Day Seven – Madonna and Malibu

Before I forget (again), here’s a gorgeous shot of Big Sur that I should have included in the last post (Day Five & Six – The Princess Diaries). That’s Bixby Bridge in the background. It was built in 1932 and is still considered one of California’s prettiest bridges. Due to recent landslides, it is only accessible from the north.

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We started “Day Seven” in Salinas, CA with the goal to reach Calabasas (our LA home base) by late afternoon/early evening. Few stops were planned for this day, so when we spotted a sign for the Madonna Inn we had to pull over to explore.

Years ago, Eliza saw the Madonna Inn featured on a Travel Channel special that highlighted the most unique hotels in our country. We were not disappointed! This hotel was built in 1958 and is known for its eclectic design. Every room has a theme, including the common rooms and bathrooms. Guest rooms range from $209-619 per night.

While we could never afford to stay the night, we loved exploring the lobby, dining room, gift shops, and yes, the pink saloon-style bathroom. This is absolutely a one-of-a-kind stop that should not be missed.

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After leaving the Madonna Inn, we drove south for an hour before stopping to eat lunch in Solvang, CA – a danish village that was packed with tourists. Our lunch at the Solvang Brewing Co. was unfortunately very disappointing. Service was awful and the food was only okay. There was, however, a windmill outside! One of only a handful that we spotted during our drive through town (Actual question: Where are all the windmills?)

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We continued on to Santa Barbara where we stopped briefly at the Santa Barbara Mission to explore and stretch our legs. We didn’t linger long, however, because we were all anxious to reach Calabasas, or more specifically, Malibu, before sundown.

And thankfully, we made it! It would have been heartbreaking to miss such a gorgeous sunset. We reached Malibu through the mountain pass that we quickly coined, “The Bob Ross Mountains” for their exceptional beauty that seemed too stunning to be real.

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For anyone who may be wondering, yes, we did listen to Miley Cyrus’ new single, Malibu. Repeatedly. And yes, it was magical.

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Day Five & Six – The Princess Diaries

Hills. Hills. Hills. And yes, more hills. That’s San Francisco for ya. We climbed the equivalent of forty-one flights of stairs as we explored nearly every neighborhood in this wonderfully gorgeous, wildly steep city. Hannah’s fancy app tracker recorded 19,961 steps over the course of 6.7 miles… suffice to say, San Francisco was breathtaking.

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San Fran highlights included picnicking in front of the famous “Painted Ladies” that were once featured on the television show Full House.

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We also visited Pier 39. Here’s an attempted selfie in front of the whale mural. We were unable to see the Golden Gate Bridge due to fog, so this was our substitute backdrop.

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Alcatraz was particularly ominous this afternoon. Eliza accidentally took this picture as she was putting her phone down, which is why it has a magical swoop effect.

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It should be noted that this day started off with clear skies and promising temperatures, but quickly plummeted to the mid-50s when the fog rolled in. Cindy, a sweet shop owner in Ashbury, explained that San Francisco’s coldest months are July and August. As such, the saying goes: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” This, she explained, is the result of the Bay’s microclimate.

We decided to head back to our hotel for an early night in instead of watching the fireworks. We had been on our feet for hours and were ready to crash into our beds. We purchased It’s Its – a local San Fran dessert (vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies dipped in chocolate) on our way to the hotel and ate those before bed. They were messy and delicious and a true 10 out of 10.

The next morning we were up early for some last minute touring. The Princess Diaries (a true cinematic masterpiece) was, of course, set and filmed in San Francisco. We visited “Grove High School” and the home of Mia Thermopolis before leaving the city.


We continued south on Hwy 1, stopping to visit the Pigeon Point lighthouse. Here we saw a pod of dolphins and some whales in the distance. It was incredible.

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After whale watching, we got hopped back in the car and started our drive through California’s wine country. Many references were made to the 1998 version of The Parent Trap. We stopped at Folktale Winery and Vineyards in Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA and each enjoyed a glass of wine on the patio. It was peaceful and a nice change of pace from the rush of San Francisco.

Two hours later, we were back on Hwy 1 driving through Big Sur. Due to the recent landslides, we were only able to drive about 25 miles before we were forced to turn around and retrace our steps (an event we had planned for in advance). Consequently, we stayed overnight in Salinas, CA. This town was reminiscent of the one depicted in Napoleon Dynamite, i.e. it was charming, but not the most happening place. We stopped at Target and Sam purchased a copy of The Princess Diaries, which we watched that night at our hotel. It was the perfect way to end the day.