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

OOWEE Diner, Bristol

Over the last couple of months it seems like everyone has been talking about OOWEE diner in Montpelier, so last night I finally got to see what the hype is all about. Having made no dinner plans, but desperate for a decent burger this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Tucked away in a corner of Picton Street, OOWEE diner is a tiny little place filled with the most incredible smell of burgers, fries and all things greasy and super unhealthy.

 

OOWEE dinner burger in Bristol

It was pretty hard to narrow down what we wanted to just one meals worth of food – it all sounds, and smells, so so good. I went for the The Pimento: a beef patty with spicy pimento cheese, pickles and relish, with added bacon. (£6.50 + £1)

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The patty itself was well done on the outside but perfectly juicy on the inside; falling apart in your mouth kind of thing. The bacon was crispy and delicious, and the pickles were big – which always earns bonus points from me. The spicy cheese gave it that little extra kick to round off the flavour.

Dirty fries from OOWEE Diner, Bristol

I also went for some of their dirty fries – Bacon Jalapeno fries (£4.50), and a side of Buffalo Shrimp (£5). The fries didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but they were still wonderfuly decadent in their excessiveness. The overwhelming highlight though was the huge, juicy Buffalo Shrimp, while there was only five in the serving they were absolutely amazing, so next time I’m definitely going to give the Shrimp fries a try.

Buffalo Shrimp from OOWEE Diner, Bristol

OOWEE Diner is up there with some of the best burgers in Bristol. It’s simple, no fuss, dirty fried food that will fulfill all unhealthy food cravings. It’s also pretty good value!