I’ve been living in the States for almost my entire life, and hadn’t managed to pay the west coast a visit until this Spring. My friend Zazu and I had been speaking of going on a road trip to some of the west coast’s national parks together for the past few months, so when we managed to come across round trip tickets for less than $280, we decided it was time to visit California! So the first week of March, we flew out of Miami and into San Francisco to explore the beauty that Northern California has to offer.
Flying over New Mexico
Spring turned out to be the perfect time to visit the region. We were greeted with blue skies and cool weather on our first day. The majority of our first day was spent exploring Chinatown, which was only a block away from the hostel we were staying in (which I highly recommend!). San Francisco’s Chinatown is actually the oldest in North America, as well as the largest outside of Asia. Between the heaps of bakeries, restaurants, and souvenir shops, we were enchanted for hours. Later that evening, we walked through Fisherman’s Wharf and visited the famous Boudin Bakery, which is pretty well known for its sourdough bread (my favorite!). The bakery, which was founded back in 1849, still uses its 160-year-old mother dough in each of their sourdoughs to this day!
Balmy Street Murals in the Mission District
The following day, we woke up at sunrise and stocked up on hostel breakfast. Then, we took a bus down to the Mission District to explore the art murals on Balmy Street and do a bit of thrifting in the Mission Thrift Store. I managed to score some pretty funky sunglasses as well as my favorite pair of 60’s high waisted jeans for just $12!
View of the Painted Ladies from Alamo Square
Next stop was the painted ladies of Alamo Square, which felt quite surreal to finally see in person after watching Full House for so many years. The houses were so stunning, I just wonder how anyone could get comfortable living in one of them with crowds of tourists constantly taking photos?
Walking under the Golden Gate Bridge
Monday morning, we picked up our rental car and drove straight out of the city and onto to the Pacific Coast Highway. (Note: Driving in San Francisco was probably one of the most horrific experiences I’ve ever had. Between the 45 degree inclines, aggressive drivers and their honking, I stand firm on the belief that I’ll never drive in that city again).Thankfully, we made it out of there quickly and headed down towards Big Sur. Windows down, sun beaming, fresh fruits from a market stand, and the endlessly curvy roads off the rugged coast made for a pleasant ride. Probably one of the most memorable parts of our trip. As we prepared for my our first camping trip, we made a pitstop in Walmart for everything we thought we’d need. Alas, we still ended up being the most unprepared campers of all time. We managed to forget sleeping mats, had no lighter, and could barely start a fire for ourselves. It was pretty pathetic. Thankfully, our neighbors were the sweetest couple we’d ever met and helped us set up a fire and lent us some well-needed gear. They even invited us to circle around their fire on one of the coldest night I’d ever experienced (anything under 40 degrees is well below freezing to me). We spent the night drinking tea and sharing stories under the moonlit sky.
The following morning, we said our farewells to Big Sur and made our way east to Sequoia National Park, which is home to the largest trees in the world. Photos could do these giants no justice. Realizing just how tiny I was as the sequoias towered over me was truly magical. An extremely humbling experience to say the least. I am always in constant awe of our earth.
Our last destination was to one of the U.S.’s oldest national parks: Yosemite. We only got to spend two nights camping in that magical place and all I can say is I must return as quickly as possible! I could’ve easily spent a whole month exploring that park. Words can not describe just how truly breathtaking it was. Every single view consisted of ancient sequoias, waterfalls, and massive domes. It was a sad farewell, but a refreshing way to end our travels before heading back to the humid and concrete Miami. Our road trip came to an end as we drove back to San Francisco that friday night, and spent the early hours of the morning sleeping in San Francisco Airport (SFO). Between having a completely vegan terminal plus both a yoga and meditation room, SFO is hands down of the most wellness geared airports I’ve traveled through!
In just 5 days, we managed to explore some of San Francisco’s charm, drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, and venture through two of the most impressive national parks in the U.S. It was definitely a beautiful introduction to California, and I plan to be back very soon.
*All photos were shot on an iPhone 5!*