Tuesday, June 02, 2015

California Train Trip

Before we even arrived in San Diego, it was decided that we would venture a little trip up the coast. Ernesto's padres had told us that Santa Barbara was beautiful and so we started there. Riding the Surfliner train sounded like a perfect way to relax and see the coast. That is....until it hit me that a train ride with kids would be the same as a plane ride. A SIX HOUR plane ride. Oh well...what the hell, let's do it! Four adults vs. 2 toddlers? We'd win right? Our five day "plan" included buying the train tickets to Santa Barbara the night before leaving and...and...and nothing else. Hotels? Itineraries? We would figure that out later.

With two carry-ons, two kids and a stroller we hopped on a 930am train. (which we made by the skin of our teeth-shocker!)
The kids enjoyed looking out the windows on the train......for about 15 minutes. That only left 5 hours and 45 minutes to entertain them and try to keep them seated. ha! Cue the ipad and snacks.

This trip was a whirlwind of good food and beautiful scenery. It was more of an adult trip really, but these two little guys hung in there. The train rides were long, there was a lot of driving, and they were sitting in the stroller a lot. As a matter of fact, all naps were taken sitting in the stoller/carseat. While they slept we had gourmet meals and adult conversations. It was wonderful, yet, I felt a bit guilty. At times I was irritable. I would like to blame it on pregnancy hormones, but I think it is just the fact that I felt guilty. It subsided each time the kids were running and having a good time. Free of buckles!
Overall, it was a great time, and the picture overload you are about to see will prove it. Are you ready?
Santa Barbara is a beautiful small-ish town (2 hours north of Los Angeles) that lies between the beach and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Although the sun only peeked out for a minute while we were there, it did not take away from this towns charm. I loved it as soon as we got off the train. We strolled down a residential street with gorgeous Spanish style houses and landscaping. (Succulents everywhere-yes I came home with a few!!)
We checked into the Days Inn a couple blocks from the beach, and followed Ernesto to the Enterprise Fish Co. (which he found via Yelp). The boys fell asleep immediately upon getting into the stroller after that long train ride.
We took advantage and enjoyed a gourmet seafood meal among adults. How about perfectly cooked scallops over a Caprese salad? It was so delicious!

Sterns Wharf is a LONG pier filled with seafood restaurants, little shops and fisherman. We actually saw a young guy bring this crab up on his fishing pole!? Looks like a King Crab to me!
A boardwalk ran along the beach. The kids ran and played and I gathered some sand for my collection.
The next morning we visited the Santa Barbara Natural Museum Sea Center on the pier. It's an interactive marine education facility where the kids could have hands-on encounters with sea creatures, including [small] sharks!!
That afternoon Ernesto rented a minivan and we started driving north. Slovang is a small Danish village an hour north of Santa Barbara. It looked like a cute place, but because the kids were sleeping Ernesto just drove around a bit.

This kringle hit the spot. Almond paste, custard and raisin filling in a flaky buttery pastry. Oh my god! Sinfully sweet. On to the next spot.
The terra cotta pots hanging on the wall inspired me so much that I have decided to replicate this on the side of my shed at home. Look at the cement faces hanging on that wall above, and the head planters below. I wanted to buy so much, but walked away with nothing but ideas. I guess not a total loss.

This whole trip idea was born around us seeing Hearst Castle. How had I never heard of this historical landmark mansion? It was nothing short of breathtaking.

William Hearst was a newspaper mogul and started working with an architect in 1919. The castle was not completed until 1947...and then he died 3 years later. Can you believe? Over 25 years working on this and then he dies. The estate was donated to the state of California and has been open for tours ever since. The estate boasts 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and had the world's largest private zoo. Zebras and other exotic animals still roam the grounds.
The entrance fee of $18 included a 45 min guided tour inside a handful of the rooms. First though, you had to ride a bus up the mountain.
Children 5 and under are free. Yes, children are free, but what they did not tell you as you bought your tickets was your children have to be perfectly quiet and must stay on a two foot runner rug throughout the tour. WHAT!? Needless to say, we did not last through the first room.
We were actually shh-ed by the guide and another guy told me I had to "keep them quiet." Even if it hadn't been past nap time this tour was not a place for toddlers. How could I expect them to behave when I had not got them to sleep? It was my fault not theirs. I was so annoyed [with the situation] that I had a mini-breakdown and cried. Mommy guilt got me again.
I took the boys outside where they were able to run around and we all felt much better.
Oh well, the inside was a little dark and stuffy anyway. Just look at the outdoor swimming pool! (not filled with water, but you can imagine!)
The indoor pool wasn't too shabby either. Every inch covered in mosaics. This place is ridiculous!

These guys were so exhausted that they didn't last 2 minutes on the bus back down. It was 4pm.
And they slept and slept. A transfer into the car and then from the car to the stoller and they continued sleeping. We stopped in Cambria (another cute little town) for an early dinner. We sat outside at a little place called Robin's.
Another gourmet dinner...while the kids slept. pobrecitos.
When they woke up, we did take them to eat at an italian place. Of course, I fed the kids!
Very close to the castle, we saw a sign for elephant seals.
The boys were more interested in running up and down the boardwalk [after an hour in the car], plus seals are not the most exciting mammal to watch. Every once in a while one would move and these guys would pay attention.
Exciting or not, it was a perfect backdrop for pictures.
It's hard to capture a good family photo these days, but we tried.
Im pretty happy with this one. Not everyone is looking at the camera, but we captured smiles!
I had never heard of Paso Robles, a small town just 40 minutes from the coast. I wasn't particularly interested in getting to know it either...at last not now. What was in Paso Robles? Wine!! Wine?? Ugh!! Had I been able to actually tour these vineyards I would've been so excited. I LOVE me some red wine. Being pregnant and loving wine (a lot!), it was almost torture to drive through the countryside, an area home to over 200 wineries.
It was beautiful driving through the hills covered with grape vines, and I think it will be a great place to explore...once I can drink again. Ernesto stuck with me, and when his padres made plans to tour, we made plans to LEAVE! Ha!
Sequoia Nat'l Park was 2.5 hour drive from Paso Robles, and we only had one day to explore this humongous park. Although extremely tired from our day at the castle, we decided to put the boys in their pj's and drive closer. We ended up at a Super 8 off the hwy in Visalia at 1130pm. Not cozy, not a repeater. Luckily, the kids were in a deep sleep when we arrived and we just transferred them into bed.
When we woke up, we got out of dodge before they touched anything.
This park was worth the drive and was my favorite part of the whole trip. With sweeping views and winding roads climbing up the mountains, the hour ride into the Giant Forrest was awesome.

You know that you have reached the Giant Forrest when you are greeted by 4...well...giant sequoias.
And when I say giant, I mean GIANT!

It felt so good to get out of the van and explore. The boys got to run and since they saw some people with walking sticks, they had to find their own.

(did you notice Marcelo's stick? Ha!) It was a one mile hike on a nice paved trail to see General Sherman, the worlds largest living tree.

I took a panoramic pic with my phone to show the whole tree, but it can't really capture the magnitude of this beast. You'll really have to go see it for yourself.
In the visitors center at the park entrance, we talked to a nice park ranger about what we should do since we only had a short time. He gave Mateo a scavenger hunt to complete. He had to spy at least 8 of the 16 items on the list to receive his Junior Ranger badge. It was really fun for him (and for us to watch him!) And then, as we were approaching the Giant Forrest Museum to turn in the completed scavenger hunt, we spotted a BEAR!!

Mateo spotted all but 2 items on the scavenger hunt (raven and feather) and was so excited to get his badge.

The ranger made a big deal about it and made him give an oath before handing it to him. It was pretty funny. 

We drove back to Paso Robles that night and ate at Estrella in the little downtown. The next morning we headed back to Santa Barbara to catch our train back to San Diego! Whew! We packed a lot in those 5 days...probably too much...but this is what it's all about. Making memories and having adventures!
Ill be leaving San Diego in a couple days and flying back to Atlanta to show Zafiro Jewelry at the Virgina Highlands Summerfest! Stay tuned to view some of my new designs

1 comment:

  1. That was an awesome trip! Wish we could do it ..maybe we will find somebody to do it with. Your itinerary was perfect. Love, mom


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