Surprise California Trip 2018

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My usual travel companion is my awesome boyfriend Gabe (pictured climbing precariously on some rocks. We both wanted to do a long weekend trip in May, and he told me that it was going to be a surprise destination. I was ridiculously excited (and a little anxious about packing, but it turned out fine). He had the boarding passes emailed to him so I didn’t even know until we got to the airport. I’d been speculating the places we were going to go – and he’d given me a few clues. One was that it would be in the 70’s, so pack for warmth, and the other was that there would be animals involved. My top prediction was Salt Lake City because there are a lot of nature-y things to do there, it was in the right temperature zone, and because I’d mentioned that I’d like to go west, since I’d never been west of Missouri before this trip. I was very happy to be wrong when we got to the airport though and I found out we were going to San Jose! I had ruled California out as being too far for a long weekend, so it was a total surprise.

We got in to San Jose late at night and picked up our rental car, since you pretty much have to drive everywhere there. We were given a choice between a hybrid and a non-hybrid, and if you ever have to make that choice, get the hybrid. We ended up driving a lot, and we only had to fill up the car when we returned it a few days later, which was a huge wallet saver.

We stayed in Airbnbs for the whole trip – the first one was a spare room at a house in Sunnyvale. Since we were getting in so late, we just wanted something close and cheap. We left early the next morning and got a delicious carb heavy breakfast (I can’t resist chocolate chip pancakes) then went west towards Palo Alto because we were going to meet a friend who works at Google for lunch. Since we had some time to kill, we went and visited Stanford and walked around.

It was really nice for us to get outside since we’d been in airports all day yesterday. Stanford is a beautiful campus, the architecture is all Spanish-inspired (correct me if I’m wrong) and there’s trees and plants everywhere. There’s a pretty awesome church located in the center of campus that we went in. It’s modeled after the gothic cathedrals with the high ceilings and intricate stained glass windows. Oh, and everything but parking was 100% free.

After Stanford we drove up to the Googleplex. For some reason I thought it was just going to be a few buildings. I was wrong, it’s a whole campus. We met up with our friend who got us checked in and then gave us a big tour of the Googleplex.

While looking at what was in the area, we saw that there was a state park with Redwoods close by, so we drove south to Big Basin State park to hike for the afternoon. I loved getting to see all the trees and houses that were on our way up to the state park. What I did not love was the steep, winding road that you had to take to get up, as I am from Michigan which is flat as a pancake. Again, the only thing you have to pay for when you get there is the park entry fee ($10). We did a 3 mile hike that took us way up to the top of the mountain where you could see out, and then back down, passing huge redwoods with each step.

That was one of my favourite things that we did, since I like to hike and be outside. It’s crazy when you think about how those trees have been here – and how they’ll still be here long after you are. After we’ve done our hike loop, we get back in our car, and I don’t know where we’re going next, since part of the surprise was that I only knew what we were doing that day. We started driving south, the other way down the mountain (which was less winding), and Gabe tells me the last part of the surprise – that we’re going to Monterey so that we can go to the aquarium! Background on me – I love fish and sea animals, and I’d wanted to go that aquarium since I saw a PBS special on it when I was a kid. He didn’t know the second part of that, but I basically turned into a little kid when he told me that’s where we were going. We did another AirBnb with hosts – this time with a great couple just outside Monterey in Del Rey Oaks. We got some fresh seafood (which I was really pumped about) on the wharf, then went back to the Airbnb and immediately fell asleep. The next day, we got up early and got delicious fruit pancakes down on Cannery Row. Slightly healthier than the chocolate chip ones. It was nice to have jet lag working in our favor, we were up around 7 every day since we’re usually 3 hours ahead. After that we headed down to Lovers Point Beach and walked around the top of the rocks overlooking the ocean. We climbed up on some rocks that and watched the seals swimming around below. Gabe was more adventurous on the rocks than I was. We went down to the beach, and I finally got to step in the Pacific! Just a quick one though – it was freezing.

We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the afternoon – with our annual passes our AirBnb hosts generously let us use for the day. This let us waive the $50 per person fee. I loved getting to see all the animals, there’s a pretty cool outdoor deck where you can see seals and whales if you’re lucky. My biggest recommendation is to go in the morning if visiting on Saturday. We went after lunch, which seemed to be the busiest time, and the time when everyone brought their kids.

After we went to the aquarium, we drove around the coast along Ocean View Blvd down to Carmel by the Sea, driving through Pebble Beach along the way. It was cool to be able to stop at the lookout points around the road. The waves were pretty crazy out there. At one spot we got out of the car and explored the tide pools that were sheltered from the crashing waves by large rocks. We found a few crabs in the pools, and got to get closer than expected to some seals sunning on little patches of rock in the water. Don’t worry, there was a sizable rock barrier between us and them. Our AirBnb hosts also gave us vouchers for half of wine tasting at the Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room. We got some Calamari and Pizza near by and then relaxed on Carmel beach until the sun started to go down. After that, we drove back up and relaxed fro the night, since we had to drive back up to San Jose to fly out.

It was so relaxing to get to be outside and experience a new place that I’d always wanted to go to. He definitely planned a great surprise, and I’m looking forward to many more adventures!
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