Gone West, Young Man Part I: California

Top three reasons I just returned from one of the best domestic vacations I’ve experienced:

  1. Traveled with the boyfriend for nine days, which is a record-setting number of consecutive days for us to be together.
  2. Experienced some of the natural wonders I’ve only ever heard of, like the giant redwoods and the coastline of the Pacific.
  3. Discovered a new favorite city—Seattle.

We started our journey in San Francisco and made our way up to Seattle by way of the coastline in our giant rental car. I actually handed over the driving for the majority of the trip, which was surprising given my love of driving, but there was just so much to see and this was my first real trip to discover the west. Brian had already been out west and was nice enough to let me soak it all in.

We saw too much for me to ever capture without the assistance of my camera and travel companion, but I wanted to recap the highlights from each state—California, Oregon and Washington—in a series of posts. This is the story of California.


We had amazing hot dogs from a little restaurant on one of the streets leading into town and then passed a variety of temporary tents and vendors on our way to the university entrance. The vendors were selling everything from home-crafted jewelry to pictures to tie-dye clothing and more. I did buy a few things, and we had a very interesting conversation with one complete burn-out trying to sell me a picture of some naked students in a parade that he took himself. Tempting, but we moved on. We had fun exploring the campus, which had some beautiful areas with waterfalls, rivers, gardens and trees. It was a very natural and beautiful campus with some amazing old buildings and tons of kids out enjoying the sun.

Due to a quick side trip to see the monuments representing the riots on campus, we barely made it in time for our next stop—a tour of the Jelly Belly factory just north of town. We were given hats to wear and the front desk girl caught us up to the very last tour of the day so we could finish it out, receive our free Jelly Belly beans and visit the gift shop for some treats to take on the road. There were some brand-new flavors I hadn’t heard before, and Brian bought a game where disgusting flavored beans are mixed with regular beans and it’s just luck of the draw which you consume. Can’t wait to play that with the family when we return home!

Outside the University of Berkeley California.
Checking out handmade jewelry outside the campus.
The Jelly Belly Factory tour and store.

We got to the hotel and started looking up good places to eat and, thanks to Google maps, discovered a little restraint in nearby Sonoma Valley called The Girl and the Fig. We decided to check it out and ended up loving Sonoma.

If I were to go again, I would stay in that areas and visit several of its vineyards. The Girl and the Fig was absolutely incredible. We had some excellent wine as we briefly waited on a table, and then ordered some sort of delicious radish appetizer and fantastic meals. We walked across the street to the hotel, which had live music in the lobby, and enjoyed some more wine as we listen to the performances for a while before heading back to our hotel.

The next morning we headed into Napa proper, via the grape crusher statues for a few photo opps, to meet our Platypus Tour of several Napa Valley vineyards. We had a great day, hardly a cloud in the sky and a great group on our tour.

We visited four wineries (Hagafen, Alpha Omega, Charles Krug, Black Stallion) that covered every type of venue; small, large, home-owned, corporate, old, new, etc. We bought a couple bottles of wine from each place, including an amazing Riesling and a couple dessert wines. I loved the cheese and crackers on the bus in between stops.

I really enjoyed the day, but we both decided we couldn’t do the week-long wine tour some people rave about. It’s been on my wish list to experience Napa Valley, and I wouldn’t mind trying other wine regions, but I thought a day was plenty and then I was ready to move on to other sites and stops.

The Grape Crusher outside Napa Valley.

Wonderful vino.

We decided to grab tapas and dinner in Napa proper and had a great dinner at a local steakhouse before hitting the road.

In the morning, we headed out on one of our longer days of driving. Brian instructed me from the get-go to just let him know if I saw something worth stopping to see because he would pull over, and I took full advantage of the offer. Every so often I would see something interesting along the road, and he would turn around so we could go back. I took pictures of everything from a run down train caboose to scenic forestry to old hippie vans.

Eventually we made it over to the coast, and I was nearly brought to tears at my first glimpse of the Pacific over the rocky cliffs. It was beautiful out and we quickly found an area to pull over, park and walk down to the coast for some pictures and play near the ocean. We made several other stops for lunch and lighthouse tours, and as the day drew to a close, we made it to the redwoods.

Driving through the redwood trees.

We stopped in a number of areas to roam in the woods and get pictures with the gigantic trees, and I did force Brian into one tourist trap so we could drive the car through one of the trees. We barely made it because of the side mirrors, but we managed to squeeze through without damaging the car or tree.

We wound our way north through the Avenue of the Giants and finally pulled into the hotel exhausted.

Next stop– Portland, Oregon.

9 thoughts on “Gone West, Young Man Part I: California

  1. Pingback: Exploring Redwood National and State Parks – Heather's Compass

  2. Pingback: A Weekend in Wine Country: Things to Do in Sonoma – Heather's Compass

  3. Pingback: Gone West, Young Man Part II: Oregon | Heather's Compass

  4. Pingback: Redhead Event in Portland | Heather's Compass

  5. Pingback: Moving to the Pacific Northwest | Heather's Compass

  6. Pingback: Travel for (His) Work: France and Switzerland | Heather's Compass

  7. Pingback: Gone West, Young Man Part Two: Oregon « Heather's Compass

  8. Pingback: Gone West, Young Man Part Three: Washington « Heather's Compass

  9. Pingback: Travel for Work: Los Angeles « Heather's Compass

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