California is the most populous state in the United States. What is now California was first settled by various Native American tribes before being explored by a number of European expeditions during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was then claimed by the Spanish Empire as part of Alta California in the larger territory of New Spain. Alta California became a part of Mexico in 1821 following its successful war for independence, but was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. The western portion of Alta California was organized as the State of California, which was admitted at the 31st state on September 9, 1850. The California Gold Rush starting in 1848 led to dramatic social and demographic changes, with large-scale immigration from the east and abroad with an accompanying economic boom.
California is regarded as a global trendsetter in both popular culture and politics, and is the birthplace of the film industry, the hippie counterculture, the internet, and the personal computer. But if you ask me, it’s the scenery of California that needs to be experienced. So for our honeymoon, my husband and I flew out to L.A. to rent a convertible (‘When in California’ as they say) to hit the west coast highway and drive from L.A. to San Francisco. L.A. was a big city, and not really my kinda thing, so we walked the piers of Malibu before getting back in the car to heads towards Santa Barbara. While big cities are not really my thing, I can tell you that small towns definitely are. So when we pulled into Santa Barbara, I felt like I was coming home. There was one main street that held trendy restaurants, shops, and ice cream parlours to stop at when you get tired from shopping. There is the pier to walk along that leads you towards the mystical ocean, and candy shops along the way for your guilty pleasure. When you return from the pier, don’t forget to take off your shoes and walk along the beach and get your feet wet. Just remember to take a picture of the town from the end of the pier. You’ll want to have this one forever (insert pic of Santa Barbara Neal took). Once you’ve stayed at a motel for a couple of nights, look online for any last minute deals, and find yourself for one night on top of a glorious mountain at the most beautiful resort you’ve ever been to. Each room is a little cottage filled with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries upon your arrival. You’ll have a delightful, romantic dinner at the main restaurant overlooking the entire city and ocean. When you wake up in the morning, order breakfast to your room, which will be waiting for you outside your cottage on the terrace. Just remember to order the Nutella French toast. OMG!
Santa Barbara is definitely one of the best places I’ve ever been to in California. But there are also other spots that were incredible and need to be seen. If you’ve got the courage to drive around those crazy mountains, with the cliffs just centimeters away from you, make your way up to Big Sur, where you will rent a cabin deep in the woods. It’s a complete 180 turn from the small beach towns, but is just as rich an experience. You will never see taller trees in your life, and there is something about being nestled into the woods that makes you breathe deeper and sleep more peacefully. Take the hiking trail despite the warning sign of mountain lions (facetime your big sister to talk you down if you get freaked out), and then pat yourself on the back for conquering your fear and remaining alive.
Once you drive down from the mountains, you will head towards Carmel-by-the-Sea, often simply referred to as Carmel, known for it’s natural scenery. It’s a small town, also with one main street in the centre where you can walk from one end to the other in about ten minutes flat (provided you don’t stop into any of the amazing stores). When you arrive here, you will have a natural instinct to grab a surf board and run out to the waters, despite the fact that you’ve never surfed before in your life. It is a quiet town with residents who prefer it just that way; so much in fact that there is a curfew of ten o’clock. I mean, the lights go out at ten o’clock! And this is just fine with me. I’d rather get to bed early and have a full day to explore the town, hit the beach, dine at restaurants before retiring with a book and a Netflix show. I know Harriette, Frank, and Ester will become fast friends of mine. My husband’s spirit is slightly younger than mine by about thirty years. So Carmel will have to wait for me.
But it doesn’t have to wait for you. So book your tickets, pack your hat and sunscreen, and prepare yourself for that drive along the west coast singing, “California Dreamin.”