I’m back in New York and back in the swing of things (well, almost), and so happy to finally be taking the time to gather up the photos from the back end of our California trip and tell you more about what we did. I had every intention of sharing an update on our Mill Valley and Marin County adventures last week, but I was so busy enjoying the trip and keeping up with other work that it just didn’t happen. Sorry about that! Actually, though, I’m only kind of sorry, because it felt great to be a little extra intentional about staying in the moment and making good memories with Matt. Plus, now that I’m officially a few days removed from the trip, I can reflect on and appreciate it that much more.
I mentioned in the recap of our days in San Francisco and Monterey that we weren’t totally crazy about downtown SF and that we were craving the down time we hoped we would find once we left the city and got to Mill Valley, where we’d booked an Airbnb for ten days. If you haven’t heard of it (and I hadn’t before we planned this trip), Mill Valley is a great little town in Marin County, about 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Thanks to advice from my friend Angela who lives in the Bay Area, we chose Mill Valley as our home base for the bulk of our time in California because it seemed like it was accessible to a lot of the other places we wanted to check out while we were in the area. We also found this awesome Airbnb that was within walking distance of the actual town of Mill Valley — which has tons of bars and restaurants — and was at the base of some great walking trails. Seriously, everyone, if you ever decide to go to Mill Valley or Marin (and you’re going to want to after reading this post), I would highly, highly recommend this little bungalow. It was our first experience with Airbnb, but it was an excellent one. This place really made us feel at home!
I could go on forever about all of the great things we did, so I’ll try to choose a few highlights : )
Hiking Muir Woods: One of the things on Matt’s bucket list (which I didn’t know until recently!) was to see California’s redwood trees — and we got to see plenty on this hike! We explored the tourist area around Muir Woods, then hiked about seven miles on a winding series of trails. Luckily, we ran into a former park ranger near what we thought was the end of the trail, and he told us about a beautiful summit just 100 yards ahead. The hike would have been really fun even without that inside scoop, but the amazing view was definitely the cherry on top. We finished our day with burgers and shakes at Super Duper in Mill Valley. After a full day of hiking, I probably could have had three shakes! We did some other hiking and explored other trails in the Mill Valley area, but Muir Woods was definitely the best.
Stinson Beach: We specifically planned this as a non-beach trip, but you can’t go to California and spend all that time driving up and down the coast only to never park yourself on the sand for a while. One night, we packed up a beach bag, picked up a bottle of rosé (and a bag of marshmallows because, yum!), and drove to Stinson to read and watch the sun set over the ocean. As a lifelong East Coaster, I’m totally impressed by that west coast sun slowly dipping its way into the water. It’s magical!
Dinner with friends in Menlo Park: Angela and I (and Matt, too!) went to high school together, but we somehow managed to spend four yours in the same building without realizing that we were meant to be friends! We reconnected recently thanks to blogging and social media (check out her blog here), and when Matt and I decided to plan a trip to Northern California, Angela was a huge help in putting everything together. Thanks to her husband Kendrick, Angie moved out to the Bay Area a little over five years ago, and we really couldn’t have organized this adventure without her. I was so. happy. that we were able to connect in person during our visit. Angela and Kendrick invited us to their home in Menlo Park for dinner, and we had the best night catching up and meeting their ten-month-old, Gio! It’s so rare as an adult to meet people who you so automatically connect with (at least, it is for me), and I definitely felt that last week with the Ribeiros. It was a highlight of our trip and we’re so grateful to count this family among our friends.
Biking on Angel Island: We rented bikes in Tiburon and took the ferry to Angel Island, which is known to have some of the best views of the Bay Area. Matt and I love to bike, but we’re far from experts at it, and thanks to a combination of crummy rental bikes and unpaved roads, the biking portion of the trip wasn’t totally flawless — but the experience was totally worth the hiccups. Due to the horrible fires in wine country, the visibility wasn’t great, but we still got some amazing photos and loved taking in the whole San Francisco area from above.
Pasta Class at Cavallo Point Lodge: I knew I wanted to plan something special for Matt while we were in California to help kick off the celebrations for his birthday (he turns 28 on October 23!), but I’m the furthest thing from a good liar, so I was taking a big risk when I booked a cooking class for us on the last night of our trip, knowing that I’d have to keep the secret for two whole weeks while we were living in such close quarters. Somehow, I managed to play it totally cool, and on our final morning, I told him when we woke up that he would need to be ready to go somewhere by 5:30 that night. Little did I know that the place where I booked the class — the Cavallo Point Lodge — happened to be one of the most beautiful places we visited the whole time! The Lodge is a hotel located in Sausalito with an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge and idyllic grounds. We got there early so I could surprise Matt in time to grab a drink and watch the sun set. After our drink, we went to our cooking class, which focused on filled pastas like ravioli and tortellini. We had so much fun! I wish I had more pictures, but we were so busy cooking (and then eating, duh), that I could barely grab my phone. This was seriously a night to remember, and if you live in the area or are planning to visit soon, I would definitely recommend stopping at Cavallo Point, even if it’s only for a drink.
Outside of these highlights, I could go on and on about all of the sweet little coffee shops we visited and delicious meals we had, but then I’ll be totally gushing, so I’m going to have to stop.
Because of the wildfires raging in Napa and Sonoma, we (unfortunately) didn’t get to see wine country, and our thoughts go out to all of the families affected by the disaster. Given the newfound appreciation we have for Northern California after this trip, we feel sadder than ever knowing that so many good people and so much beautiful land was hit so hard by the flames.
That’s a wrap on California, friends. Thanks so much, as always, for following our journey!