Sunday, 19 August 2012

California Love Part 2: SoCal

The next morning, we drove out of Napa and made our way south towards Southern California.  We drove along the Golden Gate Bridge back to San Francisco and headed for the I-1, which is the highway that runs along the beautiful Pacific coast.
 We stopped by the Lands End Lookout point for a amazing view of the ocean.

Along the I-1, there were so many beautiful vista points and picture opportunities of the coast line.  We drove through Santa Cruz, Carmel, and Big Sur.  Look at the awesome views.

There was even a cafe called Nepenthe sitting on top of the mountain onlooking the sea.
Before we started driving into Paso Robles, we passed by the Piedras Blancas Rookery where the elephant seals were lying around napping and sun bathing!
Paso Robles is another wine country in California that is less well known to the general public.  The reason why we chose to stay overnight in Paso Robles was because it is about the half way point between San Francisco and Los Angeles and it is where the J. Lohr tasting room is located.  We are big fans of J. Lohr's Cabernet Sauvignon and really wanted to visit the tasting room while we were in Cali.  We tried some of their Vineyard Series and bought a few bottles to take home.

The good part about Paso Robles is that you can enjoy free tastings at most estates in the area.  We visited a few others including Eberle Winery:
And, Pear Valley:
I had to stop drinking early so that I could remain sober and be the designated driver.  We continued our journey towards LA driving on the I-5 so that we can reach there in about 4 hours.  The I-5 is a boring highway with nothing much to see.  I was a little anxious driving when I saw the sign that says to turn off your A/C to avoid overheating your vehicle.  With the heat that we were driving through, I can imagine that old cars may run into that problem.  We turned down our A/C just in case!
We arrived in Newport Beach right around dinner time and headed over to Santouka Ramen in Mitsuwa Japanese supermarket to have dinner.
After so many days of wine, food and touristy sight seeing, I decided it was time for some shopping.  We hit up the premium outlets at Desert Hills, and Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza in Irvine.  The malls in Irvine are awesome.  They have all the designer brands that you can think of and the setting is quite lovely.  You can easily spend a whole day at the mall and of course you can always find a great deal at the premium outlets.
LA didn't turned out to be the most boring attraction of our trip.  We visited Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and Hollywood.  Everything in LA is so spread out and the horrible traffic is quite unbearable. 
LA's weather was much cooler than the wine countries, so even though we visited some nice beaches, we weren't feeling the beach weather as much.  We enjoyed some interesting seafood at Redondo Beach.  Checkout the spider crab and the live sea urchin that was still moving when we bought it.
Santa Monica Beach was also very happening with great tourist attractions, but we didn't stick around for very long.
On our last day, we drove over to San Diego's La Jolla Cove where we took a guided snorkeling tour of the cove.  This wasn't my first time snorkeling but it was my first time having to wear a wet suit.  The water was freezing, but we got to swim with some sea lions!
Here are some other restaurants that we ate at in the Irvine area.
Ikko was nice izakaya type Japanese joint.  They don't serve American style rolls!  Their food was really good!
Ramen Yamadaya seems to be building up quite a chain in California.  Their ramen was not bad.
The prime rib at Lawry's was nice and juicy.
All in all, the trip was amazing, and I felt like we had a grand tour of California.  Can't wait to visit again in the coming years!

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