Our spontaneous trip to Monterey and Carmel

Trip-with-Lexus-headerWe had some of our Canadian friends come down to visit us a few weekends ago. I gotta tell you. I love it when visitors come to stay at our place — I enjoy hosting friends and family, plus our home looks really awesome for a few weeks there after — dusting is completed, the floors freshly washed, it’s all around a nice feeling.

Blue-skies

OlympiansOlympians lined up. Who can spot Kara Goucher?

While I had the Lexus NX200t to review for the week, we decided to join our Canadian friends as they drove south to Carmel + Monterey for the weekend. Their plan was to run a half marathon, and then finish their drive back down to SoCal to visit more friends.

Walk-to-LexusMy husband and I loaded up the Lexus Nx200t, with Alfie in tow (including his crate for him to sleep in at night) and made the drive down to Carmel-By-The-Sea, where we hunkered down at our favourite place, Hofsas House — you guys know that place all too well by now I’m sure, as this was my third visit to warm and welcoming Hofsas (see our 2 day honeymoon + girls weekend trip!).Hofsas-roof

Hofsas-Street

Feet-and-AlfieHofsas-view

Alfie-in-CarmelOur room at Hofsas House this time, ended up having its own private balcony. It was excellent to have breakfast out there, overlooking the ocean in the distance, and it wasn’t too chilly either. A perfect time of year to pop down for a visit.

Can you tell Alfie was demanding satisfaction here in this photo? He’s getting a bit more bold lately, scratching your arm for attention or belly rubs and won’t stop until you give in. Mr. Bossy Boots is his new nick name you guys…I think it fits :) Hofsas-balcony

Minutes before registration to sign up for the the Big Sur Half Marathon closed, my husband casually decided he too was going to run the race with our 2 Canadian buddies. WHAT? I mean, how can you just do that without even training? Although, his everyday workout routine pretty much consists of hours and hours of exercise (whether it be biking or running) so I suppose that means he’s always in tip-top running shape for a half marathon the very next day.

However, I had made plans for us to have supper at The Grill (where we had our supper on our 2 day honeymoon just the previous year!), and I wasn’t about to cancel because he decided to sign up for a half marathon (many people prefer to have a bland carb loading meal before a race like that). But we dined at the busy Grill and had a delicious warm meal with dessert to boot.The-Grill

BigSur-HalfHe doesn’t like me posting many photos of him, so unfortunately no photos of him running the race were captured by me. But let me tell you how fast his lil’ legs can go. He not only bet his half marathon time (sub 1:20), but he came in with the Olympians. I literally screamed when I saw him, it was unexpected especially with our large supper the previous night.

After the half marathon was over, the runners all went back to their hotels, showered and got ready for checking out of the hotel + lunch. Monterey-walkHi Jenny!

Since we had Alfie, we needed a dog-friendly place (which isn’t difficult to find because I feel like Monterey and Carmel (basically all of California) is the epitome of dog-friendly places, including restaurants).Carmel-Monterey

The 6 of us ate at this cute hipster spot called Wild Plum. A few of us got sandwiches, the rest got big ol’ yummy breakfasts. I always choose a sandwich over breakfast. How about you?Lunch-in-Monterey

After we said our good-bye’s to our Canadian buddies, we wanted to take advantage of having the rest of the afternoon free, and not drive back up to South Bay just yet. So we ended up aimlessly driving the renowned, beautiful Highway 1 coast until I think we got to Big Sur. I haven’t got a clue because the bridges all looked the same. I’m sure we were close to it. Right? :)Alfie-me-lookout

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I’m pleasantly surprised with the fuel efficiency of the luxury Lexus Nx200t, eats up about the same amount of gas as my little Mazda 3 hatch. Not to mention the Lexus’ gorgeous red interior. I made sure to drive the vehicle every single day the week I had it. Even took it to San Francisco on my last day, just to visit a new-to-me coffee shop. One thing that stuck out to me with the Lexus, is that when it’s in reverse, it of course has the rear back up camera — BUT — the camera shows you the wheel rotation. I don’t usually like to use back-up cameras (because I only have the car a week and don’t want to get used to it), but you bectcha bottom dollar I used it this time, it was too cool.

Lexus-NX200tFsportI even convinced a dude on Twitter to get the Nx20ot over another vehicle he was looking at, which I thought was kinda neat. I mentioned to him a few key things I thought were pretty spiffy looking. The front of the Lexus has a mean-lookin’ grill on the front of it, so it isn’t too “girly” looking. The cargo space in the back is limiting, so if you’re looking for a family car to store a bunch of kids hockey gear or suitcases, perhaps it’s not for you. Though, a fun and fast lil’ vehicle to drive with hip hugging seats. It’s not even that outrageous in pricing, considering it is luxury. This model is $43.3k. I definitely thought the MRSP would be higher.

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Many thanks to Lexus for the car to review for the week, Hofsas House for providing a warm welcomed stay, and to The Grill for the wonderful grub. 

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Wineries, Spa treatment, and Zazu Kitchen

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14777000100_b9bfce809c_k(Photos above via Sonoma County Tourism the rest in this blog post have been taken by me) 

Wine-TrolleyWell folks, it’s wine o’clock somewhere! Am I right?

All these places you see and dream about while living on the other side of the continent, and it’s all happening to me in real life. I had never expected this to happen. But I’m so so glad it is, and I’m taking every advantage of it possible. Sonoma Valley? Wine Country? Driving along the California coast? This is all so incredible and I still feel as if I am in vacation mode.

On one of our last stops when my friend Jenna was visiting, we were hosted overnight in Sonoma Valley and our first stop was a wine tasting tour at Buena Vista Winery. Before getting to the main building, we parked our car and walked down the pathway and were greeted by statues of the founding father’s of America which included people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.Pathway-to-Winery

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It’s no surprise to me that they host weddings and private events here — especially with that captivating scenery.Buena-Vista-Winery

Jenna and I arrived to Buena Vista Winery at about 10:30 in the morning and had a private wine tasting tour given to us by the amazing and knowledgeable tour guide. There, she took us through private rooms and giving us a history on the winery. This one below, is the white room where they only serve white bubbly. How fun! Bubbly-Room

Another wine tasting room where you can have your own parties (often times bachelor/bachlorette parties are hosted here) and you can make your own wine mix, and take home a mini bottle for yourself. They also document the wine you’ve made, and if you loved it you can ask them to bottle larger bottles of wine for you and they can ship it to your home.Wine-Tasting-Room

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After a bit of wine tasting (not much for me, I was driving) we headed off to lunch, which was about a 40 minute drive from the winery. Monti’s Rotisserie Restaurant & Bar was in the middle of a really gorgeous shopping/restaurant area in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa. Montis-Restaurant

Montis

If you go here, you must try their hummus appetizer served on delicious warm bread. Look at those huge chunks of feta!
Hummus-plate

Since it was a pretty nice day, we decided to take seating out on their patio with heaters above to keep us from getting a chill. Behind us (not pictured) was a man in the main corral area playing on a piano. Needless to say, conversation with my bud while listening to classical music in the background was pretty much amazing. Montis-Patio

Onto the next stop! We were a bit early to check into our hotel for the night as our room wasn’t ready at the time. So we drove another 15 minutes or so and we were in the heart of the little town of Sebastopol, took advantage of it all and spent the afternoon at Bliss Organic Day Spa. Could this weekend get any better? Seriously, we were treated like royalty here in Sonoma Valley. Sebastopol is a tiny town with such character. We had a blast down that way, meeting a few locals, chatting with them about the area and getting advice as to where to check out next.Champagne-at-the-spa

I didn’t want to take too many photos in the day spa, because I wanted to soak it all up and enjoy the experience. But I couldn’t help but snap a few photos to remember it all. :) I received a facial from a woman named Feather (how cool is her name?!) and Jenna got a much needed massage as her back was giving her some troubles the last few days of her trip. Champagne, facials, massages and chocolate. A woman’s dream.Cheers

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Feeling absolutely rejuvenated after a private spa day with my best bud, we finished up our treatments at the spa and got ready to hit the town once again. We walked around the town a bit and explored. Then spotted a painting which somewhat resembled Alfie (although, a bit larger ha!) and I had to take a picture of me pretend-petting it. Heehee!Dog-painting-sebastopol

A short walk down the street we went to The Barlow area of Sebastopol and stopped in at the Zazu Kitchen for supper. Where we stayed for hours on end at this local hotspot.Zazu-Kitchen-patio

How could you not, with those those beautiful gigantic windows they have in the restaurant with the sun setting. Perfect. Given the fact Duskie and John are the crowned King & Queen of Pork, there is definitely a whole whack of pig on their menu, rightfully deliciously so.Zazu-Kitchen-and-Farm

Sonoma County, everything grown here. All of their meats are antibiotic free and free range. So they’re unconfined, humane way. Basically the meat is happily grown and the meat is healthy for you – best of all, fresh. Awesome. Zazu-menu

Zazu-Kitchen-tableMy yellow drink up there was something with gin in it. I would’ve had a couple of these minus the fact I was driving. It was delicious, a bit strong, but tasted amazing. Similar to an adult lemonade ;)

bacon-wrapped-dateDuskie was telling my friend and I that nothing from the animals go to waste, and their bacon gets cured for 21 days, making it extra delicious – especially their popular starter that we had, a bacon wrapped date. I could’ve had these lil’ guys for my supper and I would’ve been content. My friend and I raved about them so much, when a couple sat down next to us we told them they HAD to try it, and they did.

We weren’t sure what to order from Zazu so we left the ordering up to our server, who suggested so many amazing (and new-to-me things, like LAMB!) things. Jenna and I shared all the plates and had a sampling of a lot from the menu. I was most nervous to try the lamb but thought I’d give it a go anyway. Turns out, I’m not a fan. Luckily Jenna was and loved it. Zazu-Menu-2

Zazu-Kitchen-eats

Zazu Kitchen was probably my favourite stop we had in Sonoma County. You can tell Duskie and John are committed 100% to their farm-to-table restaurant and I love that their menu isn’t always the same, because they put the menu together after a what they see what’s ripe and ready that day.Zazu-Kitchen

Dinner-table-at-Zazu

We both ordered separate desserts. That I cannot share. I ordered a trio of ice cream samples served in the tiniest pails. Cute hey? Ice cream fan, right here.ice-cream-pails

I would drive back here in a heartbeat for a weekend day trip and just sit here at that restaurant again for a few hours and drive back home. It’s really good you guys.

We had so much fun at the day spa and Zazu Kitchen that we were hanging out in Sebastopol until way after dark. Pretty sure we could’ve shut the place down, but we left the area around 9:00pm and decided to finally hunk’er down and scope out our hotel room for the night. When we chatted with the locals about where we were staying for the night, they smiled and said that the Flamingo Hotel is a super fun hotel with a retro sixties vibe to it. And, well, yes it certainty does.

The hotel room was a bit difficult to find, even though the hotels property was one huge cul-de-sac, we kept going around in circles a few times before just parking the car and getting out on foot to look for it. We asked the hotel staff a few times where it was, and eventually found it with the help of a staff worker also by the name of Nancy. Fun! Samesies!

Clearly the photos of the hotel were taken the next morning, to show you the sweet vibes the grounds has to offer. Pretty resort looking right? Hotel-Flamingo-Front-desk

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Lounge-areaDigging those lounge chairs right by the pool. If only we were here for more than just an overnighter, I would’ve totally chilled out on that deck area for the morning! :)

Hotel-Flamingo-roomThe room was quite large and had a pull out couch where my friend slept for the night.

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Disclaimer: Big thanks to Sonoma County tourism board for organizing and hosting an eventful trip for my friend and I!

Buena Vista Winery
18000 Old Winery Rd, Sonoma, CA 95476
Twitter / Facebook

Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar
Montgomery Village Shopping Center, 714 Village Ct, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Bliss Organic Day Spa
186 N Main St #230, Sebastopol, CA 95472

Zazu Kitchen + Farm
6770 McKinley #150, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Twitter / Facebook

Flamingo Hotel
2777 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
Facebook

 

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La Lune Sucrée, San Jose

La-Lune-headerImagine waking up in a quiet secluded apartment with fresh flowers hanging from the balcony, overlooking a cobblestone street. You simply just want to throw on a casual loose linen tee and an old pair of comfy jeans and sandals, walk out your front door to grab some freshly baked french pastries and steaming hot coffee to wake yourself up on a lazy weekend morning.

Not so easy when you don’t live in Europe, right?

Walkway-to-La-LuneI’m happy to say you don’t have to venture too far if you live in the Bay Area and want to recreate that European feeling in San Jose. That’s exactly what we did one morning while we were playing tourist in our new home city.

La-Lune-SucreeI’ve been across the pond a couple of times (once to England and Ireland x2), but nothing in the last ten years. I can get my fix of European bistros by simply visiting La Lune Sucrée, a quaint little restaurant in downtown San Jose. This is definitely a spot where I’ll be taking out-of-town visitors to, and will be popping in here for morning treats and lattes. Yum!  It is a small café, and only has a couple of tables, with more seating outside on the walkway, so keep that in mind if you’re travelling with a larger group of people.

breakfast-at-La-Lune-SucreeToo bad I had to have manners and only order a regular amount of food. I could have easily consumed numerous plates offered at the café.

Pastry-at-La-Lune-SucreeAlthough I do plenty of café and restaurant reviews around the area, I don’t always rave about them and recommend you must try the place. Some of them are average run of the mill restaurants that aren’t all that special, but this place I want you to go visit if you’re ever in the city of San Jose.

Morning-hot-choc-at-La-LuneEspecially if you want a few pastries and a cuppa joe.

hot-choc-and-whip-creamOr in my case a white hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Crepe-at-La-Lune-SucreeThe Guy and I both ordered sweet crepes (as opposed to their liqueur or savoury options which also looked incredible). Their menu is cute and each crepe is labeled by country. I ordered the Italy crepe and my husband went for the Milan. Next time I will definitely add in à la mode which is an added scoop of hand-made gelato. Oh boy. Both crepes were heavenly, but thinking back we should have ordered one sweet and one savoury to split between us. Because two sweet crepes was a bit too much for a morning breakfast, but absolutely fantastic none the less.

I had a chat with both Mark and Bettina, the owners of La Lune Sucrée and enjoyed their story of how they came to open this french pastry café. Bettina learned how to make her pastries and most popular item in the cafe, the Almond Chocolate Croissants in a tiny village in France by a French pastry chef. To make a long story short, Mark and Bettina met in Europe, and fell in love. They relocated back to the Bay Area where he is originally from, and opened this café years later! Now, aren’t I glad I moved from Canada to California, so I can enjoy some of this wonderful piece of Europe that Bettina so carefully creates with her desserts? :)

La-Lune-Sucree-sandwichesI had one of my closest friends come for a visit shortly after finding out about this spot (where my husband and I ate breakfast) so I took my friend for brunch the day we got back from our three day Yosemite climbing trip. We split two sandwiches between each other so we could nibble at both to get a bit of variety. It’s a running joke that I could eat sandwiches for every meal of every day if I had to. It was a good choice to order these, instead of breakfast – even if it was just 10:30 in the morning.

Alright, so I’m pretty picky with my sandwiches and at first I didn’t really want to share since Lori ordered hers on a croissant.

She had the chicken salad sandwich with pecans, apples, raisins, honey dijon and romaine. Mine was the turkey bistro, which had jarlsberg (cheese), dijon, pear pomegranate jam and fresh rosemary. The jam was a great addition to the sandwich, so kudos to Bettina coming up with that creation, and I’ve never heard of jarlsberg cheese before. Apparently it’s similar to swiss. It was really good.

Which one stole the show? Honestly, it’s a tie. There’s no way I can go in there and tell you which one I loved the best. Like I said, picky sandwich-er over here and not all are created equal. But these are excellent, and even on a croissant! I’m a huge lover of a nice crunchy on the outside chewy on the inside ciabatta bun.

Nancy-LoriDo you think we look related? We used to get it a lot when we were younger and both living in Newfoundland, hanging out at our local climbing gym.

I have another best bud coming down in May and I’ve already planned most of her itinerary, and you better believe that I’ll be taking her here, too. Each time I popped into La Lune Sucrée, the staff working there were super friendly and really helpful with indecisiveness to order off the menu. After taking some guidance from them, I ended up with excellent choices from their great selection of pastries. I already can’t wait to go back, luckily they’re a quick drive away!

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La Lune Sucrée 

116 Paseo de San Antonio
San Jose, CA 95112

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