California Road Trip

California Road Trip

I recently got to fulfill a few dreams, taking an amazing 7-day trip to California with my boyfriend! We traveled in late September adventuring through San Francisco, Big Basin Park, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and even Yosemite. We had a few mandatory must see things on our lists, but also took advantage of unscripted exploring in the areas we visited. Here’s a quick recap of some of our favorite sights and foodie spots throughout northern California. Hope you also get the opportunity to explore the beauty of California one day soon 🙂

San Francisco

We landed early in the morning in San Francisco without much of a plan – other than tacos. Phil’s request was to have tacos, so I did some Yelp research and found Tacorea. Tacorea serves Korean bowls and Mexican classics in a teeny-tiny, retro-cool spot. We enjoyed a delicious fiesta for two of tacos and tater-tot nachos.

A fiesta for two of tacos and tater-tot nachos 🌮

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San Francisco is known for fog, but we couldn’t have had a more beautiful, clear day. (Hence all the cheesy couple pictures at the Golden Gate Bridge park.) We wandered around most of the day, stopping at the famous Ghirardelli Square and drove down Lombard Street.

After exploring, we drove out to San Jose area to stay for the night in Silicon Valley at the Cupertino Hotel. (super quality for the affordable price)

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

The next morning, after an amazing complimentary buffet breakfast at the Cupertino Hotel, and a bit of driving around the Apple campus, we drove out towards the coast to Big Basin park.  We loved the windy road drive in to the park, surrounded by gigantic trees. We were in awe, consumed by the forest as we explored the redwoods by foot, walking the famous Redwood Nature Trail.

A tree is strong because it's roots allow it to bend throughout the wind. 🌲👫

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Santa Cruz

We then drove out to the town that surfing originated in, Santa Cruz. We explored a bit by foot, shopping the original O’Neill Surf Shop, and again – had Phil’s favorite  – tacos.

It was my turn to choose the activity, so on our drive out to our next stop we stopped at In-N-Out-Burger! Truly amazing place. The employees are so chipper and the food is truly worth the indulgence. I suggest the animal-style french fries.

Cheeseburger in paradise @inandout___

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Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel-by-the-Sea

The main attraction to visiting northern California for us was having the opportunity to drive the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1. The areas of Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel-by-the-Sea are all along the breathtaking coast making it easy to be entertained just by driving around and stopping at scenic outlook points.  Notable, easy-to-access spots are Lovers Point Park at the point of Pacific Grove, and the famous 17 Mile Drive including: the Lone Cypress, Spanish Bay, Stillwater Cove, the Del Monte Forest, and the world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Lover’s Point

 

Spanish Bay

Lone Cyprus

Bixby Creek Bridge

🌊💕

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A bonus highlight of the trip for me was experiencing the food scene in the Monterey and Carmel area. This area features many European and French-inspired spots, including many pastry havens! We ate at French restaurant La Bicylette, Lafayette Bakery & Cafe and Parker-Lusseau Pastries & Cafe. Each was truly delicious and worth a return trip back to Cali alone 🙂

We stayed at the recently renovated Munras Inn for 3 nights. This hotel was a great pick for the price with updated rooms, in room fireplace, air conditioning (surprisingly NOT common in Cali) and parking. I’d suggest asking for a top-floor room. Monterey seems to be more affordable to stay in over Carmel, when they are only a 15 minute, seriously scenic drive apart.

Yosemite National Park

We then drove about 4 hours inland, to spent 3 nights just outside of Yosemite National Park, at an Airbnb in Midpines. I really would have loved to stay on the park grounds, but we booked our trip only a few weeks before leaving. There are limited places to stay in the area and they are booked months in advance, so we were lucky to find such a a great house – even it was an hours drive to the central point in the park.

Our first day we conquered the famous Mist Trail, climbing to see the Vernal Falls and Emerald Lake. It was quite the hike. The challenge was worth the view.  Its truly something special experiencing the vastness of the park. Many have raved about the feeling of reflection that washes over you when visiting Yosemite. Without getting too fluffy, I can say the fever/ high / serenity – it’s real. Great place to experience as a couple.

Chasing waterfalls 🌈

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Tips for visiting the majestic Yosemite are to seriously plan ahead – know where you want to park and what trails you want to hike. Timing is everything here with only limited roads in and out of the park, thousands of visitors a day, limited parking and limited sunlight for daylong hikes. Get in and park early! Having proper hiking gear and preparing water and snacks is also a must!

I’d suggest researching via Youtube series from return visitors like Zane and Mel Lamprey – they have a seriously funny travel channel on Youtube! I kinda really want to be BFFs & travel the world with them.

Cheers to being able to explore such beautiful parts of the world and to planning (saving$) for our next trip!

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Phipps Conservatory Visit with Meaghan Cutrell Photography

Phipps photography Pittsburgh

Exhibit “SUPER. NATURAL. Glass Art by Jason Gamrath”

I recently had an opportunity to spend an afternoon exploring Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory during the Super Natural glass exhibit. Phipps offers a beautiful, tranquil place to escape to for a relaxing time.  You can stroll for as long as you’d like to, refreshing yourself by soaking in the greenhouse air. These gorgeous professional photos are by my creative BBF Meaghan Cutrell Photography of Westmoreland County. See the full gallery here.

Check out more information about the artist and see more pictures and video from the display on the Phipps website here.

Girls born in October are the best kind of girls 👭

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La Bicyclette – Carmel by the Sea

la bicyclette

I recently got to fulfill a few dreams, taking an amazing trip to California with my BF! We traveled in late September adventuring through San Francisco, San Jose, Monterey, Carmel by the Sea and even Yosemite. A highlight of the trip for me was experiencing the food scene in the Monterey, Carmel area. This area features many french inspired spots! The area served as my foodie side’s play area.

La Bicyclette – Carmel by the Sea

I had this spot at the top of my list ever since researching the Carmel foodie scene weeks before our trip. La Bicyclette restaurant is small, charming and quaint with rustic french country kitchen touches. It’s located right in the main shopping, touristy district of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

 

We stopped in for a late lunch on a weekday. I had read a lot about the pizzas, but we couldn’t resist the server’s description of the special mussels with fries, “Moules-Frites”. I usually don’t choose mussels, my BF loves them, and I was surprised to find that these were delicious! They were sautéed with shallots, garlic, fennel, and leeks and came in the classic “Pernod broth,” a white wine herb broth. It was outstanding, full of flavor and seasoning! The fries were truly tasty fried and crispy. It also came with a rich, decadent aioli dipping sauce. I couldn’t decide what was better with the salty fries, the broth or the aioli – I used both 😉

We also enjoyed the fromage board that was served with local honey comb and poached pears. The bread was filled with fruits as a nice, unexpected touch.

cheese board la bicyclette carmel california

I would recommend Carmel’s La Bicyclette restaurant for couples traveling to the area looking for a charming and interesting lunch spot. It was a memorable dinner, I hope I will continue to remember this meal when I look back to our trip! Next time I visit I’d like to enjoy a pizza and tap into the wine list 🙂 I can’t wait to share more from my trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea!

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Must Visit Foodie Spots of Seattle

View from Seattle needle

Seattle truly is a beautiful place to visit. Its also a foodie’s haven. I traveled here over a year ago, but am still totally carrying the 5 pounds I gained from a few glorious days eating my way through Seattle.

I visited in June of 2016. After checking in to the Kimpton Palladian Hotel, I headed straight to the foodie spot Seattle is most famous for, the Pike Place Market. I didn’t stray too far from this foodie paradise for the reset of the trip. This place is amazing, home to the first ever Starbucks, the famous fish toss at the Pike Place Fish Market, and endless food vendors.

I'm in heaven. Gimme it all please. 🦀🐡🐟🍤🍣🍷🍩🍫🍾🍽

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I found a french pastry spot right outside the main market, Le Panier. Le Panier is a classic French boulangerie and patisserie. These are life changing pasties. I woke up at 6:30 am every morning of my trip just to get here and start my day with these pastries. I tried the feuilletés which are puff-pastry tart with savory fillings. I tried the Normandie of chicken, cheese and onion in a cream sauce and the Champignon with Mushrooms in a cream sauce. Truly a savory, rich, flaky treat. I of course also had a sweet option the á la Framboise a croissant filled with raspberry preserves. So delicious. I stuffed my suitcase with these before leaving and would travel back across the USA just to experience these pastries again (probably).

Bonjour, ohhla la

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just look at the flakiness left over. #pastry #flakypastry

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Another amazing spot is the watch Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. They make the cheese right on site in a huge vat. They claim to have the world’s best Mac & Cheese – and it is really good.

Pregaming dinner #macandcheese 🐄

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Being in Seattle I was on a mission for fresh salmon. I visited Duke’s Chowder House on South Lake Union to try the Off the Hook Stuffed Salmon. This salmon was extremely fresh and stuffed with Dungeness Crab, Wild Mexican Pacific Prawns, Havarti, Parmesan and Asiago cheeses. It was really good, bu there was six HUGE fish bones in it. SIX?! When I showed the waiter he didn’t seem to care :/

I also enjoyed a meal at the Crab Pot. The crab soup was exactly what I wanted it to be creamy and flavorful. The crabcakes were also delicious with fresh crab and the perfect seasoning.

I had a delicious, fresh sushi roll in Belltown at WASABI Sushi & Izakaya, Japense sushi.

The Barbie roll haha 😛 #sushi #Seattle #foodporn #foodie

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Seattle is of course known for coffee so I couldn’t pass up trying the flagship location of Seattle Coffee Works.

I asked the barista for something sweet #☕️ #seattlecoffeeworks #seattle

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I might also want to go back to Seattle to explore the outdoors. Its just a little breathtaking.

Mornin' Seattle

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💙

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🌊⛵️🗻 Lake Union Seattle.

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Okay one more. 🌲🌄#spaceneedleview #seattle #travel #sunset #westcoast

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As for the stay, I found the Palladian so quirky and interesting. Described as “eclectic accommodations that capture the gritty elegance of Belltown’s back-alley speakeasies, hip wine bars and chic urban boutiques,” it certainly is a place you remember. I’ve never met a Kimpton hotel bathroom that didn’t immediately make my jaw drop. This one had all my favorite elements gold, hexagon tiles and white marble.

As for the quirkiness, the paintings and art features paintings of vintage war profiles, with modern-day celebrities.  It’s pretty funny. I snapped a picture of myself laying in bed with my Leonardo DiCaprio pillow. I’ll save the internet from that one.

 

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Summer Visit to Gervasi Vineyard in Canton Ohio

gervasi vineyard lake

As I’ve raved many times before (first visit, second visit) Gervasi Vineyard, a winery in Canton Ohio, is simply amazing. The grandeur starts as you pull in the grounds, and doesn’t diminish in any detail throughout the compound. Seriously please just check out these 360 tours on the Gervasi site to see more of the space. The grounds feature plenty of spots to explore including the vineyards, lake, Marketplace gift shop, casual dining spot the Crush House, outdoor patio the Piazza and main Italian Bistro.

I was lucky enough to visit this past weekend for their annual 8th Annual Bellissimo arts & craft festival.

To me, one of the best things about a visiting a winery is the fun of a wine flight! The Brigante, their sweetest red is my favorite wine by Gervasi (besides the moscato of course).  It is is described as having an “assertive structure, complex berry flavors – ‘Bad Boy’ personality. I’m surprised that I like this wine so much because its not just sweet, but has another layer of something, maybe a smokiness, that I didn’t think I’d like so much. It is delicious. I can’t help but take another bottle home with us after each visit.

Gervasi wine Gervasi wine Gervasi wine moscato is my mantra

 

I am still fascinated with how gorgeous the Bistro restaurant is. It appears to have been designed with an attention to detail. From the looks of it no cost was spared on the hardware, finishes or decor, really creating a lovely ambiance. I was lucky enough to be treated to another amazing dinner here by my boyfriend 🙂 For dinner I enjoyed the Apple and Brie Salad with mixed greens, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and a balsamic vinaigrette. My main meal was a delicious and rich pasta dish the Breaded Chicken Campanelle of garlic, shitake mushrooms, spinach, fresh tomato, garlic cream sauce.  My boyfriend had another great meal. The Mela Maiale a bone-In Pork Chop with blue cheese, creamy polenta, topped with brussels sprouts, pancetta caramel apple sauce – a pretty fancy dish for $22!

 

gervasi bistro gervasi bistro gervasi bistro dinner menugervasi bistro dinner menu

 

On this visit we were able to take a free behind the scenes tour of the winery in the Crush House building!

 

 

I love looking around in each building on the compound, the unique lighting really stands out to me! I see myself having a wine bottle chandelier of my own in the future.

 

As lavish as the decor is you’d think the menu would be too right? It is! Full of rich, rustic Italian fare, so many delicious choices. Check out the menu here. The best part of all of this? It is affordable. I’m serious. A trip here is a lot more affordable than the usual upscale Italian in downtown Pittsburgh.

It is hard for me to say if its the wine, the food, the scenery or the ambiance that keep me wanting more of Gervasi. I love it all.  Even the drive home through the fields of Ohio is great scenery. I’d love to stay here someday, everytime I call it is booked </3. I’ll keep waiting to see the inside of those villas. I would encourage anyone to check Gervasi winery out for themselves.

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