Travel: Highway 1 & Central California

We were debating what I wanted to do for my birthday / our anniversary (they are only a day apart) for a while.  Jon unfortunately did not have a lot of vacation time left so we were limited to the days we could take off and our anniversary and my birthday happened to fall on a Tuesday and Wednesday.  After some thought we finally decided to take Monday off instead and have ourselves a nice little three-day weekend to do a little traveling.  The next decision was where do we want to go… we settled on a nice trip up highway one to Monterey (it’s one of our favs).  Highway One had recently reopened so  happened to be perfect timing!

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Our trip started out on a Friday morning, and headed on towards our first destination, Solvang / Lompoc on good ol’ PCH.  We weren’t in any hurry so we took our time driving through Santa Monica, Malibu and Oxnard before stopping for brunch at Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut with a view of the Channel Harbor.  The restaurant itself, is kind of hard to find, but if you park in the parking lot and head towards the front of the little shopping center you will find it.  Anyway, it is a cute little place with a Tiki vibe to it.  The service was amazing, the portions were large and the food was delicious!  It had to be on of the best meals we had on this trip.

After brunch we got took the 1 a bit further and then hopped on the 101 towards Solvang.  The drive was easy, we didn’t hit much traffic and made it there in just an hour or two.  Jon mentioned that he wanted to stop at Ostrich Land as we had never gone before.  I was down to do something new, so we parked and made our way inside the little gift shop where we looked around, purchased a few items as well as two bowls of food to feed the Ostriches because, I mean when in Ostrich Land, one must feed the Ostriches, right?  So I have to admit, feeding Ostriches is a bit scary.  At first I opted out when I saw them eating from Jon’s bowl, but then I said hey, what the heck and I feed them for like 5 seconds and then I was done.  It was an experience, and we even got a couple selfies in!

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Next we headed into town and hit up our favorite spot for pastries, Mortensen’s Bakery.  If you have never been, I highly suggest you go, and get the Pistachio Pastry – I’m sorry for telling you, because you will be hooked!  Jon also really enjoys the blueberry danish, so you might want to give that a try as well.  We perused around the streets a bit, taking in all they have to offer, including a scoop of peanut butter ice cream, yum!  We also made a pit stop at the Solvang Brewery for an ice cold beer and a nice hearty sausage platter.  We sat outside, so we could people watch as we chat and ate.  I have to say while the beer was tasty (according to Jon) the service and sausage left something to be desired.  This will probably not be on our list of places to come again.

To pass some time before dinner we headed down the road to the Chumash Casino, another one of our favorite spots.  He played a few slots, won some…. lost some and then drove back towards Buellton for some delicious twin peaks at AJ Spurs.  The twin peaks special is our favorite,  which comes with two 6-oz. bacon-wrapped filet mignons, topped with asparagus, shredded lobster and hollandaise sauce on one and broccoli, shrimp and bearnaise sauce on the other.  Not to be left out is the delicious soup, beans, salad, potatoes and dessert or after dinner liqueur that comes with every meal.  Pro tip – come here hungry.  You can’t beat dinner here, it’s delicious and the best deal in town!

With SUPER full tummies we headed north about 30 minutes to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express where we would turn in for the night.  This hotel is nothing fancy, but clean and safe which is what we find important.

The next morning we woke bright and early so we could take our time driving up highway one.  Before getting on the road we stopped for breakfast at Cajun Kitchen Cafe which was conveniently located across from our hotel.  I have to say while the food was good, I wasn’t impressed.  I feel like they have their specialties which are neat but none of it was out of this world.  Would I eat there again, maybe, but I certainly wouldn’t make a special trip.  We also stopped for some coffee at Red Dirt Coffee House in Arroyo Grande.  It is a cute eclectic place with a Hawaiian vibe to it.  We of course ordered a couple of drinks with macadamia nut syrup in them because how often can you find that?  These too were just okay, I have had better coffee (check out the coffee shop at Ragged Point Inn, super yummy drinks).

As we made our way up Highway One, we made several pit stops, making sure to take in everything this beautiful drive has to offer.

It took a few hours to make it to Monterey, and by then we were super hungry.  We decided on sushi (our favorite cheat meal) and came across Crystal Fish on Yelp.  I would definitely not recommend this place, parking is a nightmare, the waiter is awkward and pushy and the sushi wasn’t good in my opinion.

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Following our mediocre lunch, I decided to drown my sorrows (just kidding) in a big, delicious sundae at Ghiradelli, which just happened to be located on Cannery Row our next stop.  With my Hubby by my side, a view of the water and a delicious sundae in my tummy, I was a happy camper.  We walked down our lunch and dessert on Cannery Row, checking out the little shops and snapping some pictures along the way.

After a long day we headed to our hotel, the Hampton Inn to check in and rest up a bit before dinner.  This cute little boutique style hotel in Seaside, is newly renovated, super clean and conveniently located a few miles down from Monterey.  With a quick nap in, we headed out once more for dinner at Old Fisherman’s Grotto located at the Fisherman’s Wharf.  We have been wanting to eat here for years but just never got around to it.  I have to say, the ambiance, customer service and food were great!  We started with the popcorn shrimp which was crispy and delicious.  I opted for the clam chowder in a garlic bread bowl, yum! and Jon got the surf & turf, which was also delicious!  To finish off the evening each lady is presented a single beautiful rose, a perfect touch!  Tired and full we turned in for the evening after a quick stroll along the wharf.

The next morning we got up early and made our way to Katy’s Place in Caramel for breakfast, another one of our favorites!  Katy’s Place offers almost every variation of Eggs Benedict that you could imagine.  With three english muffins topped to the brim with whatever combination of your choosing along with the yummy breakfast potatoes, you won’t leave here anything other than satisfied.  While the prices are on the high side, the amount of food you get is proportionate.  We did try the peanut butter pancakes as well, and they were good, but literally just buttermilk pancakes with some peanut butter on the side (I would pass on these next time).

Our final stop in Monterey was the Monterey Bay Aquarium of course!  We have been to several aquariums, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Maui Ocean Center on Maui, Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, etc. but nothing beats this place.  Taking lots of pictures, we made our way through the aquarium and all of it’s exhibits, our favorite by far being the jelly fish exhibit.

Still full from breakfast we skipped lunch, grabbed a couple of pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks and headed back down the 101 with a quick pit stop at the WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.  If you know Jon, you know he loves cars and while we pass by here almost every time we are in town we never get the chance to stop.  This time I insisted, and watching his eyes light up as he watched the cars race around the infamous corkscrew was a moment I will always remember.  It costs just $5 to get in to watch and I highly suggest it if you are into this sort of thing.

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A few hours later we finally reached Pismo Beach and made our way to The Spyglass Inn, our final stop on this trip.  We stayed here before and absolutely fell in love the the property and the beautiful views and knew we had to stay here again.  We had planned to go out for dinner that night but opted to stay in and order some pizza to eat while we watched the sunset from the patio of our room.  While sitting there enjoying the beautiful sunset and enjoying the wonderful company of each other we heard a quiet voice from the balcony above us and to the left.  Taking a moment to say hello to us was an older couple who was celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.  She explained that it was their tradition to come there every year on their anniversary, stay in the same room that they did on their honeymoon and watch the sunset together.  It was such a beautiful moment, and a beautiful story.  Jon and I looked at each other knowing that, that would be us someday, having the same dedication to each other and our relationship as they have.

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What a beautiful trip, such a perfect way to connect with each other and celebrate 3 years of bliss.

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