These days my memory fails me quite a bit and I’ve realized that I’ll forget the specifics of what I do or who I saw unless it’s written down. This is an attempt to document the past week or so, when my college friends visited CA and we took a road trip down south to SB and a few nearby towns.
Day 1 — SF Day
We started the day by getting some breakfast sandos and made our way to SF. First stop was Rise & Grind for coffee, which had some really good chai/chamomile tea lattes and even a peanut butter-based latte. YUM.
Then we meandered through Golden Gate Park for a few hours, walking through many gardens and the National AIDS Memorial — truly one of my favorite parts of the park. It is such a tranquil area that was relatively empty at the time we went which was nice. After a while, we found ourselves at the De Young Museum and decided to check it out. Pro tip — if you graduated from college anytime recently and still have your student ID on you, admission is only $6! Otherwise there are a lot of corporate discounts that might also hook you up with discounted or free tickets.
The star of the museum was the Kehinde Wiley special exhibition. I was not really familiar with his work before visiting, but he is a painter/sculptor dedicated to elevating the pain, plight, and suffering of Black people in the U.S. His paintings are massive in size, and often feature a person in a great deal of visible, emotional or physical pain with vibrant and colorful flowers or leaves in the background.
We also went up to the 9th floor of a tower in the museum and got to see SF from the floor-to-ceiling glass observation deck. This was cool since I haven’t really seen much of SF from a high floor of a building with that kind of an aerial view before.
We stopped at Cinderella Bakery for a quick snack featuring Russian potato-filled dumplings and also some sweet treats (egg tarts from next-door bakery and some eclairs). This was enough to tide us over till heading to PCH, one of my favorite cocktail bars in this city. We met up with a couple other friends by this point, and had a satisfying Mexican dinner at Tropisueno, before taking the CalTrain down back to South Bay. The evening Caltrains are so painfully long but go by significantly faster when you are in excellent company and complimenting some of your favorite people on the best parts of their character :’). Thanks TikTok for giving us deep conversation questions to make the journey more entertaining.
Day 2 — Driving down
We woke up lazily and headed to my friend’s parents’ house for lunch of masala dosas. For someone who doesn’t cook much lately, there is nothing better than a warm home-cooked meal. This was so necessary before making the drive down to SB. We reached around 7 or 8 pm, got some yummy tacos and crashed in the Airbnb.
Day 3 — Malibu
Our plan was tentatively drive down and explore LA a bit but after evluating traffic we made it to a couple of beaches in Malibu and also up to Calabasas to visit an Erewhon store. I’m fully aware of how basic that is, and the fact that smoothies shouldn’t cost $17 a piece.. but they were actually SO good and I’m glad to have tried them (especially the blue pineapple one!). Part of this day also involved some browsing around a strip mall next to a Dume beach, where we met a rainbow parrot in a Gorjana store. How fun.
We also stopped at Ventura Beach for sunset with a couple of drinks in hand. Watching the sunset at the beach in people’s company is one of my favorite things — even though it’s freezing most of the time, there’s nothing quite like watching the orange bulb of the sun slowly descend on the ocean. Your brain feels so present and focused on the moment till you can no longer see the sun.
Day 4 — Santa Barbara
This was a chill exploration day. We started by getting brunch at Jeannine’s, and I can honestly say I have never been treated so well by a brunch restaurant. The line moved fast, and they served us orange juice and lemon scones while we were waiting, which was so unexpected and appreciated. 11/10 line service!! After eating to our hearts’ content, we wandered into an art fair occurring along the oceanfront, and browsed the various prints, pottery, and stationary on display.
After this point we wanted to make our way to a Mission at the other end of town, but wandered in and out of so many shops in downtown. We picked up some things in a vintage store, various clothing stores, and other shopping stops. In the afternoon, we also stopped to visit my friend’s brother at UCSB and got a tour of the campus. Visiting college campuses is a nostalgic activity and I think I’ll forever enjoy checking out campuses and imagining the college experience in different settings.
I forget when but we got some ice cream at McConnell’s. Their chocolate-covered strawberry flavor was my favorite — it was so light and creamy, and perfectly fruity from fresh strawberry chunks. It was a lighter, cleaner version of my regular JP Licks ice cream order in Boston (strawberry ice cream topped off with chocolate fudge).
The night ended at a Mexican restaurant/club called Sandbar, which was so unexpectedly fun. The dinner part finished and the entire back part of the restaurant turned into a bar club kind of vibe, with an awesome DJ churning out absolute bangers and thowbacks one after another. Such good vibes.
Day 5 — Ostrichland and San Luis Obispo
This was our last day, and we had a few planned stops on the way back up to South Bay. First, we stopped at Ostrichland, which is an ostrich and emu farm in a town called Solvang. This was such a highlight, ostriches are such funny animals and so entertaining to observe and even feed. You don’t need more than 30–45 minutes to get the Ostrichland experience, but I’d highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area and want to see some fun birds.
We then stopped at Pismo Beach, and walked along the boardwalk while watching all the surfers. After this, we made our way to San Luis Obispo for lunch at Giuseppe’s, and had some delish pizza and wine. Here, we also stopped by a Mission, and sat inside for a few minutes while a prayer was going on. I’ve been to so many churches and cathedrals (more than Indian temples lol) in my life, and it’s always interesting for me to observe the art and architecture chosen in places of worship.
By evening we made it back to South Bay and met up with a couple of my work friends and other college friends for dinner at Pav Bhaji Hut. I enjoy mixing friend groups and having my friends meet each other (especially when people are in the same area) since it’s interesting to see how people present themselves to new folks.
This was such a fun trip even though there wasn’t one main destination that we were tied to, it was more of a collection of smaller stops. It wasn’t “relaxing” per say since we drove a lot and spent most of the days on our feet but left us feeling a good kind of tired.
I got to see a lot of Southern California and really understood the vibes of each of the towns we visited. All the locals seemed so calm and happy in their day-to-day lives which was really heartwarming to see. I’m so used to living in places where people are constantly hustling and don’t always stop to enjoy their surroundings. And being so close to the ocean for the entire time was really nice and serene. I have much more of an appreciation for Californian coastal towns now and want to visit LA and San Diego in a more focused way in the future.
Road tripping with your close friends is also such a fun experience and chill way to spend time with one another. It’s always interesting for me to catch up with people after some time apart and see where everyone is in their lives. This period of our life feels so weirdly fast-paced, and I’m always reminded of how seemingly similar people can be in such different points in their life and how all of that is completely okay and exciting and normal. I feel distinctly older this year compared to our trip last year, but also feel like a decent amount of personal growth and introspection has occurred (for all of us). This makes me excited to see how life will unfold in the coming year or two.