Around 2 pm on Sunday my dad and I packed up the car and left San Francisco. I brought one bag of clothes and one bag of real essentials. Real essentials = snacks (bare snacks apple chips, kind bars, and homemade trail mix), a full water bottle, my favorite notebook, and wireless headphones.
Since our washing machine was broken, I wasn’t able to pack any underwear (yeah, 3 different snacks, no underwear), so our first stop was Macy’s in South San Francisco. I think that’s a real right of passage- when you don’t have any clean undies so you go buy some instead. After spending way to long trying to figure out the difference between french cut, hipster, and bikini styles- apparently my lack of fashion sense extends to underwear- we were finally on our way.
I listened to the Fed + Fit podcast for a good amount of the drive, and by now I think it’s definitely fair to say I’m a podcast addict. I tend to go through intense phases with stuff like that, so I imagine it will pass eventually, but for right now give me all the podcast recommendations!
After about 4 hours on the road, we arrived in Santa Maria. The restaurant options seemed to be pretty limited, but luckily the town has a Trader Joes and that’s really all I need in life. We grabbed dinner and stocked up on snacks, then headed over to the hotel to eat and watch NCIS. I had a lentil wrap with tahini sauce for dinner + dark chocolate almonds for dessert and it was AMAZING. To be fair, I was pretty hungry so my judgement may have been impacted. But it was really good.
My skin has been a bit icky lately, so I put on my favorite clay face mask while we watched NCIS then went to bed.
I’d been hoping to sleep in on vacation, but instead I woke up at 5:30 am. I tried to go back to sleep for a while but at 6:30 I finally gave up and watched Netflix on my computer for about an hour. By that time I was pretty hungry, so I just put a jacket on over my PJs and went down to the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Being the indecisive, breakfast loving person that I am, I find breakfast buffets a bit overwhelming. To keep it simple, I have a couple go-to meals such as oatmeal + fruit or eggs + toast. And always coffee, of course. I went with oatmeal (topped with brown sugar and walnuts) and cantaloupe.
After breakfast, we got in the car and drove a couple hours down the coast to Santa Barbara.The views along the highway were incredible and they reminded me how much I love seeing new parts of the world and how lucky I am to get to travel. We arrived with a couple hours to spare before the start of our UC Santa Barbara tour, so we hit the beach! We had a picnic with out Trader Joe’s goods from the night before, then my dad got on a quick conference call and I went for a walk on the beach. By the time we got back in the car to drive to UCSB, my pant cuffs were damp, my feet were sandy, and I was somehow missing a sock. The perfect first impression, right?
For the next few hours we toured UCSB. I loved how the campus was so integrated with nature, and everyone seemed really happy. After the tour, my dad had a meeting in South Santa Barbara and I had some time to explore. I ended up at a cafe called The French Press. They had the foamiest lattes with gorgeous latte art and I felt very cool sipping my latte and working on this blog post.
Then we got back in the car and completed the final 2 hours of our drive to LA. We checked in to our hotel in Century City (right by UCLA) then set out in search of dinner. There didn’t seem to be tons of real restaurants in the area (though there was TONS of fast food) so we settled for Cava Grill. I’d never been before, but it turns out it’s basically a Mediterranean version of Chipotle. So “fast casual” food with lots of veggies and fresh ingredients. I got a greens & grains bowl with 3 (!!!) kinds of hummus, roasted veggie mix (butternut squash + brussels sprouts), and a beet salsa type thing to top it off. My expectations weren’t all that high, but it was actually really good. The portions are pretty generous, but I loved it so much I managed to eat it all. It’s really a hard life when your delicious veggie bowls are a bit too big.
As soon as we returned to the hotel I went to bed and fell asleep dreaming of beaches, beautiful colleges, and hummus.
I slept in!! It was beautiful. In all honestly I only slept in until 8 am, but considering how conditioned my body is to waking up at 6 am for school, 8 is pretty good. I hit the gym first thing for a quick run on the treadmill. I kinda hate the treadmill and would much rather run outside, but we weren’t in a great neighborhood for running and I wanted to stay on track with my 10k preparation plan because I want to run Bay to Breakers in May! I’m on the 2nd week, so I did a 30 minute combo of running and walking.
We had to be at UCLA for a tour at 10:15 am, so I showered and got dressed then we grabbed breakfast to go at the Starbucks in the hotel. I got oatmeal and a latte then tried to eat and navigate at the same time as we drove to UCLA. After a few wrong turns we finally made it and the tour was lovely. The vibe was a bit more east coast college campus-y (it reminded me of Yale) and I learned they have the one of the best psychology programs in the nation! Now I’m just worried I’ll fall in love with every college I visit, but in the scheme of things that’s a good problem to have.
Once the tour was over we adventured into Beverly Hills to find Mitch and Cam’s house from Modern Family. My parents and I watched the show religiously in 2011/2012 so it was a pretty exciting moment.
Since we didn’t have anywhere to be for the rest of the day, I convinced my dad to drive to Santa Monica for lunch at True Food Kitchen. I’d heard such great reviews on Instagram, and it did not disappoint! I wanted to try everything on the menu, but I controlled myself and we ended up sharing a kale salad and brussels sprout/wild mushroom pizza. Both were incredibly delicious and I can’t wait to try to recreate them at home. The people were so friendly and the weather was beautiful, so it was a wonderful experience all around. After lunch, we took a quick walk through a nearby park, then got in the car (again) for a 2 hour drive through crazy LA traffic to our hotel in Ontario.
We decided to stay in Ontario because it’s close to the Claremont colleges, but as far as I can tell there’s not much there. There didn’t even seem to be any grocery stores nearby, so we ended up going to Target and getting sandwich supplies for dinner. To be honest that wasn’t tons of fun because I was hungry and tired and trying to buy dinner at Target, but it worked out and I ended up with a loaf of bread, a squeeze pack of Justin’s almond butter, and an apple. Back at the hotel, I put together a very sophisticated dinner of an almond butter sandwich, an apple, and a few chocolate covered almonds, ate in bed, then went straight to sleep. I’m pretty sure this is what everyone’s talking about when they mention the trendy LA food scene.
I’m writing the majority of this post at 8 am before beginning a day full of college visits and driving back to SF. I don’t image anything too thrilling will happen, so I’ll spare you all the details, but I had so much fun on this trip and I really appreciate you following along. If you have any recommendations for fun spots/good eats in SoCal let me know because I hope to come back soon!