CALIFORNIA: A BIG SUR SETTING
Pardon the Katy Perry reference but its only fitting that after three weeks in her neck of the woods that I agree with the fact the golden coast was unforgettable. While the East is still a favourite of mine, spending time with the family travelling down the Big Sur was surreal. It was a bucket list moment and in hindsight the most underrated travel destination i’ve ever visited. God knows why it hasn’t made a Lonely Planet cover or graced the pages of The Porter's travel section, yet considering the lack of road space and an untouched natural beauty awaiting our interference, this can only be a good thing.
Los Angeles is like a good bottle of wine, it gets better with age and once finally ready for the palette (with some dedicated research, key recommendations and a few visits later) it becomes a natural favourite. We made the switch from staying in the hills of Beverley to her much more humble neighbour- Santa Monica. Here, Cadillacs and crazies live in harmony, with ‘extra character’ a prerequisite feature for locals and visitors alike. After Christmas Day Brunch the American way (enter blueberry waffles and a side of maple bacon) we were bike bound to Venice Beach. From the back street banter to the canals that are hidden away a few streets back, the only thing missing was a 30+ day from back home. Vintage shopping made its way into the equation, with American Rag the go-to and What Goes Around Comes Around the dream window shopping experience. Abbot Kinney was the shopping of choice, where boutiques lined the sidewalk epitomising what my Year 11 Geography textbook taught me as ‘gentrification’. Christmas Eve meant Chateau Marmot was on the cards, as storybook Hollywood seeps through the walls and Scarlett Johansson sat perched alone in the corner (sorry, no photos allowed!).
From LA it was northward bound, first stop- Malibu. Here, it seems anything goes and if it isn’t Caitlyn Jenner on the front of Vanity Fair, its the James Pearce concept store big enough to host the Oscars. The view from the road was expected- million dollar mansions with cliff-bearing locations (no discount for global warming) yet the natural beauty of the infamous point break Rincon was a much more beautiful alternative. The cold wasn’t stopping those eager enough to get in the water with a handful of surfers catching the last waves before sunset and the perfect queue to continue our journey North.
Next stop, Santa Barbara - not only home to the Brangelina clan but it seemed Slim Aarons pools and terracotta roofs to complete the picture. The town was quiet and quaint, and the ‘American Dream’ was becoming more apparent the further we went, with gated communities commonplace and yellow school buses a 3pm ritual. You don’t need long in this neck of the woods, as the locale was something not to disturb with a peacefulness that only they could truly embrace. The only thing lying in between Santa Barbara and our next destination was the Big Sur, what we knew to be a cliff hugging Highway 1 with a huge coastline below. We passed The Hearst Castle (think real life Great Gatsby) and Piers Blanca Elephant Seal Rookery where these graceful giants raise their pups year round. No signs needed, entering the Big Sur was a spectacle not to be missed as the road dropped off into the roaring Pacific Ocean, and while not inviting to swim it was some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. Cameras couldn’t do the place justice, as we pulled into the infamous Pfieffer Burns State Park, where the McWay Waterfall trail welcomed us with the iconic waterfall dropping into the beach below, only to be sucked into the ice-like water which filled the bay.
Road tripping in America you have two options- fast food on the run (think the golden arches, Starbucks or even drive through pharmacies) or simply do your research and come prepared. Thankfully, the wifi signal held out until we reached the Big Sur Bakery, a bake house right from the pages of a fairytale, as freshly baked pastries were served straight from the oven a the coffee was a reasonable size. While treks aren’t usually part of our family holiday repertoire, the Pfieffer Burns trek into the redwood pine forest was something none of us regretted. Crossing naturally made bridges, winding our way up the forest floor and staring up at the 100 ft pine trees sparked a simple debate of ‘how tall were they?’. It’s moments like these were perspective is warranted, as nature brings you back down to earth, making you feel insignificant enough to appreciate her beauty.
After staying in the quaintness of Carmel, the hustle and bustle of San Francisco was embraced by all of us, as we stayed amongst the epicentre of tech start ups, as well as the more well known counterparts- have you heard of Google? Us Sydney siders appreciated the similar straits, as the bridges made a web across the sprawling harbour and hills appeared out of no where. Like all in-the-moment cities, there exists an area where grunge has transformed into cool and the slightly younger demographic on struggle-street means 'pop-up' bars are the only way to survive and even better- it’s cheap. For San Fran, this is the Mission District, and judging by the array of white tiled coffee houses, it’s the place to eat, sleep and simply be. A few favourites: Mission Chineses, Bi-Rite Creamery, Pizzeria Delfina and Urban Putt (ft. a bespoke mini putt-putt course inside). To recover from the foodie overload, let your Nikes grace your feet and head to Lombard Street for a hill sprint (or stroll) and reminisce on those childhood classics Mrs Doubtfire, Full House and The Pursuit of Happiness.
San Fran was the icing on the cake, and as we took our final bite with a last minute rush to the airport, we boarded the plane and headed inland. While we are all inundated with the LA culture and what we see through a screen, vicariously living through The Kardashians and Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat is in fact not the reality of America’s East Coast. Next time you are planning your trip, make your own memories and take a leaf from our itinerary- simply don’t have one. Plan as you go, be spontaneous with where you stay, who you meet and even what you wear, and like most successful American Dreams, just wing it.
Next stop, our home away from home, Colorado.