california dreamin'

Of course, I was a little disappointed not to be at the lake for Labor Day, but at the same time, Labor Day is always really depressing at the lake because summer is basically over. However, in these parts, fall is the best time of year, so Labor Day is a preview of good things to come in northern California.

We took a little road trip over the long weekend down Highway 1 to Monterey (home of historic Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium) Carmel-by-the-Sea (right next to Pebble Beach Golf Course) and Big Sur (Amazing. Period.).

The seahorse exhibit at the aquarium was really cool, and the sea otters and penguins were as cute as they are everywhere. Carmel is where I would live in a fantasy life--beautiful homes that I imagine cost millions but are not over-the-top or obnoxious, cute cafes and shops, nice beach, good restaurants, adorable inns and b&bs. It's perfect. And Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel in the 80s. What? Seriously.

The icing on the cake, however, is Big Sur. This is how it goes: view after view around every bend on Highway 1 with woodsy lodges, campgrounds, inns and laid-back restaurants placed intermittently between state parks. The hills, cliffs and spraying surf make for a dramatic landscape that keeps you hopping out of your car on the side of the two-lane road every five minutes for a longer look at the view. It feels more like a small mountain town that just happens to be next to the Pacific Ocean. It's crazy beautiful.

Places we stopped in Big Sur: Big Sur River Inn (awesome deck and "backyard" on the Big Sur River with Adirondack chairs and a grill), Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (nice hike along the coast to a view of a secluded beach and the McWay Waterfall), Nepenthe (a cliff-side restaurant with (can you guess?) great views that's been in operation since 1949, is on property that used to be owned by Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles, and was a filming location for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), and the Post Ranch Inn (an insane four-star hotel perched on top of a cliff--we were lucky enough to get a table on the terrace for a drink, where I spent my time trying to see through the privacy fence to spot celebrities at the guest-only pool).

Click here to see all our photos from this trip.

Carmel Beach with Pebble Beach Golf Course on the far side
Bixby Bridge (built in the '30s) on Highway 1 between Carmel and Big Sur
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Patio and deck at Nepenthe

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