Travel, United States

A Weekend South of San Francisco

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Point Lobos – Bird Island

For as many times as I had traveled to San Francisco for work, I had only left the confines of the city on a few occasions, and that was usually to see friends for a night or visit my company’s former sister office building.  Yet, secretly, on my phone, I was harboring a bucket list of to-do’s that were within minutes, and even a few hours, of my “second home”.

At the beginning of May, a girlfriend of mine suggested we tack on a girls’ trip to our most recent work trip, offering to accompany me to these places, since she used to live there and had seen the best spots.  Thus, our girls’ weekend trip was born.

Below is my itinerary, including where we stayed at what we did.

San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden

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Zen Garden

Ever since my travels to Australia last year, I’ve been a bit obsessed with tea customs in different countries, with the Japanese customs being my favorite.  While a bit touristy, it was amazing to see this peaceful tea garden exist not too far from the city itself.

(It’s $9 per adult to enter – tickets can be found here.)

Below are some of the pictures from the Japanese Tea Garden. It’s definitely worth a visit!

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Winchester Mystery House

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First of all, I’ve been obsessed with the story of this house for decades.  It’s a horrible series of unfortunate events for the Winchester family, which seemed to have been poured into the design of this odd masterpiece.

We purchased the main tour and the extended tour ($54 for both), which was a limited time offer, since some of these rooms were so fragile, they couldn’t take heavy tour volume for more than a few months every few years (click here for tickets).

Throughout the incredibly informative three hours we spent there, we saw almost every room in the house, learned about every minor detail of what went into each room (that they were able to explain), and appreciate the kinds of inventions Sarah had installed to assist her workers in getting tasks done faster. From the indoor/outdoor water recycling system for her plants, to the elevators, the intercom system, the laundry room, and her efficient way of heating her home, it was clear Sarah wanted her workers to feel comfortable and appreciated for the tasks they were doing.  Even their workers’ quarters were well appointed with both cool and warm air apparatuses, along with comfortable beds, and other amenities!

I’ve heard comments from friends on how creepy it must have been to tour it, given that people have seen ghosts of workers there. The truth was, it was incredibly peaceful walking through it (even in the basement and the attic), which told me that those workers who died in the home, weren’t ever in distress – they enjoyed the job security 🙂

Since we were not really allowed to take pictures in the home, I only have a few of the exterior, as well as of the final room, AND the costumes from the movie!

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Our 24 Hours in Carmel-by-the-Sea/Monterey/Pebble Beach

Accommodations

When we arrived to Carmel, it was a bit late in the evening, so we checked into The Wayside Inn and went to bed.  Having stayed at many inns before, I didn’t have high expectations.  When we opened the door to our room, I was blown away.  I felt like I had stepped into a quaint suite in Nantucket, well-appointed with high-end amenities, and  peaceful decor.  The beds were the most comfortable ones we had ever slept in, too!  To top it off, we were also given a free breakfast, delivered right to our door.  It was a fantastic experience from end-to-end, and I highly recommend staying there!

Hiking Point Lobos State Reserve

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Point Lobos offers different length/degree of difficulty of hikes, which given that we wanted to enjoy it, we chose an easy 4-mile, moderate incline here-and-there, hike (click here to view).

For the first 3/4 of the hike, we were walking through thick forest vegetation (on a trail of course), reminding me of my less-than-fond memories of Girl Scout camp and how much I hated potential wildlife surprises.  The difference was, though, the unbelievable reward at the end (which can be seen above).

Once you have made it to the expansive view, you are treated to unbelievable beauty of caves, cliffs, Bird Island (which doesn’t smell pleasant), and seal pups (which were hard to capture).

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Pro Tip: Get to the reserve when the park opens!  If you wait until 10am, there will be only street parking.  If you wait until 11am, the trails will get busy.

Pebble Beach 17-Mile Drive, Monterey

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After leaving the serenity of Point Lobos, we headed to Pebble Beach to do the 17-mile drive ($10.25 in cash, per car, to enter).

It’s another beautiful drive (with jaw-dropping homes along the way).  It’s highly recommended to do this drive, not just because of the multiple places to stop and take amazing pictures, but also to see Seal Island (highly recommended during pupping season in early May).

Hanging Around Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea

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Anton and Michel

First, I am definitely coming back for a weekend… to shop and relax.  Every single store, restaurant, inn, coffee shop, and wine bar are so charming, so elegant, and so much fun to explore.  Below are my list of recommendations.

Basil

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Grapefruit Spritz

We came here for lunch and drinks, and it certainly didn’t disappoint!  I’d recommend the asparagus puree soup and basil house salad with chicken.   I wouldn’t recommend the cocktails unless you like a strong pour! (Gluten-free rating: 10/10)

Anton and Michel

If there is one restaurant you can get to for dinner, this needs to be it.  From the service, to the food, to the wine, to giving us one of the best tables in the restaurant (see the pool image above), it was a five-star experience the whole way through! I kept it light on dinner (so I could make it to dessert, so if you want the same, I’d recommend the Wild Mushroom Risotto, Wedge salad, and selection of ice creams (they brought me sundae toppings on the side.  I’d also recommend the 2015 Domaine Drouhin Williamette Valley, Oregon Pinot Noir.  (Gluten-free rating: 10/10)

Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company

I love non-commercialized coffee shops!  Their coffee and other caffeinated drinks are absolutely fantastic.  They also offer a small menu of gluten-free treats as well!

Cottage of Sweets

This place is an adult child’s dream!  Not only do they sell rare candies we all had as kids, they also sell an amazing array of house-made chocolates, fudges, and other sugary confections!

Kris Kringle of Carmel

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I am not ashamed to have gone in there and purchase several ornaments… at the beginning of May 🙂  They have some beautiful pieces I’ve never seen before, along with a large collection of unique Nutcrackers!

Diggidy Dog

The toys are a bit pricey but are so worth it. I brought home the one on the right (which was all but destroyed in a week).  They also have a wide variety of homemade treats!

Additional Notes

  • Friar Tuck’s and the Tuck Box only accept cash
  • It’s a bit cold and rainy in early May – I’d suggest late May
  • The drive to/from the airport is about 2 hours – plan accordingly if you leave later!