus & pretzel chips. So perfect!
That night we went to dinner in town at the cutest little European restaurant, La Bicycelette. We split two pizzas that were absolutely delicious and then headed back to the beach house to watch the series premiere of The Bachelor. I usually end up watching the first three or four episodes of The Bachelor/Bachelorette and then get bored, but I actually kind of… like… Arie? I don’t know. What are your thoughts about him?
The next morning we walked into town to get coffee and then headed down to the beach to walk around and enjoy watching the waves. We hung out on a rock just at the edge of the Pebble Beach 18th hole and I’m sorry to report that I did not find a boyfriend…
Once we gave up on boyfriend hunting/wave watching, we headed back to the beach house to pack up/get ready for our next adventure: Big Sur! If you’re unfamiliar with Northern California, Big Sur is a big hiking spot that includes ocean views and big forests. It’s only about an hour from Carmel so we headed south on the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway (aka Highway 1).
What happened once we actually got there was slightly comical. After paying the parking fee, we got in there and of course, we had no cell service for maps. There were no maps of the park in sight so we just decided to follow a trail sign… which led us to a dead end, then we followed another one that essentially brought us to another dead end. Lesson learned: bring a map next time. We were frustrated and annoyed so we decided to leave and take pictures at the many lookout points next to the highway, ha!
We made our way back to Danville (obviously stopping for some In-N-Out on the way) where we relaxed in the hot tub and talked about our New Year’s resolutions.
The next day was Emily’s last day and sadly it was a rainy, lazy one. We were able to go get some amazing hot chocolates at Sideboard in downtown Danville, complete with toasted marshmallows and graham cracker rims. So delish! The rest of the day was spent watching Friends, with a short break for lunch from Domenico’s Deli. If you’re ever in Danville, this place is so yummy!
|Fun Fact: This denim jacket is my fave and I found it in the H&M men’s section last Spring! I couldn’t find the exact one but I’ve linked similar options below along with the rest of my clothes from this post!|
My last day in California was spent the best way I could imagine: drinking wine. We originally had planned to drive out to Napa, but it’s about an hour from Danville and the tastings were pretty pricey. We opted for the cheaper and closer, yet just as beautiful, Livermore.
We started out the day at Retzlaff Vineyards, where we were able to taste a blush, two merlots, a cab, a red blend and a port. The 2012 Merlot we tried was my favorite from this winery, but to be completely honest, I have practically zero knowledge of wines so I just base it on taste!
Our next stop was McGrail Vineyards. We tasted a sauv blanc, a red blend, a cab and a cab reserve. I honestly thought they were all pretty tasty and couldn’t pick a favorite! This winery was interesting because each of the owner’s grandchildren have their names on a bottle! Such a sweet detail.
Just next door was our final stop, 3 Steves Winery. Yes, this winery is named after three men all named Steve. This one had so many tastings- brut, sauv blanc, chardonnay, red blend, cab, another blend, merlot- but they were all delicious! The first red blend, the “Tres Gringos Chilean Blend,” was both Kate’s and my favorite. We were certainly thankful her mom was our DD after this one!
After a much-needed nap, we decided to have a low-key night that included some P.F. Changs and the new Jumanji movie. Kevin Hart will never not be funny, y’all.
That’s about it for my California adventure! There was a lot I still didn’t get to do, so I guess I’ll have to go back! What are your favorite Northern California spots? Anything big I need to hit next time? Let me know below!
P.S. Shoutout to my new photographer/best friend, Kate! Can’t wait to pester you to take pictures all semester!