Travel

San Francisco to Los Angeles: Roadtrip

San Francisco to Los Angeles is such a classic road trip; completely incredible scenery along the coast, the cutest seaside towns to explore and, of course, delicious food to eat.

The road trip: Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, LA

We flew into San Francisco on a Friday afternoon, and jumped straight in our hire car.

I’d spent a long time researching and trying to find out the best places to stop off on this trip. So our first was Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is a very cute seaside town, with an incredible boardwalk. We arrived at the beginning of October, so a bit out of season and on a Friday evening everything was very quiet and a lot of places weren’t open.

However, Saturday morning the boardwalk was teeming with families and people enjoying themselves on all the rides and arcade games.

After a bit of fun in the arcades we got back in the car and drove about an hour or so along the road to Monterey.

Monterey is possibly even cuter than Santa Cruz. It’s more of a fishing town, with hundreds of boats in the harbour. We did a whistle stop tour of the main Monterey sites: Fishermans Wharf, Cannery Row (of the Steinbeck novel), Pacific House and Custom House, and we even managed to see some sea lions sunning themselves.

We continued along Highway one for another half hour before turning off to drive through Carmel by the sea. Part of me wishes we had stopped off at Carmel instead, it’s idyllic Main Street is lined with shops down to a stunning beach.

After Carmel we carried on down the coast for another couple of hours, through Big Sur. The scenery is breathtaking along this way, big endless cliffs and miles of ocean before driving through the greenery of Big Sur.

Just after it got dark we arrived in San Luis Obispo for the night. Originally we had intended on driving all the way down to Santa Barbara that first night, but we definitely started off too late and there was too much to explore on the way.

San Luis Obispo seemed to be a fairly quiet town, a good stopping place for the night.

Sunday morning we got up, went for an amazing breakfast and headed off again.

It took us just over two hours to get to Santa Barbara, driving past Pismo Beach and then away from the coast through Lompoc. The landscape was very different for this part, lots of farm land, green and mountains.

Santa Barbara is definitely somewhere worth stopping. We parked up in the Funk Zone, just off of State Street. This area is full of bars, places to eat and some cool shops.

Along State Street you can find your way to the pier, and then up towards lots more shops and restaurants.

We spent a good couple of hours in Santa Barbara, though we thought we would just stop off for half an hour! From Santa Barbara to Los Angeles the route is fairly simple, we went along the 101 instead of the 1, they’re fairly similar but we wanted to save some time.

We eventually found our way to our AirBnB in Los Angeles’s arts district at about 8pm.

San Francisco to Los Angeles Road trip tips

  • Driving along Highway 1 is definitely the way to go, but it does go along some high, twisty cliffs and some narrow bridges. It’s completely safe, but a little nerve wracking if you’re not a fan of heights, plus you can’t really do it in a hurry.
  • Book places to stay in advance, especially if you’re travelling in the summer. Places will book up and get expensive.
  • That being said, you probably won’t drive as far as you think you would each day – don’t stretch yourself by booking a motel further away.
  • Also, there are some great stops, but it doesn’t really matter where you sleep – you’ll probably be pretty tired anyway and can just get up and drive to the next interesting place. I spent way too much time trying to figure out the best places to spend our nights, and we were really just there to crash for a few hours.
  • Most of the towns will have signposts for the landmarks/ sites you want to see right from the highway. It’s very easy to find them.
  • Also parking centrally was simple in all of these places – Santa Cruz you can park along the seafront on meters, and there’s a car park next to the harbour in Monterey. Just make sure you have some dollar coins (there was a change machine in Santa Cruz so we changed $20).
  • Big Sur looked like it would have been an amazing place to spend the night. There were lots of cabins and camp grounds. We didn’t realise as we’d mainly used Airbnb and booking.com etc to search for accommodation. At the very least, leave a couple of hours to get out and explore Big Sur.
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Food

Quay St. Diner, Bristol

If you’re looking for a new brunch, lunch, dinner, all day dining spot in Bristol city centre, Quay St. Diner is the place to go. The California inspired restaurant is located in the former premises of Roll for the Soul, and has hit the spot with it’s laidback atmosphere, colourful interior and delicious menu.

Pride of place in their open kitchen is their custom charcoal grill, which has enabled them to build the menu around cooking over an open fire; ‘live fire cooking’.

We ventured in there on a rainy Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, for breakfast (maybe brunch is more accurate, it was nearly midday!) and were absolutely delighted with it.

First off, the coffee – I ordered a latte (£2.80), while Tom had a flat white. I’m not really much of a coffee expert, but I loved the giant teal coffee cup, and thoroughly enjoyed the coffee!

The brunch menu, served 9am-12pm Mon-Fri and 9am-2pm on the weekend, is full of tasty, California influenced choices, from Pancakes and Fruit to Brunch Tacos topped with grilled tomato and ancho chilli salsa, smashed avocado, pumpkin seeds, fruit salsa and pomegranate!

We both went for the Huevos Rancheros (£7) – baked Mexican eggs in a tomato salsa with crumbled feta on top and sourdough dippers, and added bacon (£2). It was incredible. The salsa was a little on the hot and spicy side, but full of flavour, and the contrast with the feta was just right. Oh, and the thick chunks of bacon were amazing.

The all day menu also looks exciting; small plates, tacos, and a selection of burgers, steak, salad etc. We’ll definitely be back to try it out.

Quay St. Diner is a great, friendly and welcoming place, with full flavour, smokey, delicious food – go now!

Quay St. Diner, 2, Quay Street, Bristol, BS1 2JL. 

Food, Travel

No Sign Wine Bar and Casa Mexicana

Earlier this month I turned 28 and Tom planned out a surprise activity. Although I really hate surprises, it actually brought back all the excitement of waiting to find out what you’ve got for your birthday.

So, after an early start (7am, no birthday lie in!), all was revealed – surfing lessons in the Gower!

Surfing on the Gower

The lesson was at Llangenith beach, about an hour and half away from Cardiff. Llangenith is a beautiful wide bay with plenty of waves for the pro surfers and complete beginners to do their thing.

Surfing is something I’ve always wanted to try, but have been a bit apprehensive about actually doing it.

We did a three hour beginners lesson, in a group of nine, which included wetsuits, surfboards and lots of great instruction. Our instructor was great, he went through the basics of safety, the board, and how to stand up with enough information to put me at ease, but without a lot of standing around.

I discovered that surfing is very handwork; I have a lot of bruises, swallowed a lot of seawater and didn’t manage to stand up on the board. It’s definitely not my hidden talent, but I enjoyed myself and am eager to give it another go soon!

No Sign Wine Bar, Swansea

After peeling ourselves out of the wetsuits, drying off and getting back to the car, we headed to Swansea for some lunch.

I graduated from Swansea University in 2013, and except for a brief visit for a  Manic Street Preachers gig at Liberty Stadium, I haven’t been back since. We parked up at the bottom of Wind Street, and walked up to No Sign Wine Bar. It was almost surreal seeing the places that had completely changed, and some places (Revs, Walkabout!) that were exactly the same as they were.

No Sign Wine Bar is one of my favourite places in Swansea, it has a real cosy feel as you walk in, but it’s deceptively huge. I went for a mozzarella and tomato panini, while Tom had the biggest portion of fish and chips.

Casa Mexicana, Zetland Road

To wrap up the birthday celebrations, I’d organised a meal with a few close friends at Casa Mexicana on Zetland Road.

Casa Mexicana hands down do the best nachos I’ve had in Bristol. It’s a very generous heap of tortilla chips, with mixed cheese, refried beans, salsa, guacamole and sour cream piled up on top. The regular nachos are £5.50, and you can add jalapeños and chorizo or spicy beef for just 45p more.

Bristol’s best nachos - Casa Mexicana, Zetland Road

If you only order one thing at Casa Mexican, order the nachos (but also order everything else because it’s all incredible).

I then had the enchiladas (£12.95) – corn tortillas rolled up and stuffed with tender shredded beef (you can also choose chicken or vegetable), in a dark bitter nut molé sauce and served with rice and beans.

Enchiladas from Casa Mexicana on Zetland Road Bristol

All round, everyone enjoyed their food, and it’s a great relaxed and friendly place for a group meal.

Casa Mexicana, 29 – 31 Zetland Rd, Bristol BS6 7AH. 

Food

Got Beef, Cardiff

Inspired by street vendors and food trucks, Got Beef initially started out as a mobile catering business for gourmet burgers, and then took up residence as a pop up kitchen at The Canadian in Adamstown, Cardiff. In 2014, Got Beef fully joined Cardiff’s growing burger scene with its own restaurant on Whitchurch Road.

Got Beef burgers

Offering a creative burger menu, and some very indulgent sides – it’s best to go there hungry. There’s a lot of mouth watering choices, and a special mention definitely has to go to the Donald Trump burger – ‘Mexican cheese, American cheese, Russian dressing, topped with a tiny pickle’!

I went ‘dirty’ with my food choices. I order the Dirty South burger (£8): a tender beef patty, with cajun onions, a homemade bbq sauce, jalapenos, cajun mayo and American cheese all served in a brioche bun. The burger itself was great, and the jalapenos gave it a real kick – I would say that the bun was a little oversized compared to the burger though, but overall it’s up there with the best burgers!

On the side I went for the dirty fries (£3.55) – perfectly cooked fries topped with American cheese, bacon sprinkles, jalepenos and chipotle sauce. It was a perfect portion size for one person; indulgent, delicious but not too excessive.

The true highlight of the meal was the halloumi fries (£3.60) – big chunky pieces of cheese fried and smothered in hoisin sauce, peanut crumble and sesame seeds.

We went on a Monday evening, and the place was buzzing – it’s probably worth booking a table. We were slightly disappointed with how long we had to wait after we ordered the food, and a long gap between burgers and sides arriving – but it was very busy and the staff were all lovely.

If you’re after a burger in Cardiff, Got Beef should definitely be on your shortlist!

Got Beef – 83, Whitchurch Road, Cardiff, CF14 3JP

Food

Wallfish Bistro, Clifton

Award winning restaurant, Wallfish Bistro is quietly tucked away on Princess Victoria Street in Clifton. It’s a small place, with a handful of tables upstairs and a few more in the basement, simple decor, and a laid back atmosphere. The menu offers contemporary British dishes, with an emphasis on fish and seafood.

As it was a special occasion (my mum’s birthday), we may have gone a little overboard with our food order, but once we’d read the menu it was hard to maintain self control – we wanted to try it all.

For the first round of food, between us we ordered an assortment of appetisers: Green Sicilian olives (£4.00), Radishes with mayonnaise and celery salt (£3.50), a Porlock oyster (£2.90) and the Scrumpy-fried oyster with jalapeno mayonnaise and pickled vegetables (£3.00). I’m not the biggest fan of oysters, but I had a little try of the fried oyster, and I’d definitely recommend it.

Then for a starter I had the Portland crab on toast with pickled cucumber, lemon and watercress (£9): big juicy flakes of crab, which contrasted perfectly with the tangy pickled cucumber.

For my main course I had the Smoked haddock (£18); a sizeable piece of fish, served up with braised leeks, saffron and a few mussels scattered around the edge. The combination of the sweet leeks, and the intensely fishy taste of smoked haddock was spot on.

Tom had the Rack of Cinderford Lamb (£22) which came with peas, girolles, shallots and green sauce. I don’t eat lamb, but he was adamant that it was the best lamb he’d ever had.

Finally, we made it to dessert, with a few simple offerings on the menu – I went for the Chocolate mousse cake with raspberries and creme fraiche (£6.50).

Wallfish Bistro is a perfect little place, however, the restaurant is currently up for sale, so if you’re tempted by all this insanely delicious food then call up and book a table ASAP!

Wallfish Bistro – 112 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton, Bristol, BS84DB

Cardiff Bay, Cardiff
Food, Travel

Thali at Chai Street and Cardiff Bay

Last week, on an after work trip over to Cardiff, we decided to pop down to Cardiff Bay and soak up the last of the evening sun.

Cardiff Bay

I haven’t been down to Cardiff Bay in at least a couple of years, but it’s still just as buzzing as ever, with a lots of new exciting restaurants and bars around the waterfront.

Cardiff Bay, Cardif. Trousers: Zara, Tshirt: Monki
Tshirt – Monki, Cropped trousers – Zara, Sandals – Dr Martens.

Cardiff Bay, Cardiff

Chai Street, Cardiff Bay

This is my second visit to a branch of the Cardiff local gem, Chai Street Indian Street Kitchen. It’s a really laid back restaurant, with the best, bright and dazzling decor; ideal for just dropping in on a whim, or for a special meal.

Chai Street Indian Street Kitchen, Cardiff Bay

I went for the Traditional Chicken Thali (£11.95) – a spicy chicken curry, a potato curry, dal, raita, pickle, mini poppadums, rice and a naan bread. I love to try a bit of lots of different things, so thalis are ideal for that, plus the Chai Street thali is slightly different every time. Despite the heat, the chicken curry was definitely the highlight for me though.

Chicken Thali at Chai Street, Cardiff Bay

Tom, meanwhile, went all out and ordered the non-vegetarian Chai Special Thali (£13.25). This was a meal and a half, it included: a starter (baji), a chicken curry, a lamb curry, and some of the potato vegetable curry, as well as dal, raita, pickle, poppadums, rice and a naan bread.

Thali at Chai Street, Cardiff Bay

It was a really delicious thali (almost as good as Thali in Bristol), but I think next time I’m going to try out some of their ‘Street Delights’. The chicken lollypops (marinated with spices, ginger, garlic and then fried!), Prawn Chatpata and the samosas all sounded, smelled and looked incredible!

If you find yourself down at Cardiff Bay, hungry and fancy some authentic Indian street food, then definitely check out Chai Street. They also have restaurants in Canton and on the High Street in Cardiff – so there’s no excuse not to visit.

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018
Food, Travel

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018

This weekend was one of Bristol’s summer highlights, Bristol Harbour Festival. Friday through to Sunday saw in and around the harbour transformed into one, massive, free festival.

It’s one of my favourite weekends of the year; involving a LOT of walking, bumping into friends, eating some incredible food and enjoying a few local ciders in the sunshine. And, of course, encountering a variety of live music, circus acts and all kinds of performances on the different stages dotted around.

Saturday at Bristol Harbour Festival

On the Saturday we walked down the harbour, past the Arnolfini, across the bridge and along past M Shed. We had a quick stop off at Wild beer in Wapping Wharf and then met up with friends by SS Great Britain. From there we walked all the way around the harbour past The Pump House to the Grain Barge. We checked out the stage by the Grain Barge and then a little further along the Spoken Word stage.

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018

Eventually, we made it to Millennium Square and Lloyds Ampitheatre, before checking out the stage by Thekla. After listening to a bit of the music there, and having a delicious falafel wrap, we took a bit of time to sit on Prince Street Bridge and just enjoy the boats and the atmosphere.

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018

After a little visit to The Louisanna, we ended the night back at Lloyds Ampitheatre to watch Roni Size.

Sunday at Bristol Harbour Festival

The 19,000+ steps on Saturday just wasn’t enough to soak it all in – so we headed back down to the harbour on Sunday afternoon. We started off by checking out the food stalls around Queen Square.

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018

We then took a stroll down past the Cascade Steps stage and then back through Millennium Square. In the top part of the Lloyds Ampitheatre area, we stumbled across KOYKYO stall. We shared the Korean Fried Chicken and chips, and it was heavenly. 

 

After spending a little more time by the Thekla stage, we finished off the weekend with a quick drink in Small Bar.

 

Travel

A Cornish wedding

This weekend, I went down to Cornwall for a beautiful wedding – perfect, sunny weather, old friends, many many drinks, and a picturesque location made for a wonderful time.

Harlyn Bay

We travelled down Friday afternoon, and went straight to our B&B in Harlyn Bay near Padstow. We were staying in the Harlyn Inn; a pretty basic room above a pub, but literally just across the road from the beach.

Sadly we didn’t have much time to spend on the beach, but it’s the perfect little spot for sunbathers, dog walkers and surfers. We did find a little time to dip our toes and take in the view before dinner though.

Holiday in Padstow, Cornwall
Halter top from Primark, midi skirt from Zara, platform sandals from Dr Martens.

I picked this yellow floral midi skirt up in Zara’s sale this week. It’s a-line cut is so comfy and flattering, and I love the jazzy pattern, perfect for super sunny days like we’ve been having recently.

The View, St Merryn

For our dinner we walked about twenty minutes up the road to The View, St Merryn.

Dinner at The View, St Meryn

The restaurant is located in a holiday park, you go past a play area, up the steps and there’s a little inside area with a few tables and a covered outside seating area with the most stunning views across the fields to the sea.

The View, St Merryn
The View

I had the fish goujons, that came with a generous portion of fries and a delicious salad and balsamic dressing. Amy went for The View burger – beef, cheddar cheese and chutney.

The View is a lovely little, family run restaurant that’s definitely worth visiting.

Summer wedding in Trevone

The wedding was at the Well Parc Hotel, Trevone. The hotel has a perfect garden overlooking the beach and the seas, the ideal backdrop for an outdoor ceremony. And the weather was absolutely incredible.

Wedding venue, Well Parc Hotel, Trevone

After a buffet lunch, there were of course pasties and chips in the evening, with plenty of dancing, laughter and far too many photos – all round it was a wonderful venue for a lovely Cornish wedding.

Summer wedding guest dress
Mint green halter neck lace dress, Boohoo from ASOS

Summer wedding venue - Well Parc Hotel, Trevone

Amsterdam city travel blog
Food, Travel

Amsterdam in December

Amsterdam is a city I’ve wanted to go to for so long, and one thing or another’s always got in the way. So we ended up going in December on a very last min, spur of the moment trip.

We stayed in the ClinkNOORD hostel,  a quick (free) ferry ride across the water from Centraal station. It’s clean, funky and super convenient for a quick trip – our double private room was basic, but everything we needed as a base for exploring the city.

They also offer really great breakfasts, and have a pretty cool bar. We’ll definitely be staying at ClinkNOORD again for our next Amsterdam trip.

Amsterdam city travel blog

As for the rest of our trip, it was very very cold, icy and snowy – but there’s so much to do, see, explore around Amsterdam that it didn’t stop us at all.

Amsterdam travel blog

My favourite Amsterdam highlights include (and yes, they’re mostly food related):

Foodhallen

The Foodhallen is an indoor food market inside a renovated tram depot. With lofty ceilings, over 20 food stalls serving cuisines from all over and a really chilled out vibe, it was definitely worth trekking to the other side of the city for. We tried out some  bitterballen, beers, and gyozas.

Bitterballen at Foodhallen, Amsterdam

Foodhallen – Bellamyplein 51, 1053 AT Amsterdam

BeerTemple

Not exactly an authentic Amsterdam experience, however BeerTemple is an American beer bar with 35  draft beers and around another 200 in bottles and cans – they also do a great cheese board if you’re feeling peckish while sampling the beers.

Cheese board, BeerTemple, Amsterdam

BeerTemple – Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 250, 1012 RR Amsterdam

Kantjil & de Tijger

We had dinner at Kantjil & de Tiger based on a recommendation from one of Tom’s friends. It’s a wonderful Indonesian restaurant, and as soon as you walk in you’re hit by the most incredible smell.

Luckily we were able to get a table for two without booking ahead – but for larger groups it’s probably worth making a reservation.

I went for the Nasi Goreng Rames – spicy stir fried rice with rendang (curry), satay skewers, fried vegetable and an assortment of other delicious bits. Probably one of the best meals we had in Amsterdam, and for €17 was pretty good value.

eating out in Amsterdam

Kantjil & de Tijger – Spuistraat 291/293, 1012 VS Amsterdam

The Butcher

We can’t go anywhere without trying to find the best burgers, and The Butcher, Amsterdam did not disappoint. It’s a very casual, diner, eat in or takeaway place: ideal for a quick, amazing dinner.

The Butcher, Amsterdam

I kept it simple and had The Butcher with Cheese: Prime Aberdeen Angus beef, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, gherkin, Dutch Edam cheese and The Butcher sauce. It was absolutely perfect, and they also do some incredibly indulgent milkshakes, if you feel like being a bit extra gluttonous.

The Butchers – Paleisstraat 14 1012 RB Amsterdam

Cafe Sonneveld

We did one of the free (pay what you want at the end) walking tours around Amsterdam. It’s a great way to find out some of the history of the city, see the sights, and discover some local hidden gems like Cafe Sonneveld. 

Cafe Sonneveld, Amsterdam

Our tour finished outside the Cafe Sonneveld, and the guide recommended it as a good place to try out traditional dutch food.

I had Stamppot with meatball, and Tom had it with sausage. It was a delicious, warm and filling meal – just right for the end of a pretty chilly December walking tour. If you want to sample local food in Amsterdam, then Cafe Sonneveld is definitely worth a visit!

Cafe Sonneveld – Egelantiersgracht 72-74 , 1015 RM Amsterdam

Amsterdam travel blog