I am a transformed girl after the trip out West in October. I always joked with friends that the furthest West I traveled was to Illinois by car and Texas by plane. That's not really far given there is so much to see in this country. I planned for this trip for months because I had heard so many great things about California. In 2007, it was THE place I wanted to visit. (I work better with smaller, attainable goals. Next: Spain) The husband visited California before we met so he wasn't oooohing and aaaaahing before and during our trip.
We started in LA, spent 3 days there and drove north on Route 1 to San Francisco and the Bay area. LA was great city to visit. It is very spread out and heavily backed up (no, not like that, though I am sure some people are because of the glitz and glamour...) with traffic. In LA we visited Universal Studios, drove on Rodeo drive, ate at a Thai restaurant in Beverly Hills, a celebrity hang out. How do I know? I don't, maybe due to its proximity to Beverly Hills... regardless I'll say it to feel like a big shot. The husband and I shared a Lamb dish and gave it passing marks. The presentation of the dish was wonderful but it lost points in taste and quantity. Most Asian restaurants we've been to they serve large portions to share or take home as leftovers; this wasn't the case for the Thai place in LA. I had higher expectations in taste; it lacked the lemon grass, chili, sriracha, bold thai flavors.
One of the touristy things I really wanted to do was see the Hollywood sign up close and personal.
(as close as we could get)
And we played in the cool waters of Santa Monica beach. The beach had a memorial for fallen soldiers in Iraq which I thought was touching.
Southern California has exceptional options for food. One of my missions was to eat as many (fresh) fish tacos as possible since that's an impossible find in the Midwest. One of the days, we ate at La Salsa in the Promenade in Santa Monica. They serve a variety of Mexican foods, especially fish tacos. Mine were tasty but nothing to rave home about. I was looking for an authentic taste rather than a 'pre made, fried to order' taste.
That night, we ate at a Greek restaurant in the Promenade, Stop N' Cafe. This isn't a typical Greek name that would attract diners' attention; it's the sweet people that work there. As we were looking over the menu, the host warmly greeted us and in matter of seconds we were being seated to a table of 10. The restaurant is long and narrow that sits about 30-40 people, inside and outside. The walls are covered in framed pictures of America's favorite actors and singers. After we were seated, the server introduced herself to us; I was excited to know she was Turkish! She even took the time to explain the menu in great detail to my dining companions who weren't familiar with Greek food.
From the menu, we ordered an appetizer of hummus and baba ganoush. It was one of the best tasting hummus I've had. (This coming from a cook that makes a mean hummus.) I ordered a chicken gyro for my main and enjoyed the sandwich immensely. The gyro had appropriate amounts of tzatziki and veggies. Both the food and service are exceptional and we were very glad we stopped to look at the menu. I highly recommend it to anyone that's in the area. For a large group, call ahead for reservations.
side note: The Promenade is a great spot to stroll and window shop. It has eclectic shops, diverse crowds and street performers.
The next day, we started our drive north to the Bay area. If there is only one thing I could do in California, it is to drive on Route 1. It's breathtaking. Stop at all the major tourist stops like Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, if possible. Do not miss an opportunity to drive alongside the Pacific ocean.
We drove to Pebble beach and paid to drive on 17 mile drive. Paid! I was surprised as well! It's a gorgeous, well-kept residential community by the beach and visitors pay to drive on the 17 mile drive loop. The houses, pardon me mansions, were unbelievable; starting at $18 million . I know, because I saw a "for sale" sign for one of the houses and I called the realtor to inquire about it. :)
The golf course is part of the loop; the husband was drooling as we were passing the course...
One of my favorite pictures...
Next stop, San Francisco.