Road Trip spesh! Pacific Coast Highway 1, CA.

Freedom was ours! We were now on the road and had two weeks to get to LA. Looking back, the prospect of having a car and the flexibility that brings was very exciting! Everyone goes to America for an epic road trip and that’s exactly what lay ahead for us. In this blog I’m just going to concentrate on the Pacific Coast specifically, but I will share our full route at the end- for anyone who’s interested! We picked up our ‘luxurious’ car from San Francisco airport. We decided to use an American company called Dollar in the end (after much research!) They were the most affordable and one of the few companies that didn’t charge an extortionate ‘one-way fee’ between California and Nevada. Below, are the notable places we stopped off at en route, as well as a couple of pointers which will help the trip become a little less stressful and more enjoyable for both passenger and driver! So, let’s get to it…

1. San Jose

This was our first stop off, about an hours drive from the airport in San Francisco. Our reasoning was breakfast! Oblivious to what was going on when we arrived, we were happy to discover San Pedro Square Market was open. We are both lovers of a good, local farmer’s market and here we sampled some of the most delicious peaches I’ve ever tried!  After a hefty breakfast burrito at Peggy Sue’s Diner, we had another wander around the market stalls and left, smug and satisfied with our fruity purchases! 

San Pedro Square Market
2. Greyhound Beach

Not only did we fall in love with this beach because it’s likely a breed of dog we’ll own one day, but it also felt very special- almost like a secret. It was the perfect peach stop over, with staggering sea views. Take care on the way down to the beach, it is quite steep. You almost feel like your trespassing which adds to the idea that you’ve discovered a hidden gem! 

Greyhound Beach.

3. Santa Cruz

I personally would have loved to have spent a few days here. It honestly looks as though the whole town has a dreamy haze cast over it- just as I had imagined it! It’s the essence of laid back cool. We walked along the pier as causal as any resident ‘Cruzer.’ We passed people playing volleyball on the beach as we headed towards the amusements for a little play time on a two person game. I’d imagine the Santa Cruz Boardwalk would have been even more fun but alas our time (and pockets) were limited. Fun fact, this amusement park has been continuously operating since 1907! 

Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

4. Monterey- Lover’s Point Park

One of the destinations that draws people to this trip. The views are immense, even when it’s overcast. It’s rugged coastal line attracts tourists year on year. We stopped off to stretch our legs at Lover’s Point Park. It’s a pleasant walk (maybe a little longer than anticipated) along the coastline to the lighthouse. There are plenty of distractions though, from formidable homes to wonderous wildlife spots! We saw ‘sea’ squirrels, a playful seal and comorants. The Monterey Car Week was in full flow during our trip too so we saw dozens of exotic cars which my boyfriend enjoyed!

Cormorants at Monterey.
Sea squirrels at Monterey.
Casually watching the waves, Monterey.
 

5. Carmel by-the-Sea & Big Sur

You can stop off for a few days in this area if time permits. Not having specific boundaries, Big Sur is generally considered to cover 76 miles, from Carmel River to near San Simeon. What I didn’t realise was how lightly populated Big Sur actually was. It’s literally just a cluster of restaurants along a road, with National Parks to hike in and explore. We particularly loved Bixby Bridge, a must photo stop for the ultimate ‘Big Sur’ photo! Whatever the weather, it’s a sight not to be missed, with its plummeting cliff views, raw coastline and crashing waves. It’s has been described as mythic in reputation and a national treasure. It is the longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the U.S. 

Selfie at Carmel!
Bixby Bridge, Coast Road.
Just another “wow” view, Big Sur.

Find out more to do in this area in the link below:-

Carmel by-the-Sea

Pointer 1:-

Do your research about any closures along Highway 1! We had to double back on ourselves due to a bridge collapse back in February. This was mostly my fault though as I knew there were closures I just couldn’t work out where…! 

Pointer 2:-

Have an ‘In-N-Out’ burger. Just do it and thank me later! 🙂 

Our route:-

San Francisco – San Jose – Greyhound Beach – Santa Cruz – Morgan’s Hill (emergency stopover!) – Monterey/ Lover’s Point Park – Carmel by-the-Sea – Big Sur – Santa Maria (stopover.) 



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Portland, OR

Portlandia, Beervana, Beertown- whatever you chose to call it, is one hell of a city. The people of Portland are known for being abundantly nice- and a bit kooky! Within our first minutes here, we saw a guy cycling with his dog on a lead who was on a skateboard?! It’s all part of the “Keep Portland Weird” thing, apparently. It has the most breweries and independent microbreweries of any city in the world! It is known as a leader in speciality coffee- home to Stumptown Coffee Roasters. And as well as all this, Portland has been credited for being one of the most vegan-friendly cities in America. So there you have it, Portland is a city for everyone! And they really do welcome everyone with open arms. Below, are our “best bits” of places we visited and a “top three of the trip” which we believe made our stay even more memorable and insightful. As well as this, I have included an “eye spied” section which exposes bars, restaurants and other points of interest I couldn’t help but take a shine to! So, let’s get to it…

Best bits:-

1. Pioneer Square

Also known as Portland’s living room, it is a public space occupying a 40,000 sq ft city block in the centre of downtown. Dozens of events are held at the square each year and we were actually lucky enough to join in the fun for the first ever Pan African Festival. There has even been an all-city pillow fight and slumber party in 2006! You also get the satisfaction of seeing the 50,000 inscribed bricks which, by selling them for $750,000, helped raise the funds needed to complete the design. This was thanks to the citizen group “Friends of Pioneer Square.” Even if you visit at a time where there are no events they have a very extensive tourist information centre below ground, where you can help yourself to as many leaflets and free postcards as you like! 

Pan African Festival in Pioneer Square.

2. Pearl District.

This is easily one of Portland’s most desirable and fashionable neighbourhoods. The Pearl District is home to some of the city’s best known chefs, art galleries, craft beer breweries and boutiques. Formerly a neglected area of abandoned warehouses and railways, the Pearl District has earned a world recognised reputation for urban renaissance. Located in the heart of Downtown, businesses range from real estate renowned advertising firms and finance. Nestled between this corporate world you will find family-friendly parks that attracts visitors and locals alike. 

Find out more of what’s on at the link below:-

Explore the Pearl.

Street Art in Pearl District.

3. Saturday Market.

If you’re in Portland over the weekend you have to go to their Saturday Market. It is the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the U.S. It is an open arts and crafts market with live music and an array of food trucks to tantalise your taste buds. It happens every Saturday and, actually, Sunday at Portland’s Waterfront Park and Ankeny Plaza. You can find some amazing unique hand-crafted goodies at every turn. It is a great start to the day! If you get a chance, and you have a sweet tooth, definitely try some “elephant ears.” They seem to be a traditional treat here. I didn’t get the chance to try them and have regretted it ever since! 

Portland Saturday Market.


4. Washington Park.

You could easily spend all day here. We only really went to the International Rose Test Gardens, but there’s lots more to keep you occupied. There are museums, the zoo and forests to walk through. I must say, the gardens are exquisite and, of course, smelt absolutely stunning! I never knew how many different varieties of roses there were- and how hilarious some of their names were?! It is free to enter the gardens too, which was another attraction for us shoestring travellers!

Washington Park.

Selfie at the Rose Gardens.

5. Oregon Historical Society Museum.

We wanted to cram in a museum in Portland as we had failed miserably in Seattle and Vancouver! The Oregon Historical Society Museum was absolutely perfect in providing insight into this incredible American state. The museum features permanent and rotating exhibits covering local history before and after Oregon became a state in  1859. There’s an award-winning exhibit: “Oregon my Oregon,” which tells the story of the states earliest inhabitants through the Oregon Trail period and early settlements and industries. Native American artefacts, memorabilia from Portland’s 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition and even the “Portland Penny” – the very coin tossed in the air by city founders to decide it’s name! Whilst we were there they also had an incredibly interesting exhibit entitled “High Hopes: The Journey of J.F Kennedy.” This museum was well worth the fee to get in. (I think it was around £10-15) They also provided big enough lockers for both of our back packs- a massive plus! 

Oregon Historical Society Museum.

6. Powell’s City of Books.

Claiming to be the biggest independent new and used bookstore in the world, this impressive store puts our beloved Waterstone’s to shame. Founded in 1971 by Walter Powell, it is now located in the Pearl District on the edge of Downtown and run by his grand daughter. The store has around 500 employees, 9 colour coded rooms and over 3,500 different sections. I wouldn’t ever call myself a book worm, but even I happily spent a few hours browsing around in this store! 

Powell’s Books.

Powell’s Bookstore (can you spot Oli?!)


7. Voodoo Doughnuts. 

This place is definitely worthy of a “best bits” mention! If there was ever a business that captured the essence of Portland’s weird label, this would be it! Their signature doughnut is moulded into the shape of a voodoo doll, with a pretzel stake and filled with oozy blood red jam. Its a good job they always have a huge queue outside, because to decide on what doughnut you want is no easy task. You can choose from raised yeast doughnuts, cake doughnuts and even vegan doughnuts! With names such as the “old dirty bastard,” “bacon maple bar” and “cock and balls,” teamed with the elaborate designs of these doughy masterpieces, you will be hit with discombobulation! Their branding is just as wacky, over the top and pure genius! “The magic is in the hole!” 

Check them out below:-

Voodoo Doughnuts.

Voodoo Doughnuts branding.
 

TTT’s:-

1. You have to eat at one of the many food carts- this city is world known for them. I think we went around twice before deciding what we fancied! We finally chose Verona Pizza and Pasta and it certainly did not disappoint.  

2. This is more of a head’s up, Portland probably has the most homeless people we ever expected to see. Due to their friendly nature and acceptance, Portland locals live in harmony with the homeless. There are entire streets and parks taken over by homelessness at times. We had no issues during our stay, it’s just something I thought you should be mindful of.

3. Keep your eyes peeled for weird! As I explained before, the people of Portland are known for their eccentricities! It’s a great place to just sit and take it all in. We walked passed a family rock band covering Greenday songs. Dad on bass, son on electric guitar and lead vocals and the daughter absolutely killing it on the drums at about 9 years old! 

Eye spied.

Eat @:- 

Brunch Box, 620 SW 9th Avenue.

Habibi, 1012 SW Morrison Street. 

For affordable delicious Lebanese food.

Verona Pizza & Pasta, 521 SW 9th Avenue.

Pine Street Market, 126 SW 2nd Avenue. 

Food hall with gourmet vendors and a mix of counter and communal seating. We had a “Bless Your Heart” burger- it had chilli (as in chilli con carne) inside the burger too! 

Ruby Jewel, 428 SW 12th Avenue. 

Hand crafted ice cream sandwiches in unusual flavours.

Voodoo Doughnuts, 22 SW 3rd Avenue. 

Drink @:-

Bridgeport Brewing Company, 1313 NW Marshall Street. 

McMenamin’s- Al’s Den, 303 SW 12th Avenue. (Also a live music venue!)

Rogue Hall, 1717 SW Park Avenue. 

Heart, (coffee) 537 SW 12th Avenue.

Shop @:-

Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside Street. 

Flagship Nike Store, 638 SW 5th Avenue.


The new Design Museum

After catching the end of a documentary last night (I ashamedly was oblivious before this) we decided to head along to The “new” Design Museum. It now resides in Kensington (the central hub for museums) in the former residence of the Commonwealth Institute of West London. This landmark from the 1960s, a Grade II* listed building, had stood vacant for over a decade.

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