I can’t remember when I first heard about Big Sur, but I know that Pinterest had a hand in pushing me to get myself there. The images are too dreamy for words and now I have my own pictures of this magical place. You take picturesque Highway 1 from Carmel and soon you find yourself on a twisty two lane road far from everything, including cell service. Among the large mountains and ocean as far as your eye can see, you feel small.
At some point on highway 1, we found ourselves behind a zippy Mini Cooper S, which we called, Ba-ba-Big Sur because of the personalized license plate. This little zipster knew all of the passing zones on the winding roads and Marc knew he had found a friend. The roads are fun to drive, but some people are heavy brakers and understandably more timid around curves. Everyone can go at their own pace, but if cars begin to accumulate behind you, it is easy to pull off at one of the many lookout points and let others pass. The suggested speed signs at the big curves are accurate and helpful for navigating the road. Coincidentally, the Mini Cooper pulled into Nepenthe’s parking lot, the restaurant we had planned on for lunch.
Nepenthe has long tables outside with an incredible view of Big Sur. Even if you sit inside, large windows offer a beautiful glimpse as well. I loved our friendly waitress, too.
The fresh food at Nepenthe was just what I was hoping for. A fresh heirloom tomato and burrata salad to start and a jumbo lump crab salad for dinner. I had their special Margarita, too, which completed the vacation feeling as we looked out over this view.
We continued on the winding road another hour or so south toward our hotel. We made an excessive amount of stops to take pictures along the way. I would whip my head around to take it all in and tell Marc to pull over convinced THIS must be the best view of Big Sur. Each new view seemed to increase in beauty. Big Sur conveniently has several spots to easily turn off of the road to soak in the next beautiful view.
We eventually reached The Ragged Point Inn and settled into our room with a big view. With limited cell service, it was the best excuse to relax and enjoy. Still a bit full from lunch, we wandered into the hotel’s restaurant looking for a glass of wine to go with the setting sun. We couldn’t help ordering a few appetizers to go along with the wine and split a grilled romaine caesar salad with shrimp and mushroom and leek crostini.
The sun dipped below the horizon as we sipped our wine. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We sat at our outdoor table long after it was dark and the temperature had dipped. I even ran to get my coat and returned to our little table to enjoy the rest of our wine.
In bed by 9:30 pm Pacific time led to an early rise for me. I snuggled under the covers of our cozy bed waiting for a peak of sunshine. I stepped onto our room’s porch and looked to the right to snap the photo just below. Then I stepped out to get a few more shots.
I knew where I wanted to eat breakfast and it was just over an hour drive north back into Big Sur. I bribed Marc with the promise of a mid-day nap to get him stirring early. Our destination was the famous Big Sur Bakery.
The Big Sur Bakery and Cafe only serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, but their amazing pastries are available each morning. I opted for the massive almond croissant, which I only saw a portion of in the case. Look at how it makes Marc’s ham and cheese croissant seems small. We each ordered an incredible chai tea latte. It was everything a vacation breakfast should be. They also had the spot with the best cell service.
We leisurely traveled back to our hotel, soaking in the view that we were now becoming familiar with. We thought about doing a tame hiking trail and then realized we didn’t have the right shoes on. The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park trail is highly recommended by travelers and locals, though, and not far south from Big Sur Bakery.
We did take that mid-day nap, though.
Our friends that live in San Ramon arranged for a babysitter and juggled a work schedule to join us in Big Sur that afternoon. We planned to meet up at Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, another 20 miles south of Ragged Point.
We stopped off at a turnout that overlooked a sandy beach inhabited by swimming elephant seals. They were pretty cute.
We met our friends at the ticket office and soon we were on a bus heading up a steep and winding road to see Hearst Castle. It was strange and beautiful and mysterious.
Also, do not “accidentally” fall into the gorgeous pool. We did not try this, but we asked one of the guards in a joking manner what would happen and he very seriously answered that the police would be called and they would determine the charges. Gulp.
Our smiles faded, but the guard continued to chat with us and shared interesting stories about the property and meeting Leonardo DiCaprio. He said that Leo is taller than you’d imagine and quite handsome. If you do go, make sure to ask any of the people working there your best questions. Everyone is proudly committed to their job and very knowledgable about all aspects of the property. Our after-tour chats with two tour guides and the guard were my favorite part.
We had been tucked into the mountains of Big Sur and were surprised to find how warm it was at the top of the hill where Hearst Castle was built. I’m always fascinated by California’s changing temperatures. The four of us drove to The Ragged Point Inn to freshen up before dinner at The Wild Coast Restaurant in the Treebones Resort. The restaurant grows most of its vegetables in their on-site organic garden and kitchen scraps are fed to their happy chickens or composted. Only the sushi picture turned out in the dim light, but we all enjoyed our meal. Everything was fresh and just what we needed after our time in the hot sun.
My friend Kelly, who always has the best ideas, suggested we purchase a few bottles of wine at our hotel restaurant to enjoy after dinner. Our room had a little porch and we sat there with our glasses of wine and a black sky filled with bright stars. We laughed and talked while spotting the big dipper and Orion (by way of his belt). We even made a friend that night with a jovial neighbor that had locked himself out of his room, but found his way in eventually.
The next morning, we packed up and said goodbye to our beautiful view. Marc asked if I wanted to drive and I figured I should take advantage of the driving challenge. It was fun to drive the twists and turns while giving Marc a chance to appreciate the coast. Although we were probably still a little full from dinner, we couldn’t help but try Deetjen’s for breakfast.
Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn has been around since the early 30’s when a Norwegian immigrant, Helmuth Deetjen, and his wife Helen moved to Big Sur. It started as a place to welcome travelers making their way along the coast before highway 1 was completed and evolved into an inn. You can stay in their charming rooms or just visit the restaurant for their famous eggs benedict.
The mimosa is made with fresh squeezed juice and they do not skimp on the hollandaise as you can see. You can add different toppings to your eggs benedict and I went with classic ham and added avocado. While in California, I added avocado whenever possible. It was amazing. We only had a peek of the property after breakfast, but we did get a chance to see some beautiful redwood trees a short walk from the restaurant.
Our friends had told us how lucky we were that the weather cooperated because the thick fog could easily cover Big Sur’s coast from being seen. As if to prove their point, the fog rolled in as we drove out of Big Sur.