Traveler Catherine recently took off to explore the West Coast of the U.S. on our Grand Tour of California: San Francisco to Los Angeles. For Catherine, the experience was a bucket list road trip—read on to see her favorite parts (and must-sees) of this incredible journey.
For many people, hopping into a convertible to drive the breathtaking and infamous Highway 1 along California’s Pacific Coast is like a dream – a trip to cross off the bucket list and a must-do-before-you-dietype of experience. Imagining the hot California sun, I jumped at the chance to hop on a flight from Toronto to San Francisco to begin my journey with 21 strangers, and the experience was nothing short of what I’d imagined.
We started each day with excitement and anticipation over what gorgeous scenes the Golden State would have to offer that day. From endless mountain ranges and the turquoise blue waters of the Pacific to palm-tree lined streets and the towering trees of a historic national park, the Grand Tour of California took my breath away from the moment I stepped onto the bus and every consecutive morning for the next 10 days.
We traveled through hilly streets topped with gorgeous Victorian homes in San Francisco, felt the chilly winds of the bay overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and explored the fascinating tales of what was once the maximum-security Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. We passed hundreds of acres growing grapes in the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma County, and thousands more growing the majority of the country’s avocados, almonds, olives, apricots, figs, walnuts, pistachios, kiwis, dates, lemons, peaches, and strawberries—an easy feat given the state’s vast range of micro-climates. (Pro tip: The variety in terrain means lots of unexpected changes in temperature, so stay prepared by packing many layers!)
Just a few days into the trip, the strangers I had met on day one quickly became friends, as we shared a very surreal experience driving way up the winding roads into one of the most beautiful places any one of us had ever been: Yosemite National Park. Speechless, we craned our necks in awe at the towering Sequoias, waterfalls tumbling thousands of feet downward, and tremendous rocky peaks that left us feeling infinitely small.
We held our breaths as we rode cliffside along the shores of Big Sur, crossing the infamous Bixby Bridge, known best for its appearance in American car commercials. We stopped in the charming seaside towns of Monterey and Santa Barbara, visiting the historic Cannery Row (made famous by the 1945 John Steinbeck novel) and the 200-year old Mission. We tasted the freshest catches of the day and local California wines, all while breathing in the salty ocean air.
At our last stop in L.A., our newly formed family walked the bustling Hollywood Walk of Fame, reminiscing about everything we had seen throughout the week, while placing our hands in the cement of Gruman’s Chinese Theatre where Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley once made their marks. Humbled by the entire experience, I felt a surge of satisfaction as I flew back up to the great white north, placed a check mark over the 1,000 miles traveled in one amazing state, and allowed myself to daydream about the next great North American road trip on my bucket list.
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