Our California road trip adventure holiday

California Adventure

California Adventure

There is a proverb in Setswana language that says ‘Go tsamaya ke go bona’ which, when directly translated means ‘to go is to see’ and which means that travelling and getting out of your comfort zone, opens your mind and expands your horizon.

I didn’t realise when I was planning our California road trip that it would have such an impact on my life. When I was planning our family holiday to California, I was focused on the logistics and bookings and making sure we had a fun itinerary and I was both looking forward and a little anxious about what was in store for us.

Here is what we did:

1. Cycle the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge is very common in San Francisco; the amount of cycle hire companies at Fisherman’s Wharf is proof of that. What made it an adventure for me is that I am not a confident cyclist; especially if the road has pedestrians, bicycles and cars – and that’s all the roads everywhere in the world, to be honest!

The cycle hire shop gave us a map and we took a self-guided tour to Sausalito from Fisherman’s Wharf. PJ and Neo rode together on a bicycle fitted with a child seat and I rode solo.

The tour which takes about an hour and a half to two hours (according to the cycle hire shop) took us three hours! Luckily we had the whole day to do this because I stopped a lot! Every time I stopped Neo would shout ‘Mom, let’s ride!’ At some point, I was so tempted to throw in the towel, to just give up and go walk back – damn the bike – but I kept thinking of how one day I would tell Neo about this experience; or about how I would relate the story back to my friends and family. I don’t want to be that guy… The one that gives up when things get rough or uncomfortable.

I am so proud of myself that I did something that scared me, and loved it in the end. Mostly, I am proud that I can say I cycled on the Golden Gate Bridge; not many people can say that!

We cycled to Sausalito and took the (last!) ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf but not before grabbing some food from the Napa Valley Burger. Sausalito is a charming little town; it’s a less touristy version of Fisherman’s Wharf and I wish we had spent more time there.

We had a picnic at Fisherman’s Wharf and some people watching at the same time and  then rode the last block to return the bicycles.

I think the hire place were both relieved and surprised that I had made it back considering how nervous I looked when we cycled out. We got there just before they closed too!

Cycling San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

Cycling San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

Steadily making our way there

Steadily making our way there

2. Riding the cable cars in San Francisco
I loved that the cable cars are old and quaint and was taken by their vintage quality and the authenticity. Everything about them is done so manually I was in awe. In a time when just about everything is automated and things can happen with just the touch of a button, I loved how old school these cable cars are. They are operated the same way they have been since the mid1800s.

We went there in the afternoon and it was a bit of a wait but the ride was worth it. To be honest, when I was reading about it, I thought it would be faster than it actually was but liked that it was sedate enough for Neo to enjoy it. The ride was thrilling and it ended too soon.

Ready to ride the cable cars

Ready to ride the cable cars

3. Whale watching at Monterey
When I was telling Neo about going to California, I kept telling him that we would see whales and dolphins. I reckon even as an almost four year old, he is bound to remember seeing the whales more than anything else. I had to do a lot of research finding a cruise company that would allow a three year old on board. Most places online had a minimum age of six years old. We finally found Chris’ Whale Watching and they were more than happy for Neo to come on board.

The cruise was lovely and we spotted some dolphins and a few whales plus a lot of seals. Neo was happy and so were we.

Monterey Whale and Dolphin Watching

Monterey Whale and Dolphin Watching

4. Surfing at Santa Barbara

This is possibly the highlight for the whole trip for us. I found Santa Barbara Surf School and they teach all ages. When I was planning this, I had initially only signed up PJ to surf and then a few weeks later when the surf school emailed to confirm, I decided to sign me and Neo up as well. I told them that Neo is confident in water and they agreed to teach him and that he is possibly the youngest student they have ever had. Most surf schools have a minimum age of 12.

The day of the lesson was lovely and hot with clear blue skies – no chance of the lesson being cancelled due to bad weather. I was excited and nervous. I am not a confident swimmer and I honestly imagined being swept away by the Pacific Ocean. Even with all this, I still wanted to go ahead with it; I didn’t just want to sit on the side and wave as the boys have all the fun.

We drove to Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara while listening and singing along to loud music to calm our nerves. The surf school booked the three of us into a private lesson with two instructors: one for Neo and one for PJ and me. We got kitted out in wetsuits (the water can get cold and they would rather we focused less on how cold the water is and concentrate on having fun surfing) and the two instructors did a quick demo on the beach of how to stand up on the board. Then I was up! I put on a brave smile, negotiated the rocks in the ocean and then lay down on the board. The first wave was massive, toppled me over and washed away whatever confidence I had managed to build up. Hardly a minute in the water and I wanted a time-out. So I came out the water looking a little bit defeated and wanting to gather my thoughts and thinking of a solid reason of what I’m going to tell the guys about not going back in the water. Then something else happened: I sat on the beach, could literally hear PJ screaming with ecstasy because he stood on the board for the first time. Then I looked at Neo so brave and fearless, surfing or, as he would say later ‘catching a wave!’. I sat there and thought ‘I want to be able to look back on this day and smile at how much fun we all had as a family’. As I was sitting there, I was greeted by two lovely ladies who had seen us earlier and asked how Neo was doing. They had seen us earlier when we were wearing the wetsuits and marvelled at how young Neo was and how keen he was on surfing and more importantly, how he was enjoying it so much.

 

Neo waiting to 'catch a wave!'

Neo waiting to ‘catch a wave!’

Woohoo!

Woohoo!

 

I think that’s what it took for me to want to go back in.

The rest of the surfing lesson was amazing. Brilliant! Incredible! Exhilarating! When I went back in the second time around, fear was the very last thing I was feeling. I felt free and I felt like I was on top of the world. It is a feeling I will never forget and I hope to feel like that again someday. I stood on the board and screamed so loud, I’m sure my mother in South Africa heard me.

Paddling - even looking at this picture has me smiling.

Paddling – even looking at this picture has me smiling.

I will never forget Santa Barbara and I will never forget surfing and how it made me feel – from being a bunch of nerves to feeling on top of the world. And, of yes, I will most definitely do it again.

More than just another trip, our road trip forced me to confront my fears, look at them in the eye and tell them to go bother someone else. I came back from this trip reenergised and refreshed and ready to take on the world. I think fear is normal but I don’t want it to rule my life. I want to be a positive role model to my son; I want to make my family proud and I want to constantly challenge and surprise myself.

It is amazing what travelling does to a person, doesn’t it? The things that we did, that had me saying ‘…I am not confident…’ are the ones that stand out in my mind, the ones that I enjoyed the most. I am trying to imagine just how much fun I would have had if I had decided not to do any of them…

Thanks for stopping by

Kgomotso xx

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Neo’s style – sunny in California 

I love hot and sunny temperatures and when we were in California for a family road trip recently, the weather didn’t disappoint. I loved dressing Neo in sandals, shorts and character t-shirts.

Here are my favourite picks of Neo’s style for summer*:

  1. Dinosaurs

Our first stop on our road trip was to Monterey (pronounced Mon-eray by the locals). It was a glorious day and we spent the afternoon doing boat-based activities. Neo wore brown cargo shorts from Gap paired up with a blue dinosaur t-shirt from Next.

At the Monterey Bay

At the Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf

  1. The blues**

Leadbetter beach was the first place we went to when we arrived  in Santa Barbara. It was a wonderful 27 degrees and time to let the toes free! Neo is wearing blue demin shorts from Primark, a Santa Cruz (very apt!)  t-shirt from Tesco to match the clear blue skies :D.

Leadbetter beach in Santa Barbara is the perfect spot to dip our toes in the ocean

  1. Green and Blue

It started getting hotter as we headed south from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. Just outside Los Angeles, we stopped at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and were very excited to go into Air Force One. Here he is wearing a blue t-shirt I picked up at the (now closed) British Music Experience and green shorts from Gap. I just love the green and blue combination with a touch of yellow.

At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

  1. Painted purple

I bought a few character t-shirts before we left for LA in case Neo wanted some while we were away and they turned out to be too expensive. On the morning when we went to see the minions at Universal Studios, he picked the batman t-shirt I got from Primark for £4 to wear with his purple shorts from Polarn O Pyrett.

With the minions

Hanging out with the minions

Here is Neo chatting with Fiona and Shrek.

With Fiona and Shrek

Giving Fiona and Shrek a bit of the cold shoulder

  1. Cowboy

For our visit to Disneyland Resort at Anaheim, I wanted a non-disney t-shirt so he would be easy to spot in a crowd. He had other ideas though and insisted on wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Woody from Toy Story with striped shorts from Zara. The t-shirt was a great conversation starter and we found ourselves chatting to other parents also waiting in lines for the rides.

Big smiles

‘Cheese!’

  1. Spiderman

We spent the last day in the US exploring the sights in Hollywood and Los Angeles. It was still lovely and hot so Neo wore a dark grey pair of shorts from H&M with a bright spiderman t-shirt from Primark. He was in very good company – we met three other Spidermans at the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame

I absolutely loved dressing Neo in shorts and t-shirts and I can’t for warmer temperatures here so we can have some fun in the sun.

*Neo has other hats but he insisted on wearing the spiderman cap (from Primark) and the blue and yellow sunglasses (from Boots) the entire time we were away!

** The cars came with us everywhere we went but have not been played with since we’ve come back.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kgomotso x

Our California Adventure Family Road Trip

California Adventure

My family and I have come back from the most awesome, fun filled and amazing road trip in California, the incredible #rammzepicroadtrip. I remember looking out the window while on the road and thinking what a brilliant time we are having and I wanted to pinch myself to make sure it was all real and I wasn’t dreaming. It wasn’t all smooth-going all the way, and that was the beauty of it. Our holiday had all the ingredients of a perfect family road trip: lots of laughing out loud, sunny and warm temperatures, lots of highs, some down time, a bit of stressing followed by warm hugs, some scream-with-excitement moments, a decent number of lie-ins, late nights and good food. My husband PJ called it the ‘bestest family holiday!’and I tend to agree.

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Adding a bit of zing to our little corner of the internet

I decided even before the start of the New Year the blog needed a bit of work. It is our very own corner of the internet and I was beginning to feel like it was not representing me, Neo and PJ very well or that I was not taking it seriously. It was lacking personality, colour, fizz, pizazz, you name it! When I was picking my blog theme, I was thinking minimalistic but I ended up with boring.

 

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Our California Road Trip check list

I blogged a little while ago about our 2015 travel wish list and we decided to move our main trip to California in a few weeks!

 

So we are going on a road trip from San Francisco! I’m so excited; there are nights I actually can’t sleep. I am planning the trip myself and hoping to make it a really fun trip, not just filled with the usual posing in front of things and all that. So, here are key things on how I am getting on.

Map of our trip 

We will spend a few days in San Francisco and then work our way to Los Angeles. The plan is to not spend more than three hours in the car between the stops we are making along the way. I don’t think Neo, or either of us for that matter, will enjoy spending that much time in the car!

Pacific Highway Road Trip Map

Road Trip Map

Getting there

We are flying into LAX and catching a one way flight to San Francisco. Flights to SFO were a bit more expensive and seeing as we were going to take a one way flight, it made more sense to choose the cheaper option and fly into LA.

Tip: Flights to the US are cheapest from January to March. Unless you buy on sale, the difference can be large.

 

Car hire

We are hiring a car from San Francisco to LA. If you are ever doing this yourself, it’s important to pick car hire companies that will not charge you extra for one way travel.

Tip: In California, there is no charge to add an additional driver when hiring a car; double check this when you are booking the car.

 

Car seat hire

I found the cost of this to be a bit ridiculous.  If you have pre-schooler children, maybe consider getting the BoostApak instead of hiring a car seat. It is a back pack that also doubles as a booster seat that will be perfect for Neo to use. I bought mine for £15 off ebay.

 

BoostApak - image from www.trunki,com

BoostApak – image from http://www.trunki,com

GPS

Charges for a GPS can be a bit high even thought there is a limit of about $65.  We have a Garmin navigator and I would rather load maps and take that with me. If you are on Three network, like me, you can use your mobile phone in the USA without being charged any roaming fees. That means we can use google maps and Waze to help us navigate our way without any additional charges.

 

Things to do and see

I  will share the highlights:

Alcatraz – better to book this well in advance

Golden Gate Bridge

Cable Cars

Disneyland Resort

Hollywood sign

Universal studios

 

I am trying to find a reasonable compromise between planning the itinerary and leaving enough blanks for some spontaneous activities.

 

Have you been? Any suggestions of what to do as a family with a three year old?

Thanks for stopping by!

Kgomotso xx