Hi from Mill Valley, California, everyone! Yesterday, Matt and I checked into our Airbnb in this amazing little town about 15 miles north of San Francisco. We’re just a few hours into this leg of our trip and loving it already — but more on that next week! First, I want to share a little bit more about the first few days of our travels…
We landed in San Francisco late Saturday morning and got settled at our hotel (The Marker, which we liked a lot!). Since we’re city dwellers who do a lot of walking in our everyday lives at home, we tend to like exploring new places on foot whenever we can, so we threw on our sneakers and took to the streets! We’d heard a lot about the Mission District and all of the great places you can find to eat there, so we headed in that direction and stopped to have lunch at Gracias Madre. I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food, but the menu looked pretty good, and I’ll never complain about chips and guac : ) Within a few minutes of being seated, we figured out that it was a vegan restaurant, which threw Matt for a bit of a loop, especially! The meal was delicious (can someone teach me to make sweet potato tacos with pumpkin seeds, please?) and I think it may have even opened up Matt’s mind to trying vegan dishes in the future. Maybe. From there, we walked to Mission Dolores Park, where we found a spot on the grass to people watch (or, if you’re me, dog watch) for a few hours.
I wasn’t crazy about how we spent the rest of Saturday night (dinner was a serious flop for me — I don’t want to dish the bad stuff here!), but my body was (and, four days later, still is) on east coast time, so it felt pretty great to get back to the hotel and crash.
Sunday morning, we were up bright and early with a list of other things we wanted to check out in the city. We set out toward the water and spent most of the day walking along the bay and then straight up a very steep hill to the famous Lombard Street. For me, the best part of the day was the early morning! We walked to the Ferry Building, grabbed breakfast from Cowgirl Creamery, and sat by the waterfront looking at this view while we ate!
Visiting Ghirardelli Square was another Sunday highlight. Matt and I split their original hot fudge sundae for lunch, and it was by far some of the richest chocolate I’ve ever tasted.
Shoutout to the guy who most definitely had too much to drink before he walked past us sitting on this repurposed ski lift and insisted that the moment called for a photo. He has a good eye! These are seriously some of my new favorite pictures (well, maybe not the one with him in it).
Monday was a big day for pictures, because we spent the whole morning driving down Highway One to our second hotel in Monterey, then the afternoon making a loop around Pebble Beach (I posted some of those photos here). My entire camera roll is pretty much photos of incredible blue water from the window of our rental car, plus some shots we took at the Pigeon Point Ligthouse. They’re all too pretty to delete!
Monday night, we drove down to Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey for dinner. For my fellow Jersey shore folks, the Wharf was basically a miniature boardwalk, with a higher proportion of seafood restaurants and a lower proportion of T-shirt shops. I’ve never seen anything like it — every. single. restaurant was giving away free samples of New England clam chowder to everyone who walked by. I guess that’s what you have to do to keep up with the competition, right? The strategy worked on us because we were sold on the chowder at Crabby Jim’s and ended up sitting down there to eat.
Tuesday was our busiest day yet, and it was a big one for me because I finally got to see the sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When I was really young, my grandmother visited the aquarium and brought me back tons of otter souvenirs — a book, a shirt, and a stuffed animal — and I became totally obsessed with them. It’s been a bucket list item for me to go visit the otters myself ever since. I’m not going to say that I teared up when I saw them up close for the first time, but I’m, not going to say that I didn’t, either. They’re such happy, interesting animals, and it was great learning more about what the aquarium is doing to keep them safe and rebuild their population.
After I’d recovered from all of the otter excitement (just kidding— I still haven’t recovered), we drove back into Monterey and had lunch at The Poke Lab. I’ve been wanting to try poke for, well, forever, and it didn’t disappoint!
We had a few more spots we wanted to see south of Monterey before heading north to Mill Valley, so we jumped back in the car and drove to Big Sur. So many more incredible photos through a car window added to my phone! Guys, California is seriously beautiful.
To finish up the day, we went to Carmel-by-the-Sea, took a walk on the beach, and explored the area a bit. Every time it feels like there can’t possibly be another adorable California coastal town, we find one more! It’s unbelievable.
As you can probably tell, these first few days were really busy. We saw a lot, drove a lot, and (admittedly) ate a lot. We covered a ton of ground and hit pretty much everything that was on our wish list for the San Francisco and Monterey areas. But it was a little exhausting! To be perfectly honest, Matt and I weren’t totally crazy about San Francisco, so we were happy to move on to the more low-key Monterey — and we’re even happier now to be unwinding in Mill Valley. I’ve more or less stayed on my east coast schedule, because I’ve been waking up super early every morning to work (I’m still working my scheduled Bustle writing shifts, for example, from 6 to 12 PST twice a week). I’m really grateful that I have the flexibility to keep up with my work while also enjoying this quality time with Matt, but I’m also ready for some good sleep! Thanks to our cozy new digs, I’m feeling like I’ll definitely be able to make that happen over the next ten days. I can’t wait to share our Mill Valley adventures with you next week.
In the meantime, for more details on our travels, follow me on Instagram stories!