Sea Nettles

Sea Nettles at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How was your weekend?  We had a lovely but strange one, adjusting to the timezone shift after a wonderful trip to California.  It was a magical break, and we came back with a suitcase full of sand, beach-treasures and 1,013 photos.  Count ‘em.  Sometimes digital cameras are not such a good thing… Here, for those of you who can bear it, are some of our highlights!

We flew in to San Francisco and spent a couple of days adjusting and sight-seeing; obvious favourites like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Cable Cars of course, but we also found delights like the Saturday morning farmers market at the Ferry Terminal building, where we wandered the stalls for ages, sampling goods and being amazed at some of the produce..

Ferry Building Farmers Market SF

I was particularly taken by these mushroom-growing kits; aren’t the results beautiful (below)?  I brought one home and we spent the morning soaking rolls of paper and sprinkling over the spores to see if we could reproduce some of this magic..

Mushroom MiniFarms

From San Francisco we picked up a car and headed to Santa Monica; a longish drive broken up by field after field of pistachio groves.  The journey was worth it; we awoke before dawn the next morning and headed straight for the beach to watch the sun come up, coffee in hand; it was beautiful;

Dawn surfers at Santa Monica beach

We hired bikes and rode for miles along the boardwalk, people-watching and soaking up the amazing sunshine as the beaches came to life and the day unfolded.  I received some great suggestions of places to check out including the vibrant pier; we ended up staying so long we had dinner at a restaurant on the beach as the sun set again; I could get used to this lifestyle..

Santa Monica Pier

From Santa Monica we hugged the coastline and gradually pottered back towards San Francisco, stopping whenever we felt the urge along the way (at least once an hour!).  Our next proper stop was in Pismo beach, famous for its seals and sea-glass, amongst other things.  Again, we gravitated to the shore, and made pilgrimages every dawn and dusk to see what the tides had brought in, joining the wading birds at the edge of the water..

Commanding the sunrise

Harry commanding the sun to rise on Pismo Beach

Wading birds at the shoreline


At the tideline we found seal skulls and vertebrae, driftwood of all shapes and sizes, golf balls (mis)hit from cliff top courses and tiny, beautiful pearls of sea glass.  Most of it we returned to the shore, but a few treasured souvenirs have found their way back home with us.

From Pismo we headed for Carmel and another reader’s recommendation of Carmel Valley Ranch, which was the highlight of our stay.  We’d saved up for a few amazing days here, and loved every minute; we learned how to cook S’mores beside the campfire (we caused great hilarity by attempting to assemble the whole cookie and then pierce it with a skewer before roasting… you can only imagine how tricky this is).  At Carmel I also attempted my first – and possibly last – cardio barre class, which my thighs have yet to recover from.  I knew I was in trouble when I hobbled back up the steps to our lodge and Harry whispered loudly  ‘Daddy, I think Mummy is going to need our help with the stairs’.

We used Carmel as a base to explore and tour the coast and surrounding areas; we agreed that if work and finances were no object we’d happily relocate there tomorrow; we loved it. Here are a few of our highlights – again, thanks to all those who suggested wonderful local secrets like Pfeiffer Beach and the Monterey Youth Museum that don’t tend to appear in guidebooks… we tracked them all down and they were wonderful..

Watching the surfers at Carmel Beach

Watching the surfers at Carmel Beach

Beach after the rain

Wine tasting and touring the winery at Chateau Julien

Wine tasting and touring the winery at Chateau Julien

Witnessing the power of the ocean at Pfeiffer Beach

Witnessing the power of the ocean at Pfeiffer Beach

Viewing some impressive pumping carving at Carmel Valley Lodge

Viewing some impressive pumping carving at Carmel Valley Lodge

Pebble Beach

Choosing fantasy homes in Pebble Beach

Sea Nettle

Watching the mesmerising sea nettles and moon jellies at Monterey Aquarium

moon jellies


As the nights draw in during the weeks ahead, we’ll sift through our souvenirs and photos ready to make our next family yearbook, and I’m stitching our route on the map we used along the way so that we remember…

Stitched holiday map

Have a good week ahead, wherever you are and whatever you have planned; when work abates I’ll be back at the end of the week with a new project. See you then!

handbag logo

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