After a magical day exploring Monterey County, we woke to the sounds of birds chirping and horses neighing at the ranch. (You can catch up on the trip so far here!). Can I take a moment to emphasize how beautiful this ranch truly was? Climbing off the four-poster bed, I sleepily made my way into the kitchen. Sunlight was streaming through the partitioned blinds, and the heat of the day had already started to climb. After opening the back porch door, I remember standing there for 5 minutes straight and just admiring everything. From the trees to the driveway and the sounds of nature waking up all around. It was magical. Like we weren’t on a California road trip, but instead were in our own little oasis of time and space.
Before long, it was time to pack up the car and head out again. This time, we were on our way to San Luis Obispo. Out of all the towns that surprised me the most, San Luis Obispo tops the list. I thought we’d be merely calling through on our way somewhere else. Whilst, in fact, we ended up besotted with the avenues and little town streets. Extending our stay there for as long as we physically could.
Blowing into downtown, we pulled up and went straight into lunch-time mode. Kim and Clare broke off to find sushi, whilst Scott and I were looking for something stodgier. We ended up at Big Sky Cafe, a beautiful open-air restaurant that serves fresh market cuisine all day long.
We both opted for their veggie grilled cheese plates, mine was the grilled cheese with eggplant while Scott got the beet reuben. The portions themselves were massive – and when you add on the extra side of fries, neither of us were able to finish our dishes. That said, the cost for these dishes were much cheaper than we had seen elsewhere.
And, as sandwiches go, mine was the best that I’ve had in a long time. Honestly, if I had been able to turn our California road trip around and return to San Luis, I would have. Just for that sandwich alone.
After our time at Big Sky, we wanted to call in at some of the boutique stores before we left. If you caught my last post, you’d know that we were on a bit of a salt water taffy kick from Monterey. So we called in at Rocket Fizz, a local candy store, to pick up more goodies. While Clare and Kim opted for extra taffy, I couldn’t help myself from exploring their International Section. And ended up picking up a box of Duplo (essentially Kinder Buenos) which were a staggering $16.
Of course, I didn’t realise this until after we paid in one lump sum and checked the receipt. Since nothing in the store had a price tag. This little box of Duplo chocolates then became a running joke through the California road trip. That I had to give them extra care and attention since I had paid so much for something so easily accessible at home.
The store itself was really quaint, and I’m always enamored by looking at the sweets/candy available in other countries. My favourite country to buy sweets from is France: they have some amazing bars we can’t get in England. In future, I’ll probably save any sweet purchases in the States for Walmart and Target. Ha!
We also called in at the infamous Bubblegum Alley. An alley decorated with bubblegum from the thousands of people who have visited it. This place was really cool. There was even a faint scent of bubblegum in the air – which I was not expecting in the least.
If you’re visiting San Luis Obispo, I definitely recommend checking out Bubblegum Alley. For the ick factor alone!
We got back to the car with 2 minutes to go on the meter (I wish we had these in England!) so we all piled in and set off towards Malibu.
The drive from San Luis to Malibu felt like the longest time. Perhaps because I was a passenger, and it always goes slower when you’re not driving. I think it took us between 3 and 3 1/2 hours. When we arrived at Malibu, the sun was already setting. So we breezed across the ocean quickly on our way to the next AirBnB: in the valleys of Topanga Canyon.
I’m not going to touch on this AirBnB much, as our mouths dropped open from shock the second we pulled in. And not in a good way. It was interesting to say the least. For dinner, we drove into the town of Topanga, which reminded me of Carmel Valley’s town in a lot of ways.
The town itself was quite sleepy, with there not being many people around during the evening. We headed to Inn of the Seventh Ray for dinner, and to say we were unprepared would be putting it mildly.
None of us realised how posh this restaurant was – being on the hunt for something we could grab quickly and take back to our room. In fact. I was wearing a pyjama top as a tee-shirt and Clare was dressed in workout clothes. I should have realised when the car was taken off us for valet that we were in over our heads. Ha! At least that’s a story we can retell from California.
The next morning, we headed into Malibu to explore properly. The sun was shining, the waves were crashing: it was idyllic. Pulling in at Malibu Pier, we all wanted to check out Malibu Farm Cafe for breakfast. You’ve probably seen Malibu Farm on Instagram. It definitely has a reputation, and after eating there, I loved it. I got a portion of their Swedish pancakes. While Scott got their chicken quesadilla, Kim got the farm scrambled eggs and Clare got their quinoa oatmeal.
The cafe itself gives a really relaxed atmosphere, with the sounds of the ocean echoing through the open doors and windows. They only allow walk-in’s, so people are constantly coming in and leaving with no reservation needed. We spent a lot of time on the pier just people watching. We called in at Ranch at the Pier to peruse their items. And after gawping at the price of a tee, decided to leave before we accidentally broke anything. That said though, I loved their aesthetic and atmosphere. And now I even follow them on Instagram. So that’s a thing.
Leaving Malibu, our California road trip pulled us closer to Los Angeles, stopping next at Santa Monica. I didn’t make the wisest outfit decision here, changing from a lightweight sweater to a fleece at the peak of the day. The temperature was around 30 degrees Celsius and once we left the car there was no going back. We headed straight towards Santa Monica Pier, which was a lot different than I imagined. For some reason, I thought it would be quieter.
We arrived on a Friday afternoon, and there was a lot more people there than I think any of us were prepared for. Our first destination was Pacific Park, where we immediately went on the ferris wheel to get a great view over the water and the city. I love ferris wheels. There’s a strange calm to them, getting so disconnected from the bustling amusement park that you’re sprawling through. Back on the ground, Clare called in at Pier Burger while we browsed the various trinket stores, picking up a peanut butter concrete. I’ve loved concretes since I tried them first at Shake Shack, and Clare loved this one so much that she said it changed her life. Ha! I love that my friends are as obsessed with food as I am.
We spent a lot of time watching over the ocean. The sea breeze lightly whipping our faces. I always feel a lot calmer by the sea. The tides moving underneath. It was a beautiful day, the sun was blaring. And there were people from all walks of life enjoying the surroundings with us, too.
After exploring the Pier, we headed into Santa Monica to see further. Wandering past Muscle Beach, Santa Monica Place and ending up on Third Street Promenade. I could wander aimlessly into stores all day, seriously. It should be some sort of sport. I just love to browse, ha. Downtown Santa Monica was electric. There was everything going on under the sun. Displays, amusements and attractions. Stunts. Events. It was all happening.
After soaking it in for a while, we decided that it was time to head to our next AirBnb – this one in Los Angeles. We’d stay here for the next 4 nights, which will cover a larger part of our trip. In total, San Luis, Malibu and Santa Monica were all incredible towns that I’m so glad we called in at. It was so interesting to see how much busier the towns got the closer we were to L.A. With Monterey and Carmel by the Sea being so much quieter than San Luis. Which in itself was quieter than Malibu, which was quieter than Santa Monica.
I’d love to know if you’ve ever visited any of the above towns and cities. And what you thought about them?
Which town would be your favourite stop on a California road trip?
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