We really wanted to do something special to celebrate our anniversary this year. It's a very special marker for us and it was super important to us to have some intentional, fun time together away from the routine of life - as much as we love our life in TX! Sometimes it's just so refreshing to break away from routine and explore some place new. We love traveling and have a very VERY long list of places we want to visit, but staying in the country to save some money this year was also necessary, ha ;) We're also incredibly thankful we love coming back home after a vacation because it makes it so much easier to admit that vaca is coming to an end. Kevin & Stevie (our dog & cat) are our kiddos right now so we miss them terribly when we're gone!
I had never been to California so we chose Monterey, Big Sur and San Francisco to visit this year and it did not disappoint. It was chillier than I expected from the wind coming off the coast, but it was BEAUTIFUL.
We arrived at 7:30am so we had a full day to visit San Fran. We were starving so we found this adorable breakfast place (that had gluten free toast for me!!) called Boulevard Cafe. We practically licked our plates.
Then we took a 2 hour long stroll through the San Francisco Zoo and had so much fun. The animals were really active which made it even more enjoyable to watch them.
After the zoo we decided to take a little hike down to a view point of the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course my hilarious husband decided it would be funny to keep pretending to fall off the cliff side - which I did NOT find funny haha. He knows I don't love heights so he likes to tease me, which I'd probably do to him if it were the other way around so I don't blame him.
We were hungry again by this point so we stopped by Cliff House Restaurant right down the street and enjoyed the tastiest $18 caesar salad we've ever had **insert laughing/cry face**. Food was SO expensive, but so tasty. We had a great view and the food was delicious.
After lunch we decided to venture across the Golden Gate Bridge to see it from the other side and ended up walking up yet another huge hill, through some tunnels, and eventually ended up on top where it was so windy we could barely hear each other. It was so beautiful though!
We were so close to the red wood trees at Muir Forest, so we decided to make the 30 min trip north to see them. The roads were so windy and had beautiful views. Talk about a romantic drive! We SO wanted to get a convertible for this trip but we were really thankful we ended up not getting one because of how windy and cold it was at times, but it would've been really nice for this trip up to the forest!
We ended up on this ridiculously steep, narrow hike up a mountain side and 5 min in looked at each other and decided to go back down because we didn't see any redwoods or any HUMAN around for that matter. Thankfully we did because we found out the visitor center and FLAT, wooden walkways were much nicer to walk on! **face palm**
Of course we were super crazy hungry again (I feel like I eat every 2 hours), so we drove back to downtown San Francisco, stopped by the Painted Ladies, which honestly wasn't that thrilling to us but cool to see, then shared the most delicious steak at Bistro Boudin on Fisherman's Warf. We had a great view of Alcatraz from here too! Doesn't show up well in the pictures, but was much closer than it looks.
That night we drove down to Monterey where we were staying and stayed down there for the rest of our trip. We explored the Monterey Bay Aquarium which was SO worth the entry fee. We love aquariums and this one was by far our favorite so far. The next one on our list is the one in Okinawa, Japan but that'll be a while :) We walked around Cannery Row and tasted the most AMAZING olive oil. It sounds so weird, but it was absolutely delicious. So much so Stan told me I had to take a bite of the bread (that wasn't gf) because it was that worth it. So worth the stomach ache, ha.
We ate on the water again at a Mexican restaurant and were slightly annoyed Californians don't have queso. I mean who does that?! Other than the lack of cheesy goodness, it was very delicious.
After dinner we drove through Carmel and ended up watching the sunset on the beach. It was so beautiful and such a storybook town! We also got to see another one of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses. For all you architect buffs out there like me, this was a fun one :)
The next day we did the 17-mile-drive in Pebble Beach. We did all the vista points (so LOTS of getting in and out of the car). We saw harbor seals and lots of squirrels (very large squirrels). This was such a beautiful drive!
We stopped for dinner at Old Fisherman's Warf in Monterey and shared a delicious salmon with crab and garlic fries for dinner - SO GOOD.
Then we went back to Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach to enjoy a drink, watch the sunset, and as you do.... listen to a man play the bagpipes. I thought Stan was joking when he said we should go back because a guy plays the bagpipes every evening. It turned out to be really relaxing and everyone was super friendly.
Then we stopped by the lighthouse in Monterey and finished off the night watching the sun set on Lovers Point.
The next day we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway (route 1) all the way to Big Sur. We stopped at lots of different hiking/water access points, climbed on lots of rocks, and had SO much fun here. It is well worth spending the day in Big Sur. We were really sad the trails were closed, but would definitely have needed another day to do those anyway!
This was a shorter but steep downhill hike on the side of a cliff to a bunch of rocks that overlooked some inlets. It was so breathtaking and we spent a while down here soaking it all in and enjoying the beauty all around us. God is SO amazing.
Stan was so annoyed when we got to McWay Falls because he thought we could get down to the beach (which they weren't allowing while we were there), and it was nearly a 2 minute straight walk from the parking lot - no hike involved. Pretty lame. But very pretty! It's so funny to me whenever he "rants" or gets cranky about something because, if you know Stan, he never gets cranky or rants about anything. It's very rare!
We also stopped by the Rocky Point Bridge because I mean, you have to if you're there!
We also got to walk along a beach! The water was FREEZING, but we still put our feet in **then proceeded to run away screaming**.
We ended our last day back at Lovers Point Park in Monterey. We climbed on the rocks and watched the sunset together. So. Much. Fun.
Where are you favorite places in the San Francisco/Monterey area?! We feel like we had the perfect amount of days to cram a lot of fun things in, but of course could've spent another week exploring!