I’m a huge fan of tajawal. In fact, I’ve been using their services ever since they launched in 2015. Because they’re a local travel brand, they’re able to offer the best travel deals in the region. That’s why I was jumping for joy when they contacted me for a collaboration for my trip to the States and Puerto Rico last May!
If you’ve checked out my previous post, you can get the lowdown on my trip to Puerto Rico and some tips on where to go, how to get discounted tours and tickets and all the activities you need to cover. You can check out my full detailed itinerary here.
And because we covered a lot of ground and activities on our US tour, I’ve decided to divide the itinerary into two posts. This one is going to be all about Cali, baby! If you’re interested in how it went down, and you’d like to see a few of our photos, scroll on down, partner!
Day 1 — Los Angeles
Sunny LA, right? Nope. It was rainy, it was gloomy, it was freezing. lol not a good start. We had just gotten back from Puerto Rico and were fried by the sun. We also hadn’t packed properly–I guess the hot Dubai summers make you forget what a mild one is like!
We arrived at the Milner Hotel late that night, and after a somewhat bumpy check in, went straight to bed. The hotel has a wonderful location smack in the middle of downtown and with ample paid parking right next door. It was by no means, a memorable one–but it did serve its purpose. We wanted something comfortable, budget friendly and had a good location to be able to explore the rest of LA.
The next morning, we headed to the infamous Hollywood sign trek. Sadly, it was super foggy and wasn’t able to get any good shots of the sign. 2 hours in, we had hiked to the sign and checked out the Griffith observatory. We took a few pictures and it was on to the next destination, Santa Monica.
Took a walk down Santa Monica Bvd, had lunch, bought a few things and then hopped into our rental and took a trip down to Venice Beach.
Although it seems that lately Venice Beach has gotten a somewhat bad rep as a “tourist trap” and whatnot, it was our favorite place in all of LA. Food was delicious, sea breeze divine, and quality music and entertainment right-left-and-center. All the things I wanted in one. What’s not to love?
Up until that point, Venice Beach felt like my first actual glimpse into the Californian life I was expecting to see–surfers, hippies and the homeless all just hanging out. I loved the vibes. I loved the music. I loved the food. I was content with spending the rest of my time in LA just there.
Day 2 — Los Angeles
We woke up the next morning, determined to scratch the quintessentially touristy parts of LA: Malibu and Beverly Hills. We met a local guy who took us around and showed us what the glitzy side of Hollywood was all about. That not really being our forte, we cut the trip short and decided to go check out Santa Monica Pier–a place I found to be much more in tune with what I wanted to see. I mean, we live in Dubai, the luxury that surrounds us makes it hard to take notice or be impressed by anywhere else.
A quick bite of seafood at Bubba Gump, a few purchases later and a trip on the ferries wheel and we were set to jump back into the beast that is the Mustang rental and drive around a bit more.
For sunset, we decided to head on back to Venice Beach for dinner and a good old-fashioned session of people watching and getting to know whoever crossed our paths.
Day 3 — Carmel Valley
As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t until day 3 that we really started to feel what the sunny State was all about. We jumped into the car early in the morning and began our gorgeous road trip from LA to San Francisco–with a stop at Carmel Valley for a night in the middle.
Here’s the part where I tell you what to do. Listen up close. You rent a car and you drive. You only drive on the Route 1 (aka the Scenic Route) all the way up to San Fransisco. Even though it’s longer, you will not regret it. There’s a reason it’s been dubbed the “scenic” route. It’s because it’s an utterly breathtaking view with stops that are just ridiculous.
It was a short and sweet four-hour drive to Carmel Valley. With good music, the wind in my hair (my hair in my mouth and eyeballs) and beautiful coastal views, I could finally understand why so many songs had been sung for Cali.
On the way, we made a quick pit stop at Blancas Piedras to check out the Elephant Seal Rookery. Which is just about the cutest thing you will ever see. We were lucky and the beach was just full of fat little seals, just chilling on the beach in their natural habitat. It was a truly beautiful experience.
I had made sandwiches for the road, because aside from the seal rookery, I didn’t want us to make any stops. I know there’s so much more to enjoy on the road, but we had booked a KILLER Airbnb and only had one night in it–I wanted to squeeze that night and I’m glad I listened to my gut. You’ll see why…
We arrived at Carmel Valley and I was in heaven.
Our Airbnb was a thing from fairytales. An old water tower converted by our hosts Jeanne and Tiger Steele into one of the most beautiful Airbnbs we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.
What a view! What a host! What a place! What. An. Experience.
Tiger Steele is not a man I’ll be forgetting any time soon. If you’re in Carmel, don’t you dare for a second, hesitate to stay on his gorgeous estate. With his two gigantic Great Danes, Isabel and Fiona–a fully equipped room (I mean this guy puts ANY 5-star hotel to shame). You can find out more about his place here.
This old water tower is the thing of dreams, I promise you. A sunrise view that just doesn’t quit and starlit night that will have you pinching yourself. My goodness, me. I could NOT get enough of this place. My heart hurt me at the thought that the next afternoon we’d be leaving.
Day 4 — Off to San Fransisco
After the best night’s sleep I’ve ever gotten in my life, it was breakfast and coffee on the porch and our last couple of hours of stimulating conversation with Mr. Tiger and his little babies.
I’d recommend you’d go for a hearty brunch at Jeffrey’s. It’s a 10-minute drive from Tiger’s place and it will give you the fuel you need to sustain you all the up to SF. You can find directions to the place here. One of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a really long time.
After brunch, it was time to hit the road again.
2 and a half hours later, and there we were, in San Fransisco. We handed in the car and made our way to the Mosser Hotel where we were staying–again, smack in the middle of town. The hotel was a bit over the budget we intended on spending, but hotels in SF run pretty steep. Excellent location, good view over the city and a comfy room–it served its purpose right. It was the perfect platform for us to go explore SF, while also being close enough to the good restaurants and cable cars and street performances.
Day 5 — San Francisco
Our trip was starting to come to an end and suddenly I had this overwhelming sensation of NOT HAVING DONE ANYTHING YET!
We roamed the streets of San Francisco in search of the house from Full House, then we hopped in the bus and took a ride to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Once we were done with the Golden Gate Bridge, it was off to the biggest Chinese community out of Asia, the famous China Town of San Fransisco. We hung out there, had a few dimsums (for breakfast) and then headed off to Golden Gate Park to check out Hippie Hill with the beautiful sunshine, great music and picnic we had packed.
Day 6 — San Fransisco
We had some shopping to do while in Cali and that’s what we pretty much spent our morning doing.
For lunch, we decided to check out the Fisherman’s Wharf. Best place in town for good quality, fresh seafood–with famous dishes like clam chodwer in a sourdough breadbowl and steamed crabs–it was an affordable seafood feast fit for a king (or two hungry hippos).
We chilled at the pier, took part in a protest against GMO products and just really tried to soak up what the area was all about.
California really is something else, unlike any of the other States I’ve been to. San Fransisco and Carmel are places I could really see myself staying in one day.
Thank you tajawal for the opportunity to #tajawalTheWorld. Use the hashtag #tajawalTheWorld on any of your travel pics for a chance to be featured!