California knows how to party. And although Chad and I aren’t really partiers, we had the best time during our month-plus in California.
During our three weeks since my prior Palm Springs post, we enjoyed at least seven Cali cities and more social time than we’ve experienced in months (outdoors and physically distanced, of course, since we haven’t received COVID vaccines yet). Each city is special in its own way and definitely worth visiting. Here’s where we spent our California time.
Our remaining time in Palm Springs flew by. Chad and I both had lots of work to do and we had a couple of day trips, an overnight adventure, and a visitor to work-around. The visit from Chad’s former student Michaela (on her birthday weekend no less!) was probably the highlight. Chad showed her one of our favorite hikes to views of the Bob Hope house (which is high in the hills and looks like a UFO) and we enjoyed some good food and drinks out.
Other highlights of our remaining time in Palm Springs included seeing one of the Desert X art installations emerge across the street from our condo complex and lots more walks and hikes. But more than anything, I think we’ll remember Palm Springs as being our home base for other places and all the work we completed there. We really love work.
Big Bear Lake
Visiting a mountain lake was high on Chad’s list of hiking opportunities in SoCal and Big Bear is one of the most well-known. We picked a day and drove out to enjoy and picnic and nice mountain hike. Unfortunately, though it was a beautiful day with temperatures in the 50s and plenty of sun, there was still so much snow and ice on the mountain trails that we couldn’t go up them. But Big Bear has a fantastic trail along the lake called the Alpine Pedal Path Trail that connects to a boardwalk through some wetlands there. After our picnic at Boulder Bay Park, we had a great time walking along the lake and seeing all the birds.
Picnic area at Bolder Bay Park Stanfield Marsh Wildlife and Waterfowl Preserve Some waterfowl on the lake Lakeside Big Bear walk Big Bear Lake selfie
After having such a nice time with friends on our first trip to LA from Palm Springs (described in my prior post), we decided it would be most efficient to do an overnight visit. That way we could enjoy a couple of beers with our friends without having to drive back, and it would save a little mileage and gas. I found an affordable motel in a cute neighborhood one of our friends had mentioned (review below) and Chad scheduled time across two days with nearly all of the LA area people we intended to see. We met an archival film colleague in Santa Monica and he and Chad walked and nerded out on film stuff while I wrote and enjoyed the sand and sea. Then we met up with Michaela (this occurred prior to her Palm Springs visit) and got to see her place of work that happened to have a film set in the parking lot. And we were driven by her Tesla (it has autopilot!) to go get some delicious vegetarian Indian food. All very cool and LA. That night we met our friends at a bar in Los Feliz and had a great time.
On day two, I met up with one of my former students for coffee, which was fun and interesting. Since the programs I teach for are all online (even before COVID), I almost never meet my students in person. It was a great opportunity. Then Chad and I went on to Pasadena for lunch with his film composer, which was also very fun and helpful since we’re getting close to needing a score for Chad’s current film.
I’m so glad we did the overnight LA trip. We got to see our friends one more time when driving through LA to our next destination when they kindly met us out for more breakfast burritos and another walk. This social time was definitely the highlight of our stay in southern California. Lucky the weather is so nice, we could feel safe about it staying outdoors!
Monterey (with a stop in Santa Barbara)
After the breakfast burritos and walk with our friends in LA, we decided to take the 101 Highway to our next destination in Monterey, which meant heading over to Santa Barbara after LA. The drive up the 101 was absolutely beautiful and we stopped for a bit in Santa Barbara to check out the town, walk up the old wharf, and enjoy a (gigantic, but expensive) ice cream cone.
On the road from Santa Barbara to Monterey, we saw numerous rainbows and generally beautiful scenery in every direction. I understand the I-5 is faster for getting up to that area, but the 101 turned out to be such a nice drive.
Santa Barbara Ice Cream Wharf and Beach Rainbow-filled drive up the 101
We spent two nights in Monterey, enjoying leftovers in our motel room (review below) both nights since we had many more travel days ahead. During our full day in Monterey, we did a great hike up at Jack’s Peak that had beautiful bay views and then walked along the beach area. We elected not to walk along the Monterey Old Wharf, though it seemed nice, because there were such crowds. But just past it there was a little cove where we saw several harbor seals and sea lions. It was really cool. Then we went to a local brewery with a bunch of outdoor seating and enjoyed a couple of beers (and the delicious fish tacos we had to order as an appetizer to our hotel room meal because they were still on the COVID rules requiring a food purchase in order to purchase a beverage).
Jack’s Peak hike View from Jack’s Peak Monterey Beach Monterey Wharf – cute but we decided to avoid the crowds Bundled up against cold and COVID Chad watching the seals Seals and sea lions Craft beer and fish tacos
San Rafeal (with a stop in Half Moon Bay)
After Monterey, we took Highway 1 the rest of the way north. We stopped for our picnic lunch and a little hike in Half Moon Bay. We spent a night there back in 2017 and really enjoyed the little community. It was nice again this time, though there were lots and lots of people out enjoying the beach and the coastal cliff hikes.
San Rafeal was the capper to our California social time as we visited another good friend of Chad’s. We had a great time with him (and got our first COVID test in order to be allowed to hang out with him!), especially enjoying Puerto Rican takeout from Sol Food our first night there and then a great hike on Saturday with him and his son at Mount Tamalpais State Park. The park was beautiful and our hike went through the huge redwoods similar to Muir Woods (which neighbors the state park). Then Chad and I hiked onward to a beautiful view of San Francisco bay. It was a great day.
Drive over the Golden Gate bridge to San Rafael Mt. Tamalpais hike View of the bay
We had no idea when we chose California as our February and early March home that we’d have so many opportunities to see friends and socialize, but we’re so glad we did. We had a wonderful time and we’ll never forget it. Until next time, Cali!
Airbnb Review – We loved our month-long stay here. The wifi worked great, the apartment is clean and comfortable, and the host’s communication was good. We enjoyed taking walks around the complex and the surrounding neighborhood every day. The onsite laundry is easy to pay for via an app and is very fast. The location on the far end of town was great for us because of the easy highway access for day trips to LA, Big Bear, and Joshua Tree. We also enjoyed the heated pool. Definitely recommended!
Travelodge Hollywood-Vermont/Sunset, Los Angeles, CA – After reading the mixed reviews, we weren’t sure what to expect here but found the room to be very clean, the location convenient (walking distance to where we were meeting friends in Los Feliz), and it was great to have free parking. The only disappointment is there’s no coffee in the room or lobby, but there was a coffee place a block away my husband walked up to in the morning. I liked that the room had laminate floors – felt cleaner than carpet.
Stargazer Inn, Monterey, CA – Our room was very clean and the motel is in a great location not too far from the downtown and old wharf area. Nice staff at check-in and housekeeping. And hard to believe the price we got booking direct with the motel. Excellent value for the money.
Villa Inn, San Rafael, CA – We were impressed with this motel. Room was clean and a good size, parking right outside the door. It was a good location for our visit to San Rafael.