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Local Flair

  • Writer's pictureMarcy Lytle

Up the California Coast

We had a week. We wanted to start in Southern California and drive up the coast to Northern California, to see my sister. So...we started in Los Angeles....where we only had two days.

The first day we arrived early and headed straight to The Getty Center. It is definitely an architectural wonder, with all being white, and as much outdoor museum space as indoor. We went on an architectural tour and learned about Getty's obsession with 30" - the space one normally gives oneself between themselves and a stranger. The tour was very interesting. On the way there we stopped at Shack in the Back, for one of the best breakfast burritos!

Next, we drove to the Petersen Automobile Museum where we roamed four stories of vehicles, ones from movies, concept cars, and even a solar-powered rickshaw, as well as cars from the past. I didn't think I would enjoy it very much, but I did! Check out this car with three headlights!

We were able to check in our hotel where we rested a bit before meeting some LA friends for dinner at American Beauty Restaurant on the patio (it was cold!). Lots of appetizers and a very Austin-feel for this place, which is why our friends chose it.

The next day we had booked a tour of LA and we're glad we did - because traffic and parking would have been a mess. We started at Santa Monica Beach and then Venice Beach. We drove through Beverly Hills, got out and walked (and went in one store) on Rodeo Drive, and my favorite was eating at The Farmer's Market - a huge area of eateries and shops with all sorts of goodies. The tour was on a bus and we got out often, and learned so much about LA. The guide was great! We also exited the bus at The Griffith Observatory, overlooking the city and were able to snap a photo of the HOLLYWOOD sign on the side of the hill.

We drove up the next morning to Santa Barbara, my husband's favorite stop on our week long trip. We started at their zoo, which was small - but the weather was great - so it was a nice walk. Lunch was at The Lucky Penny, in The Funk Zone. What a cool area of town! We also visited an amazing mission there, where the Chumash people settled thousands of years ago, before friars came to build the mission. Out front was an older "washing machine" where clothes were soaped on stone and rinsed in a big pool. An old bookstore with cardboard dividers on the shelves was another fun stop. That night was walked down State Street, blocks and blocks of brick-paved roads with shops and eateries. We opted for Joe's where we were served salsa with bread as an appetizer - I wasn't really a fan!

Solvang, CA was our next town, a bit more inland - a Danish town with windmills and Danish bakeries and abelskivers - have you had them? They're little round donuts with raspberry sauce and powdered sugar. We also tried Danish meatballs for lunch at the Red Viking. It was a cold day, but we went in and out of museums and eateries and candy shops all day. Even visited Hans Christian Andersen Museum - didn't know he was also an artist! We also learned that Solvang was the setting for a Christmas movie, which we watched later in our hotel - so fun. The best food on the trip was enjoyed that evening in a tiny Mexican food restaurant called Don Nachos - so fresh - and the best refried beans ever. We stayed in a really cute place, as well.

On to San Luis Obispo the next day, where we started with a morning walk through Cal Poly University's garden - beautiful, tucked away and a bit hard to find. There was also a mission there that we toured with our guide - a retired French professor! Have you heard of Bubblegum Alley? We chewed gum and added ours to the walls. The downtown had some cute shops, one had cute clothes - called Under the Willow. We also stopped at The Madonna Inn - no words to describe this gaudy pink monstrosity - but the carrot cake was amazing . Everything is over the top and worth a stop!

We arrived in San Jose the next day where my sister and brother in law picked us up for a packed couple of days. First, was mini golf at Golfland, then to their house to see all the new things. Dinner was at San Pedro Square - and we loved the mochito donuts - as we visited with family. Heard some live music, too.

The next day was fully planned by my niece, and it started with an outdoor breakfast in San Franciso at Lapisara - decadent and delish! We then walked through the Japanese gardens and took lots of cool photos. I even tried an It's It ice cream sandwich - delish! On to Japanese Town and China Town where we tasted and observed and shopped and had the best day. Love the balloons across the streets! We stopped in where they make fortune cookies and got hot ones, right off the press! Dinner was amazing at The Tonga - where a pool and boat were in the center of the restaurant - with live music from a band. What an awesome day. It couldn't have been any better!

The last day of our trip, we went to breakfast at the most beautiful place - decorated amazingly. It was called Son & Garden and was located in Menlo Park. Got to shop a bit at the Stanford Shopping Center before heading to the airport.

California is beautiful in the winter, not too cold, and it was sunny every day (right after days of rain!) So glad we missed that! We visit my sister often, but not the southern half of the state. This time we did, and loved it all.

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