Cars, Castles & Clesi

I’ve taken a little hiatus these past few weeks, because I have a special visitor staying with me this summer! He’s in LA for the Summer for an internship and between that, my work, and getting adjusted to each other’s lifestyles, we’re staying very busy. We have managed to have some fun since he got here a little over a month ago and I’ll continue to post on Instagram and Facebook our various adventures.

Two weeks ago, we even made time for a little weekend getaway and headed up north for the weekend. I’m excited to share the details of our trip and would highly recommend that you take your own version of this mini road trip. Whether you need a weekend getaway driving distance from LA or the Bay Area or whether you’re looking for a unique, small-town vibe vacation to California. Our trip started in LA and headed north to Paso Robles, Cambria, San Simeon, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbra. There are plenty of other places on the way so if you have any recommendations or you’ve already done something similar, please let me know in the comments below!

Friday:

The whole idea for this trip started when we we’re invited to a family friend’s graduation party from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo (SLO.) We left Friday evening once we both got off work. Around 6:00 pm we hit the road and it took us about 3 hours to hit San Luis Obispo where we stopped for dinner at Woodstock pizza! (Would highly recommend loading up on your favorite toppings and creating your own personal size pizza!) Even at night, we could tell San Luis Obispo was going to be something special, but we were saving that for Sunday.

As you can imagine on graduation weekend, a lot of the hotels were incredibly expensive in the area and even affordable Air BNBs were hard to come by. We ended up booking a wonderful Air BNB in Paso Robles just another 30 minutes from SLO. (Our Air BNB was perfect, and I would highly for one or two people, and I would be happy to pass on that info as needed! Let me know!)

Saturday:

The next day we started semi-early with an incredible breakfast in the Paso Robles town square at a café called Andrea’s on Pine. Most of their menu is new every day and cooked fresh that morning. So be prepared to remember a long special list and try something original that is sure to impress. (We split a strawberry lemon coffee cake. Emory had a berry French toast bake and I had the best quiche I’ve ever had!) Following breakfast, we took a little stroll around the square and walked through the little farmers market.

Then we set out in destination of the Hearst castle however, along the way we passed the charming town of Cambria and we quickly decided to make a detour. The Cambria Lions Club was hosting a car show and chilly cook off. The whole town seemed to be out and about, and we went around to some shops and got to know some of the locals.

From Cambria we then made our way to the Hearst Castle.  We knew we were getting close when the coast came back into view and the pasture was filled with not only cattle, but also Zebras! (Yes Zebras! Not something you see every day that is for sure.) I had had many people recommend that we stop by the Hearst Castle and I think Emory and I would both agree it worth it and should be at the top of your list!

The Hearst Castle created and originally owned by William Hearst, or Hearst Publishing. Although, it’s not technically a castle —it might as well be and it’s easy to see how it got the name. Part of the property including the main house has been donated to the State of California and is now recognized as a state park. During your visit, you can select from a number of different tours. Emory and I did the Great Rooms tour (the standard tour) and it took about 2 hours total (1 hour for the tour and the travel time to get to the top of the hill) We chose not to book our tickets a head of time for a few reasons:

  • We didn’t want to be rushed and miss our reservation
  • They charge a steep online reservation fee of $8 per ticket
  • You can look up how many tickets are still available online (which there were plenty of at the times we wanted to go.

The Grand Rooms Tour takes you through the main property showing you the most famous common rooms. Between the architecture and the priceless artwork collections that includes Egyptian era statues and 15th & 16th Century tapestry and paintings you feel as though you might as well be in a classical European Castle once inside. After the tour you’re allowed to explore the grounds of the property as much as you’d like so Emory and I probably spent another hour taking pictures and taking in the views.

With a little time to spare still, we made our way to San Simeon just down the road to see the Elephant Seals. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and most of the seals were beached and napping. Some went for a swim, some got into arguments with one another but most just laid there throwing sand on themselves. Regardless it was pretty incredible to see, and I could have stayed there a lot longer especially if they were more active, but we had to get back for the graduation party.

The party took place at Clesi Wines, a smaller winery in Templeton (about halfway between Paso Robles and SLO.) We tasted a variety of the wines (all of which were delicious) and spent the evening catching up with friends and challenging one another to competitive games of bean bags. This area of California is quickly becoming known for its wine and with over 400 wineries is even considered the “New Napa” to some. It’s definitely on my list of places to come back to whether with Emory, my family, or even for a girls get away! I would love to spend more time wine tasting but with that many to choose from, how would you ever?!

Sunday:

After a generous amount of wine, the night before, we slowly made our way to San Lui Obispo again to begin our adventure back. For breakfast we wanted something a little heartier and more familiar and decided to stop at one of our favorite guilty pleasures, IHOP. Let me say—that was a mistake! While they got us right in despite being very busy for Father’s Day… it was the worst IHOP experience we’ve ever had… Oh well we left with full stomachs in the end and that was the primary goal. Also, the IHOP is located close to the Madonna Inn (which is my dream hotel for a girl’s trip see why here.)

Next, we headed to down town SLO and walked around to various boutiques and shops. We stopped by the San Luis Obispo Mission and walked down the little “river” walk. Of course, it’s not a trip to SLO if you don’t stop and partake in the grossest tradition there is—the bubble gum alley. People come from everywhere and add their blob of gum to the wall. Watch where you step and don’t back up too far whatever you do!

Getting back on the road we took a route that took us through the Los Padres National Forest stopping along the way at various look out points and taking some mini hikes to stretch our legs! It was really the most beautiful day outside, but I was amazed at how we went in and out of the clouds while going up and down the mountains.

The last stop on the list was Santa Barbra (which looked nothing like the Santa Barbra I remembered when I visited with my family a few years ago.) We stopped by a few shops and had to try some famous McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. The dairy-free flavors for me and the Cornbread Cookie and Honey flavor for Emory was worth the 45-minute line-out-the-door-wait. Then we had the pleasure of battling traffic the 2 hours back to LA.

The trip was truly a wonderful experience and I’m so glad we decided to go. Like I said I can’t wait to go back and would love to know if there’s anything we missed that you’d suggest for next time? Have you ever been to any of these places before? Of the places we went, which would you most like to go to yourself? Comment below!

Taking on Traffic

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(While this picture wasn’t taken in LA and it isn’t me driving…. It is still my car and I took it!)

Well… I’m not an Iowa any morethat’s for sure. When you come to visit or move to LA if the palm trees and sunshine aren’t enough to immediately tell you you’re in a new place then it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself stuck in traffic on the 101 freeway and the message reads loud and clear.  Traffic here really does suck.

There are a lot of rumors that surround Los Angeles and transportation (but there are a lot of truths about them too).  In just a short time of living in LA spread out over a few years, I’ve experienced it all from using public transportation, trying out all the rideshare services, and even driving!

Everyone says that the public transportation systems suck in LA and well if you’re someone whose use to living in New York or Chicago then you’d agree. Los Angeles is a different kind of city because it’s so spread out compared to cities that have skyscrapers and believe in building up into the sky.  When I first lived in Los Angeles for a summer internship, I was testing it all out.  I lucked out rented an apartment that happened to be less than a block away from a metro stop. For me to get from my apartment in North Hollywood/Studio City all the way to Universal City for work, I walked one block, got on a metro bus for one stop, transferred to a metro subway for one stop then got off and walked across the street to work. Easy Peasy! All this took about 45 mins each way and cost about $5 round trip.  Sounds great, right? Well since moving back it’s my understanding that that was a pretty rare and unique experience that I’ll probably never find again.

Unless you find yourself in a similar situation where you live in close proximity to a stop, it can be very challenging.  There’s not very much parking at the metro stops and stations so you have to walk or Uber to catch a metro ride. The metro lines aren’t as well connected as in other cities either. You could find yourself in a situation where you have to go all the way downtown to make your connection train and then back track on a different line to get to the neighborhood you work in! But none the less public transportation does exist if you’re willing to make it work.  I also think that most of us are too stuck in our ways and tailored to this idea that “we have to drive” to even find a route or see if there’s a public transportation option available to us. Not as many people are willing to trade in their road rage for sitting next to strangers, but if you’re the kind of person that can actually get your morning started by either answering emails, reading a book, or even taking a little snooze in public—then it could definitely be worth checking out! Yes, it might take you a little longer, but you have more of an opportunity to make that time worth it and be productive.

One morning during my internship, I woke up a little later than usual and knew I wasn’t going to make it on time if I took the subway.  I decided to Uber instead and actually learned that going to work in the mornings was cheaper and quicker by Ubering rather than public transportation. The Uber ride would take 15 minutes and cost about $1.75… purely amazing and life changing (I now had an extra 15 minutes to get ready every morning or get to work even that much earlier which for me is a big deal!)

 

When I lived in LA the first time Uber and Lyft were still pretty new concepts to me, but before long they became my life line.  When my mom and I arrived at LAX we had plans to immediately rent a car for the weekend, but that idea quickly turned into a nightmare. Long story short, I’m just going to let you know that I will never try renting a car from a rental place close to LAX ever again.  If you’re here for a short period of time, trust me it’s not worth the stress, waiting, and money!  Just download a rideshare app instead- I swear! I convinced my mom right then and there we were going to just Uber all weekend and 12 minutes later our driver was coming to pick us up and saved us from all the struggles.

Uber has been a life saver in many different moments. It made getting around in Los Angeles easy, “quicker,” and was pretty affordable considering the alternatives. My mom and I both loved getting to meet different drivers and hearing their advice and life stories while we also got to sit back, relax, and not worry about directions, parking, or which exit to take. People often get in the discussion of whether Uber or Lyft is better, and everyone has a different response. Some drivers drive for both services and will tell you different things. For me, they’re both about equal. I’ve had great luck with both and some frustrating moments with both. Most importantly I’ve always felt safe on both and when there were times I ran into issues both customer services responded quickly and were very helpful! If I have time and am not in a hurry I usually check the rate with both and then pick which ever one will be cheaper. Usually though, they’re pretty close so I pick whichever one can have a driver there the quickest.

My favorite thing to do in LA (in terms of traveling and traffic that is) is to take Uber pool. Uber pools or Lyft Lines are ride options offered in the app (they’re usually only offered in your major metropolitan areas though). They allow parties of 1-2 riders to share their ride with another rider usually for ½ the price of the original ride. Generally speaking it only adds an additional 15-30 mins onto your trip.  I’ve seen some of the neatest areas and neighborhoods and met some amazing people all because of Uber pool. For example, one Saturday I was going to Manhattan Beach and we stopped and picked up another girl in her mid-twenties who was also headed to that beach. Neither of us were meeting anyone until later that afternoon so we decided we’d just go to the beach together and hangout. We spent the entire afternoon discussing our lives back and forth with a complete stranger and then at the end of the day we both went our separate ways- but it was a really great time.

While that was an amazing experience, you do have to be careful and smart about it. Although I haven’t had any bad experiences, I do choose not to pool later in the evening or when I’m closer to certain areas of town. Also, as often as you meet some neat people you’ll also get passengers who do not want talk or even look at you (we all have those days). If you’re in a hurry and crunched for time, don’t rely on pool just because it’s cheaper.  It’s not always a guarantee that they’ll get you there on time especially with traffic. Do everyone a favor and pay the few dollars more just to take your own ride in those situations.

When I moved back to LA a month ago I had decided not to bring my car and planned on ridesharing everywhere. I wanted to get reacquainted with the area once again and I wanted to see if I really needed truly needed a car… Almost immediately I regretted that decision. Uber prices had definitely gone up and I was living in a less central area compared to North Hollywood (now I’m in the San Fernando Valley). My expenses were rapidly adding up and it took too much time to plan ahead to rideshare.  So, I needed my car but now that I had a new job and I couldn’t go back to Iowa to get it. I had looked into shipping it and that was going to cost about $2,000 which did not seem worth it.  On to plan b… My boyfriend, being as great as he is, agreed to drive it out to me. I’ve had a car now for two weeks, which I know doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s made all the difference. I was beyond nervous to drive at first… I had no idea of how to really get anywhere and I had never drove in traffic like this before. But now, I’m thinking to myself, what was I so nervous for. Right now, I live and work in the valley which is no different than driving in town in places like Iowa City or Ankeny, Iowa. Yes, the freeways are a little different though especially during rush-hour. I’ll tell you what though, I’d rather drive in LA than Chicago because at least people here are lucky to be moving 10 miles an hour where in Chicago everyone’s flying down the interstate at 85 miles per hour. The biggest thing you have to pay attention for is people cutting you off and swerving in and out of lanes usually without using turn signals. Motorcycles are also terrifying because they can weave in and out of traffic going 60 miles an hour even if you’re stopped. If you stay alert and pay attention though, you’ll be fine! Just stay focused on your lane and the lanes next to you, be greedy when you need to be, don’t be a jerk, and take turns when you can!

 

There’s another key difference when driving in LA (typically the guys you’re with will notice it first). If you’re anything like my boyfriend, Dad, or Uncle the first thing you realize is that you’re always surrounded by fancy cars. The people here drive a lot of different cars than you might be used to. My dream Mercedes G-Wagons are everywhere, and Tesla’s might as well be the new Prius in LA County (even cars like a Rolls-Royce aren’t that uncommon). Make sure to keep your eyes on the road though so that you don’t accidently fender-bender a Lamborghini.

(And then there’s cars in Cali like these…good thing though, people would see me coming from a mile away.)

 

If you’ve ever lived in Iowa City, you know parking there sucks so naturally I was worried what it’d be like in LA but honestly, it’s not that bad in most neighborhoods. There’s a lot more street parking then you’d think (but you better be ready to parallel park), parking garages are actually pretty cheap especially with store validation, and you can valet at almost every restaurant for like $8-10 plus tip if you’re really in a hurry to meet someone.

Overall the rumors are pretty accurate. While living in LA without a car isn’t impossible, it certainly makes life more difficult if you’re living here long term or commuting to work every day. I’ll leave you with a few more tips to take into consideration if you’re planning to visit or make a move. Don’t pay attention to how many miles something is away. That number means nothing here and will actually make you more frustrated. When plugging an address or location into Google Maps just look at the time of how long it’s going to take you to get there. Next tip is to then plan accordingly. Always give yourself at least 15-30 minutes more than it says you need to get there whether you’re driving or ridesharing. Accidents do happen frequently which is usually why the freeways can get backed up at any time of the day. Most importantly just keep an open mind. Expect traffic so then when you hit a rare patch of no traffic it’ll feel like a winning situation. Last but not least, if you do find yourself getting behind the wheel use your GPS, stay focused, keep a spare phone charger in your car, and just go for it. If I can find my way around and maneuver the traffic being the most defensive Midwest driver there is, you’ll be fine!