California Coast Road Trip

California Coastal Road Trip

I’m turning over the Café reins today to Scott, my favorite photographer (best buddy, husband and cohort in crime also). ~ Chris

Hey Crew! Scott here!

Since The Café has just returned from our California Coast Road Trip, we thought we’d share some simple, practical things that were helpful to us as we traveled throughout California and Arizona these past two weeks. Along with some “Travel Tips”, we’ll also share some pictures of the incredible experience that these two states are; lands of extreme beauty and extreme contrasts.

Trip Preparation

Getting ready for a road trip is definitely tricky. For this one, we had to plan for warm weather, cool weather, beach and mountain climates, hours in the car, a wedding, two family visits and publishing The Café along the way. We wanted to travel as light and efficiently as possible, but needed a lot of “stuff” to make sure we were prepared for all contingencies. We got it down to two suitcases each, a backpack with day clothes changes, photo shoot items, computers and cords and my camera bag ….. oh, and a tripod! Here’s our short list of travel preparation suggestions.


  • Bag It! – Before leaving for the trip, separate a lot of the smaller items in your suitcases with ziplock bags. This makes finding things; phone chargers, computer cords, socks, undies, shower toiletries (ick! – who needs a bottle of shampoo “exploding” in your suitcase?), etc. We use different size bags for each task – it really saves time when you’re living out of suitcases for an extended period of time.
  • Cool It! – A collapsible soft-sided thermal cooler bag is great for a multitude of purposes. We picked up one early on in the trip and, together with two small refreeze ice blocks, it was storage for cheese, yogurt, soft drinks, a bottle opener, napkins, apples and anything else we needed to keep cool. With tempertures in the 100˚+ range in central California and Arizona, it was essential.
  • Pack It! – When you won’t be staying more than one or two days in any place for two weeks straight, keep it simple by using smaller “carry on” suitcases for these nightly stops. Packed with toiletries, beauty stuff, jammies, tomorrow’s clothes and shoes, you can roll right into your hotel quickly and efficiently, instead of schlepping the whole deal in and cluttering up the hotel room with unneeded stuff. Keep large suitcases in the trunk and use them to “feed” the smaller day suitcases. Unneeded clothing, dirty clothes, etc. can stay in the car and out of your way! It’s also a lot better on the old back, right?
  • Snap It! – One of the great things about the twenty-first century is digital photography. You can shoot for 12 straight days (we’re talking raw photo quality – these are huge memory files) on one 32 gig camera SD card; how cool is that? So capture everything you want! Don’t hesitiate, unless your spouse is tapping his/her feet, looking annoyed that you’ve just taken your 300th shot of seagulls or something. Better yet, let them snap away with their smartphone to share with the world via iMessage, Instagram and Pinterest! Always make sure to back your photos up each day on your computer or iPad; memory cards can be a little persnickity at times and, I don’t know about you, but I misplace those little critters quite often.

Since I love photography, I’m constantly looking for unusual shapes, textures, colors, people and scenes – not just the standard tourist shots. And they’re everywhere, if you just look a little harder. Here are a few shots from the first seven stops on our trip.

Newport Beach We started the trip with a visit to my brother’s home in Newport Beach. Pete and his gracious wife Patti, introduced us to the wonderful laidback “Southern California” style of living. Newport and the surrounding area is filled with beautiful beaches, funky restaurants and loads of photo ops. Here are just a few.





CaliforniaFlowers (1)
Looking out at the Back Bay area of Newport Beach, where Pete and Patti live.


CaliforniaFlowers (2)
Flowers seem to grow like weeds in Newport Beach and all over California. Take a look.





CaliforniaFlowers (3)

CaliforniaFlowers (4)

CaliforniaFlowers (5)

Avocado Groves of San Juan Capistrano The second day of our California Coast Road Trip, we toured one of the fabulous California Avocado Ranches with Angela from The California Avocado Commission. For more pictures and information, see Chris’ earlier post on How Avocados Grow.


This was our rental car. NOT! The avocado ranch we toured had a great little collection of antique farm equipment.




The next time you go to the store and buy a California avocado, remember that these little alligator skinned beauties are hand-picked off the trees using this ingenious little tool.




Pasadena This western-influenced town at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, is warmer than coastal Southern California and it’s a fun, busy city, filled with lots of Spanish-influenced architecture. We attended our niece, Katherine’s wedding there, and had a blast seeing all the relatives; not to mention all the fun things we saw along the way.

California Coast Road Trip. Pasadena Court House.


California CoastalRoad Trip. Kim and Chris.
Chris was thrilled to be able to meet up in Pasadena with a fellow blogger, Kim Kelly from Liv Life.

Santa Barbara Since I had already been to Santa Barbara years ago, I knew that Chris and I were in for a real treat. But we had so much fun the first day, we decided to extent our visit to a second day to take in more that this wonderful city has to offer. Highlights? I’d need to write a book about this town to do it justice. Let’s take a look!


Of course we had to try some of these … after all, we’re food bloggers – it’s our job!



Santa Barbara Downtown, so lovely!


Sure, you’ve heard of “streets of gold”, but how about “fire hydrants of gold”? Or maybe brass … only in Santa Barbara!


The beautiful, verdant courtyard outside our Santa Barbara hotel, by day…


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… and by night!


Sometimes things don’t appear as they really are.




The architecture is stunning!




Los Olivos This fun little town is on the way, from Santa Barbara up to Pismo Beach. It’s smack dab in the middle of the Central Coast wine area, and full of fun wine tasting rooms, funky little gift and craft stores and lots of Western charm.

LosOlivasArched Entry





Solvang Chris fell in love with this adorable, Danish town right in the middle of California! Maybe it’s her summer’s in Europe when she was a teenager. Or maybe the Danish bakery goods!!





Buellton This little town wasn’t in the original road trip plan. As we were heading towards our next stop, Pismo Beach, our grownup son, Nick texted us from North Carolina and said, “Oh man, you’re going to be four miles from one of the best craft beer companies in the US!” I guess you could say he lived vicariously through us that day, as we were treated like royalty by the staff of the Firestone Walker Brewing Company and gastropub. Thanks everyone at FW …. you made our … and Nick’s day!






P.S. Check back on Sunday for Scott’s second road trip post; vineyards, Big Sur, Monterey and then on to Arizona where my sister, Dana lives.

We loved spending time with Dana and her husband Jerry. Dana’s an amazing cook and makes entertaining look like a breeze! She’s got a zillion little tricks and tips, and I love to soak it all in. She had a fun dinner party while we were visiting, so we could get to know some of their friends. It was an amazing meal with everything prepared in advance and each course perfectly orchestrated.

Dana shared the super simple recipe for a delicious appetizer soup she served that evening and Scott was able to shoot a few pictures of it. I’ll be sharing the recipe tomorrow here on The Café, but here’s a little tease; check out her beautiful presentation!

Calfiornia Road Trip. Dana's soup.

21 thoughts on “California Coast Road Trip”

  • Since you vacationed in “my” neck of the woods now – at least in the Winter, I have been wanting to read Scott’s two Posts about your trip. I finally got to it tonight and will go back and take notes at a later date. You did so many things that I have on my List to do this coming year when I return to Cambria. And, your travel tips are great.

  • Wow… just wow!!! I live here and I really, really want to visit!! What a fabulous travelogue you have here. And that shot of beer?? Simply stunning!!! 🙂 I can’t wait for my son to begin school in Santa Barbara simply so that I can visit. I’ve only been there a few times and I know there is SO much more to explore. I’m guessing he won’t mind if I don’t spend all my time with him (ha!!).
    So you found the agapanthus!! I have a yard full of them and simply can’t photograph them enough. I love the colors, and I”m thankful they have a decent bloom time as the rest of the year they are simply green leaves. I love the white as well.
    And Los Olivos… I have to say I’ve never been!! But we will make that a stop sometime soon.
    What a treat to meet you both!!! It was simply destined to be the way things worked out, wasn’t it?? Our love to you both!!! XOXO

  • What a wonderful trip! You took us there too! I’m more than ready to head back to Ca. I lived in the Bay Area for 20 years! I wish I had taken a few more trips south after those photo’s!
    Love the “packing tips” too. As a former Flight Attendant, I know the importance esp. if their is no “trunk”!
    Welcome Home!

  • Wow. Scott is some photographer. Those pics were beautiful.

    So glad you guys enjoyed your trip. It was great to see you. We will work on the trip back to North Carolina and going to the cabin.

  • I had lots of family in California and used to visit them every summer. I enjoyed your wonderful photos of many of the places I have visited too. I hope you will make it to the Oregon coast someday. It’s a truly awesome place to visit. Thanks for the travel tips too.

  • Oh my goodness, Chris, I wanted to tell you about Solvang but didn’t know you were near.
    Can’t wait to hear all about it. My aunt and I went there for a day and then I left her house an
    hour early to get to LA airport – just so I could stop and have coffee and pastry there.
    Wasn’t it fun???
    Did you get to PeaSoupAnderson’s in Buellton?
    Can’t wait until we can talk.
    The pictures are amazing – all I had were snapshots in my mind and heart.
    Oh and there were a few snapshots in my tummy after Solvang.
    So glad you got to have so much fun in California.

  • Hi Scott and Chris, I was brought up in California, Whittier and Julian and I love that state; so wonderful, looks like you had a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing

  • What gorgeous photos! I feel as if I toured with you. And meeting Kim must have been a highlight…she’s such a dear. Looking forward to your next two posts 🙂

  • Thank you for the mini trip to California coast, I am from California and you certainly visited all my favorite places! Gorgeous photos, and I can’t wait to hear more about the appetizer soup!

  • Isn’t it a ball to get to see new things to photo?
    Great shots of everything and everyone..Next trip I am coming to read your notes over.:)
    I am a baggy person too….so handy they are those baggies..

  • Your comments are at the top now! It took me forever to find them! How come the change? I think Newport Beach would definitely be my favorite. the beach, and all those gardens and flowers. But each place has it’s own special beauty.

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