Since I mentioned having 837 photos to sort through, you can probably imagine how hard it was for me to narrow down my selections for these blog posts. Personally, I like more pictures than text when it comes to these things but hopefully I can strike a balance and add some explanatory text as well.
We actually had a hard time deciding on where to take our big winter trip this past year. A trip overseas was actually in the running but since I got pregnant, we decided to err on the side of caution and stay stateside. The main thing we wanted out of this trip was to visit somewhere neither of us had been before. Hence, the decision to make California our winter 2014 destination.
Obviously, California is big. According to my highly statistical research (haha), Texas is actually bigger than California in terms of geographical size (by more than 100,000 square miles) but California has Texas beat out in terms of population. Obviously, all that meant that we would have to narrow down what part of California we would spend our vacation at since we only had about 10 full days to explore. After going back and forth with various options, we finally settled on staying in the central California coast.
Our home base was in Santa Cruz, which is about 1.5 hours (by car) south of San Francisco and about a 30 minute drive west of San Jose. We found an apartment on AirBNB which was a few blocks away from the beach, but still within 5-8 minutes walking distance. It was in a great location in a quiet neighborhood, close to a coffee shop, food, Whole Foods (for groceries!) and the beach.
Day 1: Travel Day
The first day we flew in was a long and early day. With the two hour time difference, we ended up arriving mid-morning at San Jose. It was almost lunchtime by the time we arrived at the rental house, so we ate and crashed. Naps were glorious, for the most part. That afternoon, we walked around and ended up at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. We didn’t like it very much and it smelled really fishy down there. That was our first and last time going there, which was fine by us. Then, we grabbed some dinner and slept for almost 12 hours. That was amazing.
Day 2: Santa Cruz – Natural Bridges State Park, West Cliff Drive
This day we mainly got settled into the apartment, picked up a rental car and got groceries. In the afternoon, we visited a state park that was about 15 minutes away and I snapped all these photographs at the magical “golden hour”. Needless to say, I was in photographer’s heaven. Locals told us that today was the first sunny day after having 2 weeks of rain, which I think explains why the light was so perfect.
Day 3: Monterey Aquarium, Big Sur Scenic Drive
We started our day early with a drive down scenic Hwy 1, heading southbound toward Monterey. After reading mixed reviews on the “world famous” Monterey Aquarium, we figured our son might enjoy it and made a morning of it. Our impressions? It wasn’t worth the hefty price tag, except for the cool glowing orange jellyfish and views of the Monterey Bay. After the aquarium and lunch, we kept driving south to Big Sur. It’s such a breathtaking drive, as Hwy 1 winds around the coast down through Carmel and into Big Sur. We must’ve stopped a million times for me to take photographs. This was also the first time we got to see whales. Yes, actual whales! They were far out in the ocean but close enough to recognize. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get any photos of them.
Day 4: Pescadero Scenic Drive, Santa Cruz (Christmas Eve!)
After yesterday’s long day in the car, we decided to stick around a little closer to the apartment so that our son could take a good nap. The morning was uneventful, which included a run to Target for a few essentials. Thankfully, it wasn’t that bad considering it was the day before Christmas. After lunch, we drove north on Hwy 1 since we hadn’t gone up that way yet. We ended up in Pescadero Bay, which was about 40 minutes north of Santa Cruz. It was so neat to see how different the Pacific Ocean looks when it’s rainy and windy out. I didn’t want to get soaked (since I already was sneezing and not feeling too great) so just have these two photos.
Next time, I’ll share how we spent our Christmas Day and the few days after it.