Last summer, my boyfriend and I took a completely random road trip to Northern California. By random, I mean we thought of the idea the night before we left. He and I had both never been up north. It was a relatively cheap option for a vacation, so we just packed our bags that night, bought some snacks for the road and headed down the PCH or Pacific Coast Highway.
Napa Valley Vineyards
It was my idea to take the PCH. Mistake. I wanted the scenic route, he wanted the fast one. He eventually gave in to my complaints, but soon kept throwing me “I told you so” glares. We were stuck in terrible traffic. From Santa Monica to Malibu, a mere 17 miles, took us over 2 hours. Both of us growing increasingly more impatient, I gave in and let him take the highway. I made him promise me to let us take the PCH on the way back.
Our first stop once we got to Northern California was Napa Valley. It was absolutely gorgeous. Rolling hills were filled with vineyards, beautiful weather and a charming countryside. We grabbed a map of the wineries from the hotel and set off to do some tastings. We also grabbed a coupon book, featuring all the wineries that had deals like 2 tastings for 1, 50% off tastings, etc. Remember, there’s SO many deals you’ll rarely have to pay full price for the tastings. We ended up saving well over $100 between the two days we were in Napa.
Day One: We hit a total of 5 wineries. FAR too many in one day. We naively thought that we’d only be tasting sips at each place, not realizing some places actually pour you full glasses. We started off with champagne, some white wine in the middle and we ended with my favorite, reds. At the end of the day, we were couldn’t really taste the differences anymore and we were quite tipsy. We ended up grabbing a snack and sitting for a hour or 2 in the car to sober up. Drunk driving, for obvious reasons, is somewhat of a problem, and there are cops hiding out just waiting to catch people. Do yourself and others a favor, and if you are feeling drunk, please wait before driving, or hire a cab or car to take you around for the day if you are planning on getting real crazy.
By far one of the best wineries we went to the day was Sequoia Grove. Nestled among the giant Sequoia trees is a small and cozy winery with some of the best Rosé I’ve ever had in my life. The staff was exceptional, giving us way more tastings than the 3 we paid for. We got giant pretzels to go with the wine, great conversation and even a discount on the bottle of Rosé I just had to buy. Sequoia Grove wines are only available in Napa, so if you ever get a chance to go, please visit them.
After spending 2 days wining and dining, taking Champagne tours and hiking with wild turkeys, we decided to move further north to see the giant Redwood trees. We took the Avenue of the Giants, stopping along the way to take pictures and play tag amongst the giant trees. It was incredible. After singing ‘This Land is My Land’ all throughout elemtary school, I always had a dream to see the Redwood Forests. Completely worth it!
Due to my many protests, we decided to take the PCH down from the Redwoods into San Francisco. For some reason, I had this vision that we’d just be cruising down a highway, with the beach and a sunset, blasting music and going 70 MPH. Not what happened. The PCH is the curviest, windiest, foggiest, scariest drive I’ve ever had in my life. I’m terribly afraid of heights and sometimes we were right on the edge of a steep drop off. We could only go about 20 miles an hour since the roads were so curvy and the turns were so sharp. Before it got dark, we did manage to stop a few times and grab pictures of the coast, as it IS beautiful. But as it started getting darker, the fog started settling in, and then we couldn’t see in front of us, and it became even scarier. There were randomly cows in the middle of the road at times and we had to swerve to avoid hitting them. I was REALLY overreacting, clutching the seats for dear life, thinking that we were for sure going to miss a turn in all the fog and just fall off the cliff. Not to mention with all the twisting and turning, I got extremely car sick and had to pull over a few times. Fail. Once we finally got into San Francisco, after a 4 hour ordeal of near death, I flung myself out of the car and vowed to never take the PCH again. Apparently the PCH has a personal vendetta against me and doesn’t ever want me to drive on it ever again.
The road that almost killed me
It was my second time in San Fran, and I fell in love with the city all over again. The houses, the streets, it all just feels like a mini amusement park to me. We went to Chinatown where I bought an insane amount of Hello Kitty stuff. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf where I ate too much sourdough bread and saw a man who was dressed up like a bush. Every once in awhile he would jump out and scare people. It was insanely hilarious! We didn’t even realize he’s pretty famous in that area until we got home!
After 5 days, it was sadly time to go home. Minus the PCH mishaps, the trip was a smashing success, considering we planned it the night before. Northern California will always be one of my favorite travel destinations. Wine, beautiful scenery and great shopping. I’ll just never take the damned PCH ever again.