Hello from sunny California!
We’ve enjoyed a great adventure this past week as we said goodbye to Arizona, stayed with my cousins in Santa Barbara, dipped our toes in the Pacific in Carmel, took the train in to San Francisco and moved into our apartment in Antioch. Whew! That’s a lot to catch up on!
Last weekend we had the easiest time ever packing up the car and getting on the road. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to slowly watch the landscape turn from beige to green again. While I really enjoyed our time in the desert, I’m definitely more of a flower/grass/tree kind of girl. We had an easy time getting around Los Angeles and pulled into my cousin’s house in Santa Barbara just in time for dinner. They were wonderful, generous hosts and took us on a great walk down by the beach after we ate. We got our first up-close view of the Pacific and even saw our first sea lion in the marina. Charlie was in heaven and has kept up a steady conversation about how he wants to “catch one and give it a high five!”
My Aunt Sally took us on a tour of Santa Barbara the next day, including the local harbor, historic mission, some shopping and lunch in the mountains. We really like this town and definitely want to look into taking an assignment there. Everything is just so pretty and there seems to be a lot to do.
After a dinner of shrimp gumbo that night, my cousins Ella and Owen played some Coldplay for us on their fiddles, which turned into a little bit of a super fun family singalong. Neither Charlie or I are musically talented, but I really hope our children are able to fill our house with great fiddle music!
We said goodbye the next morning and set off for an epic drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Carmel. The road hugs the coastline and goes through Big Sur, an area known for its rocky coast and dramatic views. Needless to say, it was an incredible day! Every time we came around a curve we were greeted with an even more spectacular view. I think our jaws were open just about the entire time as we tried to let it sink in that we were really here.
(above: McWay Falls, California’s only coastal waterfall which drops 80 feet into the ocean. Below: the PCH through Big Sur)
At one point, we saw a sign for “Seal Beach” and turned off the main road. When we walked up to the dunes, we saw a hundred elephant seals sunning themselves on the sand! At first, we thought some kind of environmental disaster had struck because they almost looked dead (like washed up dolphins). But no, they’re just big, lazy lumps relaxing in the sun!
We arrived in Carmel mid-afternoon and checked into our B&B, The Green Lantern, before heading out to the beach in Monterey. Some heavy afternoon fog had set in, but that didn’t stop us from throwing off our shoes and running straight to the water!
We didn’t go in very far since we had to stay a little clean for dinner later, but it was so great to feel the water on our toes! Just being at the beach again felt a little like coming home. My childhood memories mostly revolve around trips to the beach, surfing and beach culture, so to be near the water again and in cities that I used to read about in Surfer magazine is really great. That warm, “homey” feeling is especially nice since this is our first time not going home between assignments (which will be how it is from this point forward).
After exploring the beach a little, we had dinner at Schooner’s Coastal Kitchen near Cannery Row in Monterey. The restaurant is set out over the water, and we had a great table right by the window. We enjoyed eating seafood again, as well as watching the sea lions hunt for fish just outside. It was a pretty fantastic “Welcome to California!” dinner date, and we slept like rocks that night.
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at our inn and then went for a walk on Carmel Beach. There were some surfers out, but it was really cool to watch a guy catching waves on his paddleboard. I went paddleboarding last summer and loved it, but I can’t imagine the skill it takes to catch some of the waves this guy was going for. After a nice cruise through Carmel – literally one of the most picturesque, manicured towns you’d ever hope to see – we drove back through Monterey before heading north towards our new home in Antioch. (Below: Monterey’s ocean views aren’t too shabby either!)
We had to make a quick pit-stop in Santa Cruz so we could watch the surfers at Steamer Lane. I grew up reading about this famous break, and it was really fun to watch the guys drop in on some long rides. Santa Cruz is about an hour and a half from Antioch, so we’ll be back to check out this cool beach-bum town.
We finally made it to our new home about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday and got the keys to our apartment. It’s definitely the nicest one we’ve ever had (our own garage, a soaking tub, huge rooms and tall ceilings, etc.) and we’re really grateful to be in such a comfortable space. Other than our trip to San Francisco on Friday (that story coming tomorrow!), we’ve been getting settled in, checking out the incredible produce at the local farms, finding our church, searching for volunteer places and enjoying our apartment complex’s gas grill. Charlie is at his first day of orientation today, so we’ll also write soon about how he’s liking the new job.
As my sister-in-law would say, what a marvelous adventure!
(see more pictures from our trip here)