As the journalist with travel writing background, I’m the designated travel agent when it comes to vacation planning. Whether it’s a larger scale trip to visit Irene’s sister in Japan or a more compact summer road trip, I am master of the itinerary. And as things panned out, I must say I was yet again on top of my game for our whirlwind jaunt up US 101 to San Francisco earlier this month.
After working out the initial logistics of where to stay and whom and what to visit, I took to my usual network of resources and booked three separate hotel nights via amex.com/hotels.com, and arranged a fourth sleepover at our good friend Sheba’s house in San Jose. With their Buzz Lightyear and Dora the Explorer suitcases all packed, our seasoned little travelers jumped into the minivan and we embarked on our adventure.
Day 1 Had lunch at Huckleberry’s in Pismo Beach; did a little shopping at Pismo Beach Premium Outlets (A & X got Vans sneakers and I picked up two casual blazers at Calvin Klein); checked into Best Western Casa Grande, a Spanish-style “Plus” property in Pismo and jumped in the hotel pool before eating dinner at Old Juan’s Cantina in adjacent Grover Beach.
Day 2 After a continental breakfast at the hotel, we continued north through Central CA farm country (making a brief exit for a drive-by of one of California’s oldest Missions – San Miguel Arcangel; had lunch at Monterey Coast Brewing in Salinas; stopped in Los Gatos for a late-afternoon visit with my favorite Chamber of Commerce associates; shortly afterwards, we arrived in San Jose to stay the night at Sheba’s place, where we had a pre-dinner swim and enjoyed grilled chicken and salmon shish kebobs by Chef Rebecca (Sheba’s daughter), vino and conversation into the late evening.
Day 3 Had a great breakfast at Sheba’s B&B, thanked our gracious host and continued on our journey to S.F.; we briefly exited at Cupertino to see Apple HQs; had lunch with Irene’s good friend Amanda at the very kid-friendly Squat & Gobble Cafe & Creperie in the Marina District; walked around the Palace of Fine Arts/Exploratorium located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, which unfortunately was way too shrouded in fog to see in the late afternoon, so we opted for brief stops to look at Lombard Street and Coit Tower, and then drove through the Italian North Beach district on our way to the night’s accommodations at the Homewood Suites in Brisbane (just 7 miles south of the city); for dinner, we brought Chinese takeout back to hotel and the kiddies played their new favorite “21” dice game.
Day 4 Following an al fresco breakfast at the hotel, our clan headed south to meet our friend Erin in San Mateo at Central Park/Japanese Garden, where we enjoyed a leisurely stroll and saw some beautiful koi; the kiddies also took a few laps on an oversized Lionel train on the other side of the park; had lunch with Erin at a great pizzeria and said our goodbyes; further south, we stopped in the Garlic capital of CA – Gilroy – and had garlic ice cream, which was strangely good; the final night’s lodging was La Quinta Inn & Suites in Paso Robles, where we ventured downtown and had dinner at F. McClintock’s Saloon (the kiddies had their placemat art hung on the restaurant wall for posterity); after our meal, we headed back to the hotel for a night swim in the heated pool until 10 p.m., after which the kiddies played another few rounds of the dice game and watched the Olympic closing ceremonies.
Day 5 Did yet another hotel continental breakfast and actually finagled an adult activity: wine tastings at J. Lohr and Eberle vineyards, where the kiddies were intrigued by the cool maze of underground wine caves and even more charmed by the winery’s pet, a black standard poodle named Cabernet.
Finally, it was time to head home so we veered off the 101 in Oxnard and took the more scenic PCH for the home stretch into Santa Monica. Once home, I asked Troy what were his favorite parts of the trip and he replied, “Cabernet, sleeping in Sheba’s “big” bedroom with our whole family and the breadsticks [at J. Lohr]!”