Notes on Napa, Big Sur, Joshua Tree and Christmas travel
One of the first things that come to my mind when I think about Christmas is travel. Come December, I feel a strong urge to get on a plane and get away. Away from Christmas shopping, carols, trees and ugly Santa sweaters. Doing just that has been a Christmas family tradition. There are two things, actually, Christmas travel and excessive Christmas cookie baking.
I can trace the beginning of this Christmas travel tradition to the year when I was ten years old. That year my parents decided to skip Christmas and go to India for three weeks instead (we might have skipped Christmas but I am pretty sure we still had a ton of Christmas cookies beforehand).
I still remember, like it was yesterday, getting into a taxi in New Delhi early in the morning and being dropped off in a suburban train station. I had my first ever cup of Masala chai, and curiously observed women dressed in a funny combination of light silky saris and heavy knit scarves, wooly hats and mittens, I guess it was quite chilly. We spent most of our first day in India on the train; there was an Indian family with a girl my age in our train compartment and I remember attempting to have a conversation with her in my broken English. I also remember getting out of the train at night and taking our first rickshaw ride, passing wondering cows and camel carriages on the street. I am sure I was jet legged, tired, confused and maybe a little scared at the time but I more importantly I recall a strong sense of excitement, wonder and adventure.
This feeling of adventure and discovery is what I would come to crave often in the following years. After our first trip to India, there were many more incredible Christmas trips with my parents. There were also Christmases spent at home, watching Bollywood movies and going for beers in a gloomy pub by the Prague Castle. But whenever it was possible, we would try to come up with some exciting travel plans at Christmas time. Last year me and Jerry spent Christmas road tripping in California.
This time last year we were driving down on Pacific Highway One, trying to balance staying on the road and enjoying the dreamy landscape of Big Sur while occasionally being passed by a campervans and convertibles.
We started our trip in Napa Valley after Jerry’s brother’s graduation in Saint Helena, we drove south to Big Sur and then inland to Joshua Tree and we ended our trip in Orange County, in Jerry’s parents house.
This was my second time visiting Napa, the first time we stayed in the city and this time we stayed closer to Saint Helene, in a remote house in the middle of a vineyard. I highly recommend visiting Napa, especially if you into food and wine and that kind of thing. If I had to pick one favorite winery that we visited, it would be Sinskey, they specialize in pairing their wines with food and have a beautiful garden, where they grow their own vegetables. For a special meal, my favorite place to eat was Goose and Gander. Santa Helena is a beautiful little town, the main street is especially charming – make sure to visit the Model bakery, they serve my favorite Blue Bottle Coffee and Olivier is also great – you can get free samples of all of their foodie goods and get some Napa gifts. Another town worth visiting is Healdsburg.
Big Sur is crazy beautiful and for me it became synonymous with chill California surfer life. You can just dive PCH1 and enjoy the views, you can stop in different trails and do some hikes. The hole area by the coast is open and you can wonder around everywhere, even outside of trails. For places to stay with stayed in a campground, a motel and an awesome airbnb place, which I would highly recommend – it’s a young couple who bought a large piece of land and they rent out a hippie trailer and a couple of tents. Treebones is a beautiful eco – resort nearby, we stopped there for dinner one night. There are plenty of places to stop for food along PCH1 but my absolute favorite was Big Sur Bakery – it is a hippie California foodie heaven, they bake incredible sourdough bread and have a great menu of seasonal food and healthy treats. It is the kind of place where I wish I could go to every single day.
Visiting Joshua Tree is pretty much like going to Mars, the landscape is out of this world. We stayed in an airbnb house in Joshua Tree Town. The national park is huge and there is a lot of great places for hiking and rock-climbing. My favorite activities were climbing up Mount Ryan, visiting the Chola cactus garden and just driving into a random road in the dessert and stargazing. The Natural Sisters bistro had a good selection of healthy foods.