After leaving San Francisco (catch up if you haven’t read about there yet), we headed down the coast towards our next destination. Something I picked up immediately was the difference in landscapes across the state. From mountains to coasts to forests and deserts, California has it all. Our next stop was in San Jose. To visit the infamous Winchester Mystery House and call by The Great Mall for some shopping.
After shopping till we dropped at The Great Mall (so many amazing deals!), we headed over to the Winchester Mystery House. We had brushed up on our knowledge about the estate through Parcast’s Haunted Places podcast. Bordering Santana Row in downtown San Jose, the Winchester Mystery House is spooky to say the least. The guided tour lasted around an hour and a half. The tour took us through corridors and staircases around the labyrinth of a house while being educated about the life of Sarah Winchester. During the months of September and October, they do guided tours in the dead of night by candlelight. That sounds terrifying, but also a great way to embrace the Halloween spirit.
Once we finished our tour, we were free to roam the grounds as we liked. So, naturally we took to the expansive gardens to take in the beauty. Privately owned, but listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the gardens are all preserved beautifully. To wander the gorgeous greenery was a great way to snap back into reality before we were back on the road. I have a soft spot for American architecture, and loved looking around the different buildings on site. Imagining how this huge city grew up across what used to be surrounding farmland.
Leaving the Winchester house, we packed up the car and headed back towards the Great Mall to collect any last-minute goodies. (The mall was that good!). And then stop by In-N-Out for a late lunch before heading towards Santa Cruz. At In-N-Out, I had animal-style fries with a chocolate milkshake and wow: we all came away with hearts for eyes. Personally, I still prefer Shake Shack to it (or Five Guys here in England since we have neither!). But, if they offered a veggie burger, or literal veggies in a burger – the scales might have tipped!
By the time we were back on the road, the sun was setting – bathing golden light across the highway. It was a beautiful sight: so much so that I recorded it and popped it up on my Instagram Stories under the California highlight if you want to see! During drives like these I love to appreciate how lucky I am to be in the moment. Road trips with my best friends. In unfamiliar land, taking in sights I never thought I’d get to see. It really was a magical night.
Before we knew it, we were turning off into the Santa Cruz mountains. The sun had set, and we were headed up the moonlit forest paths. The roads up the mountain twist and turn, sometimes on a complete hairpin – so it’s quite easy to feel unsettled. We could hear the calls of animals in the distance. With one or two darting past our headlights beams in the darkness.
The mountains were incredibly atmospheric, and upon arriving at our AirBnB, hosted by Neal and Carolyn, we were besotted when we saw the hanging lights to welcome us. The Airbnb itself was a cabin in the trees: it was wood-built, with a porch outside and a host of trails and walking paths surrounding it. This listed as one of my favourite that we stayed at, and I only wished we had a few more days to take in the mountains.
We started the next morning with a short walk while fog rolled down the path. The trees were enveloped in thick grey. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.
From exploring the haunted grounds of the Winchester Mystery House, to shopping till we dropped at The Great Mall. (Seriously though, American outlet malls are a favourite – their discount Abercrombie was amazing!). To finally trying In-N-Out and driving up – almost vertical paths – through the Santa Cruz mountains. This was a great day, and if you’re considering it – I definitely recommend checking all of the above out. You won’t regret it.
Have you ever visited the Winchester Mystery House?
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