Tag archive for "california"

Playing prostitutes and robbers at Pioneertown, CA

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Playing prostitutes and robbers at Pioneertown, CA

4 Comments 16 March 2013

After two years of wearing cowboy boots in hot and non-western countries, my footwear finally came in handy in California.

Thanks to my readers’ advice, Ric and I made a quick stop at Pioneertown after a day in Joshua Tree. The old western movie set was built in the 1940s and used for TV shows like The Crisco Kid. Today it remains intact for tourists, with a few shops, a hotel and Pappy & Harriet’s, a restaurant and music venue that’s worth stopping at on its own, open for business.

Since Ric and I visited in the winter (out of season), there were no scheduled gun fights or crowds of people, so we decided to make our own fun. After all, if you show up at an old western film set in cowboy boots and a plaid shirt on you have to take advantage of it. So what did we do?

Impromptu photo shoot!!

Doors swinging, Bobbi busts out of the Pioneertown Bank after a robbery gone wrong. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Without knowing it, she leaves her Clyde behind. The sheriff catches Ric, loot in hand, and locks him up. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

No money and no man, Bobbi’s forced to work at the local bath house. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Months later, Ric is released and he’s looking for revenge. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Besides pretending to be locked-up thieves and whores, we also fit in an epic meal at Pappy & Harriet’s. Ric had a chilli-steak burger with cheese fries and I had an obscene amount of unsweetened iced tea with lemons. Basically the makings of a perfect day.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Pictures of famous visitors to Pappy & Harriet’s, including one of Ice Cube wearing a sombrero. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

All I need in life is a mason jar of iced tea with loads on lemons. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Have you ever visited Pioneertown in California? Share your story below.

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Jucy Wheels out West: the good, the bad and the budget

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels out West: the good, the bad and the budget

No Comments 01 March 2013

We’ve been driving higher and higher on Highway 180 en route to the Big Stump Entrance of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, elevation markers letting us know we’ve reached 2000, 3000, 4000 feet. The last few miles have not been easy. The fog is so thick I can’t see more than 15 feet ahead. Then it disappears and reveals one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.

I’d tackle any hard drive for this view. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Rocky mountains and trees fill the scenery to my left and ahead, two my right, the tips of a few mountains peaking above the clouds. I realise I wasn’t driving through fog before, but those clouds below me right now. If that’s the case, then this must be heaven.

It looks like it anyway.

It’s next to impossible to justifiably sum up my three-week road trip with Jucy Rentals in Western USA. I met so many characters, fell in love with so many destinations and the number of moments that almost brought me to tears driving in this beautiful country, well most of those moments will remain within me.

For me, this wasn’t just a road trip through California, Nevada and Arizona, but a chance to reignite the flame with my homeland. I’ve been away from it for three years now. In that time, I started to forget just how incredible it is. This trip was a serious reminder of that.

So while I can’t possibly share with you all my best moments and stories from the road, I can explain this trip in terms of numbers and figures and a few of my favorite things along the way.

Route and destinations

I kicked off this three-week road trip in Los Angeles, headed straight for the Pacific Coast Highway and never looked back. After a night in Santa Barbara, I continued onwards to Morro Bay then to Big Sur with a quick stop at Hearst Castle. After a three-day love affair in Big Sur, I headed up to San Francisco, to visit Alcatraz and take advantage of all the free things to do in the Bay Area.

Sunset at Morro Bay made me wish I had more time to visit the waterfront town. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The furthest north I hit on this trip was Napa Valley. From there I headed east to Yosemite National Park, then along the west side of the Sierra Nevada to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, after which I spent a night in the Mojave Desert. I spent one day cruising through the state of Nevada and one night in Lake Mead National Park.

I drove for about an hour on Route 66 on the way to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. A night in the national park there and I made my way back to the Pacific Coast with a few stops in between.

Three nights in Las Vegas, a day in Joshua Tree National Park then I was spreading my toes in the sand at Huntington Beach, CA. I beached it up during my last weekend with my Jucy Champ, visiting Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu.

Distances and travel times

Altogether I covered just under 3000 miles around three states in Western USA: California, Nevada and Arizona. This took about 44 hours driving time in total, but fitting it all in three weeks was really tight. My longest drive in terms of distance was from the Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ to KOA at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, NV, 277 miles over about four and a half hours. The longest drive in terms of time, excluding inside national parks, was from Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA to Fernwood Resort in Big Sur, CA, only 66 miles, but took about five hours, because of the routes winding roads and I kept stopping to take photos.

We made it to the Grand Canyon just before dark. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Budget (fuel, accommodation, food, activities, rental and insurance)

I spent a total of $559.94 on fuel. It cost me $505.71 to camp out 15 nights during the trip. I stayed with a friend for three nights in San Francisco, got a hotel room for one night at $70 in Napa Valley and used American Express points to spend two nights in a hotel in Las Vegas, which would have costs $60 total.

I went to the grocery store three times on this trip, which cost a total of about $150 in total. I spent about $400 between snacks, eating out and alcohol.

Between five National Parks ($90), various tours and tastings ($111) and one show in Las Vegas ($89), the total of activities adds up to $290.

Three weeks with my Jucy rental with unlimited mileage ($1,410), plus 21 nights of partial insurance ($189), since I was already covered for Supplementary Liability Insurance because with my own car in the USA cost a total of $1,599, plus taxes etc. All trip prices vary depending on how long you’ll be renting for, how many miles you’ll be traveling and what kind of insurance you require, so it’s best to get a quote for yourself.

This brings my trip to a grand total of $3,574.65. This is a basic budget you could use if you are interested in doing a similar road trip of the USA, but consider how many people will split the cost of fuel, camp fees, entrance to national parks, etc. Plus you know yourself best, how often will you be eating out or going out for the night. I did very little on both.

Favorite drive

There’s a reason why my drive from Hearst Castle to Big Sur was the longest in terms of time. The drive alone is stunning, sun setting on the Pacific Ocean to my left, rocky mountains to my right and to add to the thrill of it, this drive is along a cliff with a massive drop to the sea. But I also got to see some really cool things at stops along the way, elephant seals, whales, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Henry Miller Memorial Library.

I must have stopped ten or twenty times in Big Sur to look at the sights. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Least favorite drive

After a long day of driving through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, I went through the worst driving conditions I’ve ever experience on Route 58 in the Mojave Desert. Fog so thick, you could only see about two lines on the middle of the road ahead. This happened at night as well, when all I wanted to do was park up and sleep.

Favorite stop

This is a very hard one, but overall Joshua Tree National Park was best for me. I’ve wanted to see the National Park for a very long time and it was even more interesting than I anticipated. The town of Joshua Tree is small, but quality. The people in this area are really unique and fun. Plus we came across some random things in on our drive through here, like a drummer in the desert and an old western Hollywood set.

Make like a Joshua Tree. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Favorite RV park

During my trip I stayed in 13 different campgrounds and RV resorts. I can honestly say that they were all friendly and special for different reasons, but my favorite is going to have to be Fernwood Resort in Big Sur. The woods there are beautiful and I was parked up right next to the Big Sur River. The bathrooms are heated. Plus the Redwood Grill attached to this resort is cosy and filled with really friendly and interesting locals to talk to.

Colorful lights line the bridge across the Big Sur River at Fernwood Resort. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Best lesson

Buy a national park pass if you plan to road trip Western USA. The $80 “America the Beautiful” pass will allow you to enter and leave all National Parks in the country for an entire year. It be dumb not to visit National Parks in the USA and they each cost $10-25 to enter. We visited five in three weeks, which cost a total of $90, which means we could have saved $10 if we had known about this pass.

Want to read more? All posts about my trip out west can be found here. Enjoy and safe travels!

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to cooking like a champ

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to cooking like a champ

4 Comments 27 February 2013

Being a budget traveler and just enjoying cooking in general, it means a lot when I can cook while traveling. That’s why the best thing, for me, about traveling with my Jucy Champ in California had to be the full kitchen in the back. I loved waking up and making breakfast in the middle of a Cachuma Lake Recreation Area or cooking as the sun sets next to me in Big Sur.

The nice thing about cooking on the road is not only that you eat more affordably, but also that you can pick the best seat in the house.

I mainly ate what was cooked from the back of my Champ on my tour out West. No matter how equipped the kitchen, cooking from the back of a vehicle is a lot different than cooking at home. This guide will name the essentials that should be on your first shopping list, things to keep in mind and my personal road trip recipes.

Cooking essentials

Do you often catch yourself saying, “Oh no, I forgot….”? Road trippers should purchase these three things on their first trip to the grocery store to be used throughout the trip.

  1. Salt and pepper
  2. Dish soap and sponge
  3. Olive oil or butter

Boiling some water from the back of my Jucy Champ for coffee in the morning at Cachuma Lake. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Make sure you have

You think soup would be something inexpensive and easy to make on your road trip, until you get back to the car to find you don’t have a can opener! Luckily, my Jucy rental came fully equipped, so I didn’t have to buy any extra appliances, but it’s always good to be sure. Before planning out your meals, make sure you have these key items.

  1. Can-opener (soups, tuna, sauces)
  2. Sharp knife (meats, vegetables)
  3. Cutting board
  4. Colander (pasta, rice, vegetables)

Tips and reminders

Some things that are obvious to seasoned road trippers are unknown to newbies. Keeps these things in mind when cooking in your RV or camper van.

  1. No illegal dumping. This applies to anything and everything coming out of your vehicle, not just bathrooms. If you are emptying your waste tank ask people on the campground where to dispose of it.
  2. Consider how long things take to cook. The butane gas cartridges used for portable gas stoves pack quite a bit of cooking time, but be realistic with how long your meal idea with take.
  3. Wash up immediately. This is the golden rule in all kitchens, but especially those in cars. It’s not a good idea to drive with things floating around. Wash up and put everything away after eating, so you can go as soon as you want to.
  4. Cool off. Make sure your stove top and any pots or pans have cooled down before putting them away.
  5. Plan ahead. Purchase all your groceries etc. in advance of visiting national parks or secluded areas. These places have few choices and most are more expensive than say in the suburbs or big towns.

Three meal ideas

There are so many things you can cook from the back of your camper van. My advice is to keep it simple, but still have fun. These three videos were all shot from the back of my Jucy camper van and will give you some ideas of things to cook on your road trip.

Breakfast: Eggs California

Lunch: Nachos Grande

Dinner: Creamy fettuccine with three-cheese sausage

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Wine, nature, design and burgers (what!) in Napa Valley

Destinations, Favorite Things, Road Trip, USA, USA, Wine and Coffee

Wine, nature, design and burgers (what!) in Napa Valley

7 Comments 01 February 2013

While wine is definitely Napa Valley’s claim to fame with almost 950 wineries, about 450 of which you can visit. That isn’t all the Northern California destination has to offer.

For instance, did you know that Yountville, a town in the Valley, has the most Michelin Star restaurants per capita in North America? Did you also know that Napa is a geothermal area, home to one of three Old Faithful geysers? Finally, were you aware that there is an actual castle in this wine region?

From food to nature to architecture, and obviously to wine, Napa Valley surprised me on every level, and this is after only one day of visiting the area.

Since, I only spent a day here, I’m not writing a full guide about it, nor am I writing a piece highlighting Napa’s must sees. For that, I recommend visiting The Napa Wine Project or yTravel Blog. I’m merely going to explain why I chose the stops I did, and why I think you should consider them too.

Before I begin let me just make one thing clear, my day with Ric in Napa was extremely random. We started out only planning to visit, tour and taste at three wineries, some of which are located over a 30-minute drive from Downtown Napa, where we spent the night at Skyline Wilderness Park.

I chose to do this, because I wanted to actually be in the places where wines I had heard so much about are being made. I knew this meant I would be spitting out my tastings, which just feels wrong, because I was driving. But I’ve discovered that there are a million ways to see Napa and on my first time there, this is how I wanted to do it.

So I got to see a lot of the Valley and Ric…well he got pissed, as he was drinking for two, which would explain the last visit on this list.

Ric watching Old Faithful erupt in Napa Valley. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Nature in Napa

It’s impossible to miss this. Venture out of downtown Napa and you’ll start to follow roads lined with California Oak Trees, catch your ears popping as you drive higher and higher into the hills and maybe even spot steam coming out of the ground.

This area is home to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where visitors can see indigenous trees, such as coastal redwoods, Douglas-Fir and Tanoak. Those who are lucky might also spot deer, foxes and bobcats.

Napa is also a geothermal area. Ric spotted Old Faithful Geyser on the way out to our first stop on the agenda. We were really confused as we both thought it was in Yellow Stone National Park.

We found out there are actually three Old Faithfuls. If you’ve seen the one in Yellowstone, don’t bother with the one in Napa as you will be very disappointed, but if you’ve never seen a geyser before and you’re not on too tight a budget (this attraction is $14 per adult) it’s worth a stop and you’re guaranteed to see it erupt as it does so every five to ten minutes. Plus, they have a petting farm there with lambs. Need I say more?

Chateau Montelena winery was built in 1886 and French-inspired. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Chateau Montelena

This is the winery that put Napa on the wine world’s map. In 1976 Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay won a blind taste test held in Paris that put French wines against Californian wines. This tasting was huge. Not only did it prove that France was no longer the only place capable of making great wines, but it also proved that the vintners in California knew what they were doing.

A basic tasting here costs $20 per person. Visitors can see a bottle of the winning Chardonnay from 1973. They can also check out the winery’s old-world architecture and a very unexpected Japanese garden.

I felt like a princess as Ric photographed me on the steps of this Napa Valley castle. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Castello di Amorosa

Driving up a small road, lined with Italian Cypress Trees, vineyards to both sides and forests separating the property from the outside world, a building begins to appear.

“That’s an actual castle,” were my words to be exact, and I’m sure the words of many who visit Castello di Amorosa.

This 121,000-square-foot castle was a dream to create for owner Dario Sattui, who also owns V. Sattui Winery. His Italian heritage, fascination with Tuscan and medieval design and determination to create something spectacular have made this a dream come true for visitors to Napa as well.

Enter the castle up stone steps and across a drawbridge. A small information office will be to your right, where you can purchase tickets to tour the castle and taste its wines. Otherwise, visitors are allowed to roam certain areas of the castle on their own and sample the wines for a general admission price of $18.

It was easy to see how much our guide Jeff loved coming to work at the castle every day and be in the California sun. I think touring the castle would have been wonderful no matter how we did it, but Jeff made the experience incredible.

Jeff led our group of eight through the castle’s main dining area, courtyard, caves where barrels of wine are kept and even a torture chamber, all while talking about the history of the place, how it was made and characteristics about the wine making process. Everything in the castle is hand made and designed after medieval times. The wine is even made in a traditional Italian method, fermented in barrels, residue scraped out, instead of being filtered.

The wine at this boutique winery is wonderful, but most people visit to see the castle. Luckily, with Castello di Amorosa’s castle tour, visitors can tour the grounds and try ten different wines from their collection for $33.

There are so many ways to see this winery. It’s a given that any visitor to Napa should tour the grounds their first time. After that, look into the castle’s many parties throughout the year.

It’s incredible how much thought was put into the design at Darioush and continues to be put into the vineyard’s wine and hospitality. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Darioush

Walking into this winery, which is actually based off a castle as well, I had mixed emotions. Everything about the open room visitors walk into is perfect. A nice mixture of modern pieces and ancient design, all somehow mixed together in a way that just works.

Though in other places I might have, I didn’t get that museum, do-not-touch feeling, nor did I feel like I didn’t belong. Maybe it was the warm lighting in the room or the smiling faces all around, but walking into the classiest winery I’ve ever been to, I immediately felt right at home.

I felt the warmth in Darioush’s welcome within seconds of entering the winery. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This is one of the many details proprietor Darioush Khaledi thought about when he found his winery in 1997. Hospitality is one of the most important aspects of Persian culture, and Khaledi, who emigrated to the USA from Iran in the 1970s definitely made sure to highlight this at his vineyard, as well as several other characteristics of Persian culture.

The design of the cellar door at Darioush is actually based off Apadana Palace constructed by King Darius in Persia’s ancient capital city, Persepolis, which is near modern-day Shiraz, Iran where Khaledi grew up. Pomegranate trees welcome visitors as the front entrance. There is an amphitheater in the back. A collection of Khaledi’s maps of the Persian empire line the hallway to the bathroom. Plus they serve Persian-roasted pistachios, made with lime and salt.

This attention to detail carries over to the wine at Darioush. Khaledi plays a strong part in the wine making process, which is led by Steve M. Devitt. Our hostess, Michelle Romaine, who is extremely knowledgeable about the wine and history at Darioush, guided us through a tasting of their Signature Flight, which includes five different wines for $35.

For it, Ric and I sat down on leather chairs in our own personal tasting area in the main room. Each wine was clean and tasty, but my favorites were Duel, a cabernet/shiraz blend, and Capataz, which is a Malbec made from the Argentinian grapes.

I think it’s the traveler in me that is so drawn to Darioush, stepping onto this vineyard, feels like stepping out into another world, another time. Khaledi’s global influences, his interest in history from his homeland and wine from around the world, makes this winery a very special place to visit in Napa Valley.

Big D Burgers

Anyone who follows this blog or me on other networks, knows Ric has a thing for American burgers. Unless he is in Philadelphia, in which case he only orders cheese steaks, he will order a burger for almost every meal at almost every restaurant we visit. So for him to say Big D Burgers is his favorite in America. That means something, even if he was a few wines deep.

The burger shack looks like it hasn’t changed since the 50s, nor has its prices. He bought one quarter-pounder with cheese, curly fries and a drink and got another quarter-pounder free. You can bet I stole quite a few bites and sips of everything and-wow. The burgers are pretty standard, but made to perfection.

There are so many places in Napa known for culinary excellency that you should definitely take advantage of, but when you want to save money on a good meal during your stay, this is the best place we found to do it.

If you don’t want to worry about driving, some good options include, hiring a designated driver, booking a tour, purchasing a wine tasting card and sampling at various wine houses all in walking distance from each other in downtown Napa, taking the wine train or paying $1 for a single journey to various wineries on the Calistoga Shuttle.

All of my stops might already be included in the options above. Otherwise, I highly recommend making an effort to see each on their own or to convince one person in your group to take one for the team and follow this one day itinerary. Thank them with a burger, you’re going to get one for free any way.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A special thanks to Castello di Amorosa and Darioush for sponsoring my visit to Napa Valley.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Jucy Wheels Out West: LA to San Fran

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels Out West: LA to San Fran

5 Comments 23 January 2013

Driving on the Pacific Coast Highway north through Malibu, rocky mountains to my right, endless ocean to my left, I felt like I had finally arrived.

California.

The subject of many songs, stories and of course, road trips. The first state I’ll conquer on my tour out west and surprisingly one I know very little about.

Born on the east coast, everything I know of California comes from films and two short trips to Los Angeles. But after one week of touring, I know one thing for sure about this state, I’m in love with it.

My first priority after picking up my Jucy Champ was reaching a beach, so I headed to Santa Monica and continued driving along the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway. A quick stop at Neptune’s Net to try the crab cakes and pause to take in the view, then I continued on to Santa Barbara, where I would spend my first night.

Well that’s what I thought at least.

While there are RV Parks located not far from the town center, I found their rates to be a lot higher than State Parks located a few miles away, so I booked something a bit further out.

Heading deeper and deeper into the wild, I arrived at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, where I spent my first night. It was pitch black outside by the time I got there, so I was surprised to wake up the next morning and see I was surrounded by the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains. It’s an ideal place to spend a few days in the summer. But in the winter, you’ll find it pretty empty, so don’t worry about booking ahead this time of year.

Can you imagine waking up to this? It’s hard impossible to find a bad spot to camp at Cachuma Lake. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

My only goal for day two was to reach somewhere close to Hearst Castle, which I would tour the following day. I held out as far as possible, skipping State Park after State Park. I finally gave in at Morro Bay and it was a good decision.

Eucalyptus trees line the road to Morro Bay State Park, which is located right on the water. Since they only accept cash or check payments to park up for the night, I had to find a bank. Being in the heavily forested area, you would have no idea how close the town center and loads of shops are. I decided on staying in the town center, spending the night at Cypress Morro Bay RV and MH Park, where I got a space, free wifi and partial hook up for just under $40.

Basically, there are campgrounds here to suit everyone in this area at similar rates, whether you want to be completely surrounded by nature or stay in a town not far from it.

Cypress is walking distance from Morro Rock and Morro Strand State Beach. Along the way to the town’s iconic rock, I passed by a marina filled with sailboats and fishing charters, heaps of independently-owned, fresh seafood restaurants and even a bit of wildlife in the form of three otters playing in the water, not far from shore. I really loved this spot, because it has a nice balance of nature and town life. Plus the sunsets are incredible.

Watch the sun go down in Morro Bay then head to nearby seafood restaurants for dinner. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The next morning, I was on the road just after 7 a.m. on my way to Hearst Castle in San Simeon. I thought my view of the coast was unbelievable from Highway One here, but it got even better once I reached this castle on a hill. Media mogul William Randolph Hearst commissioned Julia Morgan, California’s first certified female architect, to build his dream estate in 1919.

It literally has the best of two continents, the grandeur of European royalty and the stunning California scenery. Hearst Castle offers an array of different tours, all of which allow visitors to wander around the estate until closing time. The estate is home to an incredible private collection of European art.

The next leg of my journey would actually bring me to tears and make me wonder why it took so long to visit this state.

There are no words to describe the drive on Highway One from Hearst Castle to Big Sur.

It’s so unfair to be the driver on this road. Luckily there are plenty of vista points along the way in Big Sur to stare at the scenery. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Picture a two lane road cut into rocky hills that rise from the sea. Clear skies and a bright sun lighting up a dark blue ocean. It’s a cruel joke that you need to pay so much attention to driving on the swerving road, because all I wanted to do was stare out my side window at the view of the coast.

I must have stopped about ten times at different vista points along the way. One to check out is a beach that’s home to hundreds of elephant seals, another because I spotted whales out to sea and the rest, well, if you saw just how incredible the coast looks here, you would understand.

Big Sur is a forest on the sea and my favorite stop from week one. I met up with my friend Emily here who flew in from New York City. In one day we crossed the Bixby Canyon Bridge, photographed McWay Falls, watched the sun set from Nepenthe Restaurant, drank tea and played with a cat called Theo at Henry Miller Memorial Library and met locals at Fernwood Grill, which might as well be a living room for them. I spent both nights camping at Fernwood in a spot right next to the Big Sur River. The forest there is filled with coastal red woods, not quite as big as the trees up north, but still fascinating.

McWay Falls pours right onto the beach and is only a ten minute walk from the parking lot at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This section of California is owned by nature, but also a few unique restaurants, bars and lodges seem to come out of nowhere along the road here. It’s hard to believe it’s only 30 minutes from civilization in the form of Monterey.

Pay attention when walking on trails in in the forest here. A poison oak plant brushed my skin at some point here. Nothing serious, but it’s good to be aware.

After a day in Big Sur, we made our way up to San Francisco, stopping at Carmel by the Sea, to stick our feet in the Pacific Ocean, Santa Cruz to check out the boardwalk and Half Moon Bay to see the bluff from a Ritz Carlton located right on the beach here.

We finally reached San Francisco, where we would spend a few days, around 7 p.m.. Give yourself an entire day or even longer to do the trip from Big Sur to the city, it takes a lot longer than you would think.

My Jucy Champ parked up at a lookout point near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We couldn’t have chosen a better weekend to be in the bay area as it was buzzing about the 49ers being in the NFC Division Championship game, which they won!

We started our visit in the city by taking in its best views, visiting Bakers Beach to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Twin Peaks to see the city from above. While it was worth getting to Twin Peaks for the view, driving up the hills in San Francisco is one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced on the road. Don’t even bother with the break going up. Keep your foot on the gas to stop the car from falling back.

Our trip to Alcatraz gave us another view of the city and one that must have been such a tease to the men imprisoned there decades ago. Tours of Alcatraz are self guided and told through recordings of former prisoners and officers. Focusing only on the voices that guide you and the areas they point out, it’s easy to get lost in the island prison.

Former prisoners on Alcatraz say some nights they could hear laughter coming from the city, a reminder of what they were missing out on. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Book your tickets to Alcatraz far in advance, it sells out days ahead at all times of year.

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the busiest spots in San Francisco. There is loads to do in this area and great seafood restaurants to eat at. We visited the sea lions at Pier 39 and I was lucky enough to be scared by the Bush Man yet again. This San Fran staple covers himself with shrubbery on the sidewalks around the wharf, scaring inattentive passer-bys, like me.

While the Wharf has a ton of restaurants, we opted for Italian food in North Beach for dinner as one of my friends who lives in the city, says it’s where all the locals go. Think 1950s Italian restaurants, stringed lights hung above the streets and tasty homemade meals.

While in the city we also visited Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies (a row of houses made famous by Full House), Haight Ashbury (where all the hippies traveled to in the 60s) and Lombard Street, which is known for being San Francisco’s crookedest street.

I said goodbye to Emily in San Francisco and welcomed on tour my wonderful boyfriend Ric. Our last activity in the city was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to Napa, something I never thought I would do in my life.

This state has so many claims to fame and so many icons known around the world that make it attractive at face value. But like any great love, it’s the state’s secrets and surprises that will make you fall for it. I can’t wait to find out more about it.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A special thanks to Hearst Castle and Alcatraz Cruises for welcoming me out to their attractions.

As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Tour the Jucy Champ (Video)

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Tour the Jucy Champ (Video)

14 Comments 15 January 2013

The sun is shining, ocean calm calm and the Pacific Coast Highway empty. Sounds like a good day to start my Jucy road trip in Western USA.

The down-under rental company premiered in the States this past summer and after driving it for only one day, I can honestly say it’s a unique addition to the country’s roadways. Everywhere I stop people stare, ask questions and get excited about my adorable green Jucy Champ, a pimped out Chrysler minivan.

It’s easy to under stand why.

To start with, the van drives like a dream and isn’t too much to handle for people who aren’t used to driving big cars. It’ll get you more miles to the gallon than those massive RVs, but still has plenty of space to spread out and get comfortable.

And what does all that space include?

On top of all the basics of modern vehicles, power-steering; air conditioning and what not, this ride also includes:

  • penthouse bed on top with ladder to reach it
  • a fold out, standard-size bed inside, suitable for two people
  • sheets, pillow, towels and blankets
  • DVD player, CD player and radio
  • 41-liter fridge
  • sink with a fresh water tank
  • gas cooker
  • interior table as well as another fold out table for outside
  • dishes, cutlery, kettle, pots and pans
  • interior lighting, blinds and electrical outlets

The Jucy team in Los Angeles were extremely helpful in showing me how to use the all the Champ’s goodies. I’ve already assembled my bed for the night and am now laying down in it, parked up on the beach in Santa Barbara. Already loving my life on the road with Jucy.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Jucy Wheels Out West

Blog, Destinations, Other, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels Out West

10 Comments 09 January 2013

There’s something about Western USA that just pulls people in. It’s in the shining lights of cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the wide open roads on the Pacific Coast Highway and especially the jaw-dropping landscapes of national parks like Yosemite and Grand Canyon. The West has long attracted travellers looking to stretch out or even make it big.

And in 2013 that’s going to be me.

I’m happy to announce that for my first trip of 2013 I’ll be heading out with with Jucy Rentals in the USA. During the three week tour of California and Nevada, I’ll be stopping at three major cities, at least five national parks and as many beaches as humanly possible.

I was first introduced to Jucy almost three years ago in Australia. Their cute green and purple vans with an even cuter pin-up girl on the side were extremely popular down under, which made me envious that we never had anything like that in the States.

Not anymore.

A look at my Wheels out West, the Jucy Champ campervan. Photo courtesy of Jucy Rentals

The vehicle rental company premiered in the USA this past summer. Why is this so exciting? Because they offer affordable rentals allowing people at all ages and budgets to go on the road trip they’ve always dreamed of, including me.

It may sound weird, but I’ve traveled the world more than my own country. This will be my first serious road trip of the USA since childhood. Sure I went on the regular family road trips and I’ve been on a few weekend trips here and there, but I’ve never been on a large-scale road trip anywhere in the USA and have traveled minimally out West.

So after three years of living abroad, it’s finally time to travel the homeland. The trip will start and finish in Los Angeles, looping out to Las Vegas than on to the Grand Canyon and back.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Here are a few of the things I’m most excited about:

Big cities:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Las Vegas

Big parks:

  • Big Sur
  • Yosemite
  • Grand Canyon
  • Joshua Tree

Big attractions:

  • Eames House
  • Hearst Castle
  • Alcatraz
  • Napa Valley

It’s going to be a full three weeks. Luckily, I won’t be doing it alone. I’ll be catching up with friends along the way, traveling with Emily, one of my best friends from college, from Big Sur to San Francisco and meeting up with Ric in Napa Valley to finish off the trip together.

I’ve done my research and picked out a lot of places I’m eager to visit, but I want to hear from you! Where would you visit on a road trip of Western USA? What sights are you eager to see and what would you like to know more about?

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Day three: Star Homes Tour and Entourage

Destinations, USA

Day three: Star Homes Tour and Entourage

4 Comments 23 October 2011

This is a three part series of our trip to Hollywood. Read about the rest of our trip here.

We got to Hollywood on our last day in LA, hoping to soak it up as much as we could with what time we had left. We still hadn’t seen the Hollywood sign, which we were on the lookout for the entire time, so we asked some of the tour companies for help on how to get there.

You’ll notice a lot of tour operators on Hollywood Boulevard offering trips to the stars’ homes and around Hollywood in general. Some of the more well-known companies can be very expensive, but the start-up companies are really cheap and all of them are willing to bargain.

We were never really into going on a homes of the stars tour, but found that the easiest way to get to Mulholland Drive, where people can see the Hollywood sign, without a car. So Ric and I used the haggling skills we learned in SE Asia and reached a deal with Starline Tours for about $30 per person.

Our guide was very knowledgeable of the area. He took us to famous rock n’ roll places the Sunset Boulevard like Whiskey a Go Go. We saw heaps of homes including that of Ringo Star, Courtney Cox and Tom Cruise. We cruised through Beverly Hills.

Whiskey a Go Go has been the birthplace of many rock n’ roll bands, including The Doors. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

And of course we got to see the Hollywood Sign. In fact we got to see it a dozen times. Every other minute, including from Hollywood Boulevard, the tour guide would say, “And if you look over there you can see the Hollywood sign.” That left us feeling a bit dumb considering the Hollywood sign was the main reason we booked the tour, but it was a great one, so I’m happy we did it.

Ric and I in front of the Hollywood sign from a lookout point on Mulholland Drive.

After Starline dropped us off at Hollywood Boulevard, Ric and I still had a couple of hours to spare before we had to leave for the airport. I thought what better way to end an amazing three days in Hollywood than with a drink at a famous hideout for the stars, the Roosevelt Hotel.

Opened in 1927, the famed hotel hosted the first Academy Awards in 1929, is supposedly haunted by the spirit of Marilyn Monroe and has accommodated a long list of famous guests, including Clark Gable, Hugh Hefner, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Courtney Love. The hotel’s Spanish-style interior is enough reason to visit.

A lot of Hollywood stars have actually lived at the Roosevelt for long periods of time. They stay at the hotel after messy divorces, rehab and maybe even after their homes burn down, which is the story line that led Entourage character, Vinny Chase to move into the Roosevelt Hotel in the series’ final season.

Ric and I taking the elevator at the Roosevelt Hollywood. Photo by Ric Hackey

Feeling bold after a midday drink at the Roosevelt, I decided Ric and I should go exploring. Our exploration led us to a room on the ground floor that was empty besides about ten director’s chairs with the word “Entourage” written on their backs. We knew the name, we knew the style of writing and we definitely knew the show.

Ric and I are huge TV buffs and Entourage was actually our favorite show, hence why we trekked to Urth Cafe. Missing the 7th season on HBO while spending most of the previous year in Australia, we came across the entire season on disc in Cambodia. We watched it all on a terrible bus journey from Siem Reap to Bangkok, only days before arriving in LA. So you can say at that point we were very excited about the show’s final season.

But at the time we had no idea it would lead the cast to the Roosevelt Hotel.

Before Ric and I had a moment to do anything other than look at each other with wide eyes and even wider smiles, a crew member wearing headphones appeared in front of us to grab the chair.

He looked at me then to my camera and asked, “Do you want to take a photo?”

“Yea,” I replied feeling oddly star-struck.

Then I asked the dumbest question probably ever.

“So what are you guys filming?”

He looked at me, then looked at the chair and replied, “Umm, Entourage.”

Then he left, so we followed him.

On the second floor of the hotel there was a camera crew and what looked like people bowling in the room they were filming in. We watched from across the balcony as first Scott, the new manager, appeared, then Turtle then Eric. While watching the final season months later, we found out they actually were bowling at the Roosevelt during episode six.

Watching Entourage being filmed at the Roosevelt Hotel. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I couldn’t imagine a more ideal end to our trip to Hollywood. Unfortunately, we would later also get an ideal end to our trip to California when our final mode of public transportation, a Continental flight to Philadelphia was cancelled. No wonder everyone in Hollywood flies private.

Find out what we did in Hollywood on days one and two.

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Day Two: Universal Studios Hollywood

Destinations, USA

Day Two: Universal Studios Hollywood

6 Comments 22 October 2011

This is a three part series of our trip to Hollywood. Read about the rest of our trip here.

I think it’s imperative to go on at least one studio tour while visiting LA. Unfortunately, a lot of them are not very easy to come by. Paramount is probably the most well-known tour. For awhile I only heard that you had to know somebody or book very early to tour their studio, but now it might be a bit easier.

If you can’t find a way to make it into the coveted Paramount Studios or another grand place like that, visit Universal Studios where not only are you guaranteed a great studio tour, but also some great rides.

Universal Studios is the last place I thought I would end up in Hollywood, considering theme parks are always expensive and we were on a pretty tight budget at that point, but I just couldn’t say no to Ric and the film lover in me.

In a typical Italian town featured in film. Photo by Richard Hackey

It was expensive, $77 per person general admission and an extra $20 each in food and drink by the end of the day.

It was worth it.

We had an amazing day. We visited Jurrasic Park on a ride, we ended up at Moe’s Tavern and we went on the Universal Studios Tour, which took us to the old sets for Jaws, War of the Worlds and even Wysteria Lane, where Desperate Housewives is still being filmed.

Ric channeling Barney Gumble in front of Moe’s Tavern. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We never waited more than a half hour for a ride and for some rides we didn’t wait at all. Another great thing about Universal is that it’s located at the top of a hill, giving its patrons some great views of LA.

The boat used in the 2005 version of King Kong. It looks really large on camera, but is only small in person. We saw it on the Universal Studios Tour. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

A day at Universal left us exhausted and poor, so we headed back to our hotel for the day with only half a day left in LA.

Universal Studios is located in Universal City, about a 15-minute drive from Hollywood depending on traffic. The area has its own metro stop called Universal City, from there Universal Studios is only a short walk, but it’s uphill, so take the free shuttle they offer at the bottom of the hill. 

Read about days one and three in Hollywood.

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Three days in Hollywood

Destinations, USA

Three days in Hollywood

6 Comments 21 October 2011

Visiting a friend in California last May, Ric and I had no intentions of seeing LA. But the adventurers in us, pushed us to take on California public transportation and visit the star-studded city. In LA we learned just how big the city is, just how terrible its buses are and that it really isn’t that hard to end up on a Hollywood set (spoiler-we landed on the set of the HBO series Entourage!)

Day One: Hollywood Boulevard and Melrose Avenue

Day Two: Universal Studios Hollywood

Day Three: Star Homes Tour and Entourage

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