The California Travel Diaries | Monterey to Big Sur

Welcome back to another installment of the California Travel Diaries! A collection of blog posts from my Summer 2018 travels that I hope will help you plan any future trips, as well for me to remember exactly what I did! California is full of so many hidden gems. Golden beaches where the sun shines so bright, you can’t help but smile as you to stop to admire the bold crashing waves. Although some beaches are much too dangerous to swim in, the Pacific Ocean offers stunning views; a treat for drivers who can follow the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), giving a whole new meaning to the term “road trip”. If you’re following this thread you’ll know that at this point my boyfriend and I had just completed our day’s hike in Yosemite. Following this we got some much needed R & R in Fresno, where we experienced our first touch of the Californian heatwave and enjoyed some delicious authentic Mexican food at a family run restaurant called,”Hacienda Tequila”. Feeling rejuvenated after this break, we made the journey to perhaps one of my most anticipated stops on this road trip – Monterey. The PCH begins in San Francisco and if you are planning a trip to California I’d highly recommend that you prioritize this drive on your list. Even if you decide to only follow just a portion of the PCH, like we did, you will definitely not be disappointed.

If the town Monterey doesn’t instantly sound familiar to you, then think again. The town’s aquarium was the inspiration behind the film of Finding Dory and some of Big Little Lies was actually filmed upon location!

The Aquarium was a must see on our list but do note, there aren’t any whales here (as we mistakenly thought). Shows and talks are available with fantastic educational exhibits sharing the amazing research that is conducted here. We had so much fun throughout the day as we as saw the otters play, feeding time for the penguins and mesmerizing jelly fish.

The Basics

Weather: The weather in June was a cool 18 degrees. Monterey is based by the sea meaning you have that fresh sea breeze coming in, so I would definitely recommend a light jacket to hand. That way you can easily layer up when you feel the chill!

Accommodation: It’s true what they say, beauty does come at a price. For us this meant that we decided to book an Airbnb about 30 minutes away from Monterey in a town called Salinas. Unfortunately, our hosts made us feel quite uncomfortable with so many rules (no wheeling the suitcases over the floor, don’t use the shower after 10pm, you can only eat your food in your room, you cannot use the kitchen, leave your shoes under the chair in the kitchen when you enter… it was all very strange). This did however motivate us to really make the most out of our day trip; every cloud has it’s silver lining!

Parking: Fortunately we could park our car by our Airbnb for free. Parking rates for Monterey was about $15 for the day.

See & Do

  • Monterey Aquarium
  • Lovers Point Park
  • Old Fisherman’s Wharf

Eat & Drink

  • Wharf Chocolate Factory
  • Cannery Row Brewing Co
  • Sly McFly’s
  • Paluca Trattoria

Me at Lovers Point Park

We then took a stroll beside the beach, where we once again saw sea-lions sunbathing (love how common this is in Cali!). We took the route towards Lovers Point Park which is both an idyllic family fun area and a romantic location (above). Here there is also a stunning rocky landscaped area; a unique spot where you can watch the sun rise over the ocean. We did decide to climb the rocks, but beware, this requires steady footing! However you do get a fantastic view of Monterey Bay.

We also ventured to Old Fisherman’s Wharf, a small area of restaurants and eateries. I bought a famous frozen chocolate covered banana that was as delicious as it sounds! If you wish to pop in for alcoholic beverage whilst in Monterey, I would recommend either Cannery Row Brewing Co or Sly McFly’s. We paid about $22 for two drinks (including tip). For dinner it was an obvious choice that we would dine at the Big Little Lie’s Restaurant, Paluca Trattoria. Overlooking the fabulous view of the Marina, we each enjoyed a delicious Italian pasta dish.

Monterey Harbor

The next day we visited the picturesque town of Carmel-By-The-Sea, another famous stop along the PCH. Famous for it’s 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach with 17 vista points ranging from ocean views to marvellous golf courses. You can drive or cycle around this route, seeing breathtaking nature of vibrant hues like the below. N.B. You have to pay about $10 to enter by car but it’s free to cycle.


A snap from the 17 Mile Drive

We also visited the town itself, stopping off in the Plaza to sample some Cheese in the aptly named, “The Cheese Shop”. After browsing a few of the stores we then headed to one of the most famous PCH views of Bixby Bridge in Big Sur.


Big Sur is an area that is described as more of a “State of Mind” than a place. I think that the saying, “A photo speaks a 1000 words” perfectly sums up this panoramic shot of Big Sur.

I could never have pictured how breathtakingly beautiful and unforgettable these 2 days in Monterey to Big Sur could be. If you are ever in two minds of whether travel is something you should do, I can tell you that even over these first 11 days, it was so worth it and we still had another 33 to go…!

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The California Travel Diaries | Yosemite

Waking up at 5am usually isn’t a highlight of any day of my week. But when you wake up at 5am to travel to Yosemite, well that certainly is the exception to this rule! Yosemite National Park is based in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, where many across the state vacate to for their Summer holidays. It is an iconic landscape of California and is full of breathtaking views, scenic walks and hikes of a lifetime. When it came to planning my California road trip, I knew that I would be kicking myself if I didn’t go to Yosemite. Quite honestly, I never knew how much it should be on everyone’s bucket lists until I got there.

The Basics – Accommodation
Should you wish to take the great outdoors in your stride, camping at Yosemite books up fast. I’d advise to definitely book a few months in advance! This is something that I did not take into consideration when I left booking accommodation until 8 weeks before my visit. Surprise, surprise… I didn’t manage to book a camping spot within the heart of Yosemite. If you are planning just a day trip like I was, this isn’t that big of an inconvenience. Of course you miss out on some of what the National Park has to offer such as rowing, going to their cinema and bonding with other campers. However you will most likely miss out on a bear rifling through your food (perhaps it’s not the worst thing after all!) It is also worth bearing (pun, sorry!) in mind that Yosemite is so huge that your camping spot can actually be an hour drive away from your next planned hike or activity! Nonetheless, if you are an active or outdoorsy type of person, you could easily spend a week or two in Yosemite, soaking up the sun whilst you climb, canoe in the river and enjoy some good old fashioned fresh air. However as my boyfriend and I were traveling in from Napa Valley, we planned to break up the drive by stopping off along the way for the night. Driving past romantic vineyards and acres of ranches, we arrived in Coarsegold where our next Air b’n’b was. This was located near Raymond and cost a steal of £17 per person for a lovely big double room with an en-suite and free parking! This meant that we were only a two hour drive away from Yosemite rather than the four hour drive it would have been from Napa Valley.

Plan your travel in advance as there could be a closed route depending on weather and the time of year. I believe that there is also a YARTS bus you can catch from Fresno on Highway 41, this also includes the fee to get into Yosemite.












Me at 7am by Bridalveil Falls

Arriving at Yosemite at 7am, we luckily found parking in Curry Village; leaving early is key readers! Especially to avoid any traffic getting into Yosemite! There is also a toll charge to pay for entering Yosemite; this is valid for 7 days if I remember correctly. Remember to have cash on you for this. Parking itself is free in Yosemite and there are lots of shuttles you can catch within the Valley to take you to your next hiking destination (yes, it really is that huge!) You will have to drive to go to see Bridalveil Falls, but you can see this on your journey in depending which way you enter (see above!) There are also so many other scenic views such as Glacier Point, Mariporsa Grove and Wawona that you can visit.


Just one of the stunning views I saw on my hike in Yosemite National Park

Day Visit Packing Checklist:

  • Water! Bring water in a Chilly’s bottle or a similar one that has the function to keep cold drinks cold for 12 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours too. This is very convenient, better than a plastic bottle and also great for the environment!
  • Suncream (sunscreen)
  • Hat/Cap
  • Activewear
  • A few snacks – beware of the bears! We packed sandwiches, cereal bars and fruit in advance to have for breakfast upon arrival to Yosemite.
  • Comfortable and durable trainers or walking boots (that have been broken in!)
  • A camera! Capture those memories, you won’t be sorry!
  • A basic First Aid Kit. Accidents happen!

What We Climbed:

Happy Isles (Towards Mirror Lake) – Easy
An easy 0.5 mile we warmed up with an easy flat route. This hike leads on towards Mirror Lake – a 2.5 mile walk, however as we were short on time we headed on back to our next hike, Mist Falls.

Mist Falls – Strenuous
I didn’t think that a 3 mile round trip could be strenuous, that was until I realised we would be elevated 1000ft. Why is it called mist? You literally get misted by the waterfall!


P.S. For those adventurous hikers – This is the first leg of the trail to the very popular Half Dome which you need a permit to climb (also difficult to obtain). On the Half Dome you are suspended on a harness as you climb up a rock in the shape of a dome! Thrill seekers, beware!

Nevada Falls –  Strenuous
The 7 mile round trip includes a sighting of Vernal Falls. I’m smiling on the below left because I was happy thinking we were nearly at Nevada Falls as we could hear the waterfall. Oh and how beautiful it was of course! How wrong I was though.
On the right I am ecstatic because we actually were so close to the waterfall!











mist falls

Nevada Falls from a distance

mist falls 2

Nevada Falls with all the colours of the rainbow!

After the hike we stopped off to rest at the local store where we bought a baguette to share, (we were worried about traveling with too much food without the appropriate bear locks!) We then had a wander around Curry Village and some local camp sites where we saw the canoes and a cinema hall!

Lower Yosemite Falls
To finish off our day we visited Lower Yosemite Falls. An easy flat 0.5 mile route that is very popular with families and young kids.

At the end of this “Pinch me, I’m dreaming” kind of day, we drove to Clovis. A nearby town to Fresno and a great mid point to Yosemite and Sequoia National Kings Park, should you wish to visit. Tip to the wise: Maybe leave a day’s rest in between hiking so your feet have recovered!

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Life Update: I’m Going Travelling!

There are many milestones throughout adolescence to adulthood. At the ripe age of 17 you can drive and have many a terrifying experience with your parents in the car, who tell (scream at) you to watch out for the pedestrians or the old lady on the pavement, who may suddenly decide to jump in front of your car at any moment. After a gruelling 6-12 months (however long you can bear those expensive lessons) you finally pass your driving test. Then at 18 years old you have a wicked house party (remember those days) set with strobe and UV lights. Throughout the multitude of house parties, you work hard and pass your a-levels and get a place on a University course, where you celebrate with your friends on a party holiday. You decide to party 10 days in Ayia Napa “let me hear say eh-o, eh-o!” as a final farewell. Then you jet off to University. Here you will learn more about yourself and other people more than you ever have. During your last year at Uni you turn 21; this is official adulthood and reality sinks in that you’re really growing up. Soon after you graduate and are given your first job, whether it’s your dream one or not, it’s truly exciting.

However in-between the next milestones, in my generation there seems to be a gap before you reach the next lot. Or perhaps you didn’t even go to University and are stumbling through life hoping for the day that you can buy your first property and the next milestones of getting married and having children are somewhere up there in the distant haze of the future. So what’s there to do in between? Well it seems for a millennial like me, travel is now playing a big part in it. No matter what your path may be I’ve noticed it more and more. Whilst I finally was offered my first job in HR, many of my friends decided to go travelling. My closest friends went for 6 weeks around South America, moved to study in Amsterdam, jetted off to New Zealand or followed their hearts to go to Australia. I worked hard and got as much experience as I could. However I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was missing out potentially on some of the best experiences in my 20’s, before I were to achieve the other milestones in my life. I had a little voice in my head saying, “It’s not time yet for this to be my life”.

I was so eager to see more of the world and have an adventure of my own. I didn’t want to have the regret of thinking “I could’ve/should’ve done that”. Especially now, where thanks to the property market I’m nowhere near being able to buy my own place, it seems that travelling has come at a very good time. I’ve worked hard for my money so it definitely does not seem wasteful (something which did cross my mind for a fleeting moment). I’ve also got some experience under my belt, which was vital to me. So where does that leave me now?

Well this Summer I’m saying yes to that little voice and I am beginning my travels in California and New York! I will be doing a road trip with my boyfriend around California and then we will be using public transport around New York. I’m so excited to say the least to experience the Californian lifestyle and live my best Blair Wardolf dreams (although she definitely did not use the subway!) As sad as it was saying goodbye to my lovely colleagues in a job I truly enjoyed, I left on a high note as I was leaving to go do something that is so very important to me. As valuable as working is (and pivotal for survival!), I’m at a point in my life where I am still living at home so I have the luxury to go and explore without worrying about where I will come back to. Travelling is also very accessible nowadays and there really is no reason why you should not go!

“To travel is to live” Hans Christian Anderson

So why California and New York? I have never really been out of Europe for starters (I have been to Turkey which counts as Asia technically, but I stayed in the resort the whole time.) I wanted to keep it simple on my first big trip but live the “American Dream” this Summer and not have to worry about language barriers. It’s no secret that my generation has been spoiled by American sitcoms, dramas, reality shows you name it. I wanted to see the real life thing amongst all the beautiful nature that North America has to offer. Plus that saying “Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times” is very poignant in this case.

What’s on the cards after this trip? Now that would be telling!

Keep up with my blog and Instagram this Summer to see where I am and what I’m getting up to in America! I will be sure to write about it all on here.

Please let me know if you have any recommendations on what I must see or pack when I go, as well as any particular blog posts you want to read about. Let me know if you have travelled or if you would you like to!

My flights and accommodation are all booked, it’s just my excitement that I can’t contain any longer!

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