Well, we’re back home in the snow and cold, the car’s rear view mirror reflecting frost rather than the sun and sand, but we left some great adventures in our wake. I’m still working on compiling these posts, these little snapshots of our trip that I jotted down in notes here and there and am reliving now with all the photos I couldn’t help taking!
After we left our easy, peaceful existence in Santa Barbara, we took a few days to drive up the coast towards San Francisco. The Pacific Coast Highway is kind of similar to the Apache Trail drive we did last year, although the PCH is paved the whole way, has the ocean to the left side, and our starting point was quite far away from our ending point. The twisty turns and breathtaking scenery though make it a must-do on a trip to California, so I put it on our list early on in the planning process and then mapped out a few potential stop right before we left from Santa Barbara.
First thing in the morning, we drove into Solvang, a little town with cute buildings once you passed an ostrich farm and winery. I had read about a raved-over pancake place, but being a Saturday morning it was a complete zoo, so we went next door and picked up pastries to go at Olsens – I got a bear claw with almond paste and J thoroughly enjoyed a sticky sweet lemon boat. We walked around a bit and enjoyed the Danish inspired buildings, the fun window displays, and the flowers.
We drove on, seeing rolling hills streaked with yellow wildflowers, the dazzling blue ocean to the left so close I imagined I could smell the salty air. Our second top of the day was Pismo Beach, and we drove right through the tiny downtown area to park, get out and walk awhile until we got to…the Butterfly Grove!
I’d recently read and enjoyed Flight Behavior and so I felt intrigued to see a real life version of an area where thousands of butterflies clung and climbed the tree branches. There was a small area to walk around, and gaze at the estimated 20,000 butterflies nestled in the trees.A volunteer with greying hair and a gentle smile gave Baby J a couple of butterfly stickers, and we took another look at the butterflies, their delicate little shapes glowing orange in the sunshine. It was an amazing sight to see.
We went a bit farther along the coast, talking about everything and nothing, singing songs and making up stories to keep our little fella awake until a late lunchtime. We stopped in Morro Bay, home to a large rock, which sounds boring but was actually quite scenic as it sat calmly looking out over the boats lined up in the harbour area.
Morro Bay was a really great little town and one that I could have spent longer in. There wasn’t a massive crush of tourists, the midday weather was perfect, and we got a seat at a local eatery quickly. I’m still thinking about the incredible lobster bisque in a bread bowl that I had. Best soup I’ve ever had, I think.
We walked a bit more, checking out the tiny art galleries, shops, listened to some live music, watched the boats, climbed on tree roots, and let Baby J drum away on this two pronged structure that was sitting outside. He would still be there now, banging away on it and laughing, if we hadn’t made him leave – that’s how much he enjoyed himself.
We drove farther this time, to our final destination of the day – Cambria. Because of the long weekend/ Valentine’s day madness, I’d search far and wide but hadn’t had any luck booking a night at a hotel. Either you had to stay the entire weekend, or the price was just way out of our budget. I wanted to take our time driving up the coast, making stops and seeing as much as we could, and in the end I found a historic house through AirBNB once again, called the Music House. A singer/ songwriter lives there now, but rented her house to us while she was out of town.
We ventured in and checked it out – clow footed bathtubs, black and white images from years past, capturing childhoods passing in large, ornate frames on every wall. There was a former little girls room upstairs and I lingered over the books, recognizing many of my own favourites from my childhood like A Little Princess. There was a treehouse outside, covered in dust and cobwebs, with broken china and sea shells littering the wood floor and a chalkboard written on in messy, child-like scrawl. There was also, to Baby J’s utter delight, a small piano that dinged when the keys were pressed, much like his very own at home. His Dad was pretty happy to spend some time at the living room version, too.
Nearby is a gorgeous little beach called Moonstone beach, featuring a boardwalk with a great view. We headed over, walked around a bit, went down the crumbling dirt steps to the beach itself and made our way across the pebbly sand. The sun was getting into it’s golden hour before settings and the landscape and rushing waves all seemed too perfect a place to hang out and play until the sunset.
It was all lovely, Lord of the Rings-ish beautiful, and I could go on it about more, but in reality? The day had caught up with Baby J and he was not in a good mood. He did like running on the boardwalk, and climbing onto a giant log, but he was determined to go in the water and just melting down when we wouldn’t let him. That’s sometimes how it goes though, Valentine’s day or not: the real romance is one of you scooping up and consoling your crying little kid, brushing the sand off his small feet to jam on his shoes, while the other gathers all the bags and clothes and toys and things, just getting him home and settled, happily sandwiched between us on a futon, for an early night’s sleep.