I knew it was happening the second he said “You NEED to come to California with me”.
Nails done red and ticket bought, I was on a plane to San Francisco a few weeks later. The last time I hit up California was in my teens, so I had a tough time remembering many of a highlights – especially with much of the sightseeing done behind a smirk or eyeroll as an 18-year-old.
Wine was coming later in the trip, so I ventured to a brewpub in The Mission first to meet up with a couple old friends I hadn’t seen in years. They brought me to Southern Pacific Brewing for some fried brussel sprouts and blonde ale, because I’m a wuss and can’t go any darker.
I tried to keep things classy, as I knew I was up for a Segway adventure the next morning. Never having been on one of these two-wheeled monstrosities I was super worried, but I didn’t fall, not even once. At the end of the tour zipping through Fisherman’s Wharf, along Ghirardelli Square Square and the waterfront, I felt like an old pro by the time we reached the pier. PS – Segways are perfect for taking panoramic photos on your phone for their stability. Thanks City Segway SF!
Meeting up with Christian the afterwards, we revved up our white Camaro convertible, put on the 80’s music station and hit our first checkpoint along the Pacific Coast Highway – Marina.
Tons of other worldly beach and cliffside vistas later, we pulled up to Sanctuary Beach Resort and had a wonderfully kitschy dinner at Kula Ranch on the property. But the highlight for me was having a few Mai Tais then turning the key on our private golf cart/chariot. Next stop, Formula 1 championship.
Coffees in hand we climbed back into the Camaro to swing by Monterey, Pebble Beach and other points of interest on the Pacific Coast Highway. Stopping at seemingly every vista point along the way, I waited patiently while Christian picked the perfect spot. I really was surprised up to this moment, but spied the box in his pocket and his insanely nervous silence as a cue it was time to fluff my hair and get ready. He found a nice quiet spot right by a massive bridge and staggering cliffs, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him.
Tada! Snapped a photo, giggled and kissed a bit, then got back in to the car for the rest of the day in a haze of la la land. So great, perfect and fun.
The excitement and buzz started to subside and we pulled into the La Bellasera, a gem of a hotel in the heart of Paso Robles wine country. There will be a whole follow-up post on this place alone, as they did a phenomenal job taking care of us. We spent the better part of an afternoon on our cells calling everyone from home, then went downtown to eat because I was SO HUNGRY and obviously needed another excuse to drink more champagne. Artisan restaurant has incredible small plates with many locally sources ingredients. Enough said. We ordered one of everything, a bottle of bubbly, and some memorable butterscotch pudding for dessert. Then I practically had to be rolled home, but it was so worth it.
No rest for the weary, we were back on the road heading to Halter Ranch in the morning. They also deserve a post in themselves, as this beautifully hilly, humble winery utilizes incredible state-of-the-art design and processing techniques on old land to produce some super tasty wines.
Stopped at Laetitia Vineyard too a few hours out – as Christian is secure enough in his sexuality to admit he’s nuts about sparkling wines. I’m happy to oblige, we picked up a few more bottles. There may have been my first In-N-Out Burger experience after that, but I sort of blacked out from fast food euphoria at that point, I barely remember it.
A big venture into Los Angeles was so badly wanted, but we instead made it as far as Marina Del Rey before flying out of LAX to see the sun go down. It was no glitz and glamor, but a perfect stay at the Jamaica Bay Inn on the harbor and a Cuban meal at Mercedes Bar & Grill down the road. I sipped a mint pina colada I was sure would taste like nothing I wanted to put in my body, but I was proved wrong, as it was deliciously different and fun. We’re old now and passed right out afterwards.
There were dozens of other moments and a million other memories. I loved putting California on the map as a new special destination for us – maybe one we can visit again in a Camaro for our 30th anniversary, after a lifetime of new travels.