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From Los Angeles to San Francisco: A California adventure

Ayşe Boyner and Cem Telvi, who live by Goethe’s words “You’re not traveling in order to arrive, but in order to travel,” are a couple who have been enjoying exploring new destinations together for many years. Ayşe Boyner wrote for Magnet Quarterly about her favourite must-see stops along the coastline of California, one of the couple’s favourite destinations.

Sunsets over the blue coast, landscapes speckled with magnificent mountains and red pine trees, hikes around wonderful national parks, and, of course, amazing food...

We set off from Los Angeles to explore the coastline of California. Before heading north, we drive east. The moment our plane lands in Los Angeles, we rent a car at the airport and drive towards Pioneer town which is two hours away. Pioneertown is a small town built as a set for Western movies in 1946 so it’s very authentic. Whenever we’re in town, we make sure to stay at Pioneertown Motel. Its next-door neighbour is Pappy & Harriet's, our favourite bar/restaurant/music club. There’s live music on every night that it’s open. Sometimes, they even host big names such as Paul McCartney and Arctic Monkeys. They have delicious barbecue , guacamole, and margarita. There’s also Red Dog Tavern which opened this year; you should try their tacos, Mexican style corn, and margaritas!


Before moving along on our journey, we just have to stop by Joshua Tree which is in the opposite direction! This is one of the most magical places ever; maybe because it’s a vortex, i.e., a high-energy spot. The best place to stay here are the Joshua Tree Houses. You need to make a reservation way ahead in time because they’re almost always fully booked. For breakfast, you can opt for the diner menu at Crossroads, or the delicious salads and sandwiches at Frontier Café. Up next is sound bath therapy at Integratron.

In this deeply resonant, multi-wave sound chamber, we open your chakras with the unique sound of crystal quartz singing bowls. Now, we’re ready to get back on the road. For lunch, we prefer La Copine. The entire back wall of the restaurant is covered with the magical mural by artist Kris Chau. This wonderful piece of work has also become one of the patterns in clothing brand Faraway’s “Desert Song” collection. On top of that, the collection is named after one of Kris’s works as well. After seeing him at the restaurant, we talked to Kris and bought some of his works to use them in our patterns. Following Copine, we transformed his drawings “Huntress Moon”, “Two Sisters”, and “Black Lipstick Cowgirl” into patterns.

We end the day by visiting the Joshua Tree National Park and watching the stars in this magical atmosphere. It’s important to visit this place on a Thursday or Monday because Pappy, La Copine, and Red Dog are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


We head north along the Pacific Coast Highway. If you follow the navigation, it will suggest a route through the inner roads; however, we suggest you stay on the highway because it follows the coastline which accompanies your trip with wonderful views of the ocean. Our first stop is Santa Barbara which is home to magnificent hiking routes. We love rock climbing routed, and they usually are Level 4s, one of the upper levels in that allow climbing without a rope. There are also whale watching trips in Santa Barbara. You can set sail on a boat to see thousands of dolphins and seals. If you’re lucky, you might even see a few whales and appreciate the glory of these mesmerizing creatures. For seafood, you can prefer Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, which is quite tourist-y and delicious, or enjoy fresh crab, oysters, or sea urchins at Santa Barbara Pier. You should pick Lucky’s in Montecito for chili and barbecue ribs. We have lunch at Honor Bar. After a morning walk and lunch, we decide to relax at the Butterfly Beach. We opt for a light dinner of tapas at Loquita.


Next morning, we start driving towards the Big Sur, a mountainous and spectacular region in central California. We plan to go on a hike and enjoy the view.

En route, we recharge our batteries with breakfast, coffee, and dessert at Madonna Inn. When we’re tired from driving, we stop for a sweet break at the bakeries in Solvang. You know what they say, it’s the journey, not the destination! After consuming so much sugar, it might be a good idea to find secret trails to hike. It’s a magical experience to walk among the red pine trees at Sequoia National Park. After a hike around Moro Rock, we deserve a break appreciating the breath-taking view of the Ragged Point. We spend the night at Lucia Lodge, the motel where the TV series Ratched is filmed, yet another beautiful view.

Our next stop after Big Sur is Monterey Bay and Carmel. We stayed at a cute hotel named Hideaway. We start the day with a delicious breakfast at Stationary and spend the late afternoon with beer and bar food at Brophy’s Bar. Make sure to stop by Mexican restaurant Cultura Bebida y Comida, and Mission Ranch which is famous for its hotel and restaurant.

If you cannot find time in Santa Barbara, head north from Carmal to take a break in Monterey or to join a whale watching tour. Your chances of seeing a whale are higher here! It’d be amiss if we leave this town, renowned for its fish restaurants, without eating something. There are a lot of options and they’re all delicious; pick anything!


Now, we’re heading for San Francisco. If the season allows, you can stop for a swim in Moor Bay en route. We spend the night at a hotel named Phoenix in San Francisco and have a lovely dinner at Nopa.

Next morning, we fly to Point Reyes with a layover in Sausalito. Point Reyes has a number of amazing hotels such as Manka’s and Osprey. Some are closed this time around, but you can find many beautiful inns during the season. You should spend at least two days here. The wonderful nature in Point Reyes enables us to go both on a hike and for a swim. Eleven, Saltwater, Sir and Star at the Olema, Side Street Kitchen... Just pick one for a hearty meal. Our next stop is Marshall, the cutest fishing town in the world. We stay at Nick’s Cove which also has a restaurant. If you can, reserve a room with sea view; we guarantee you will spend some romantic minutes at sunset with a glass of wine. If you love oysters, make sure to stop by Hog Island Oysters Co. There are some great restaurants along this route. Whenever you feel hungry, you can always stop by a good seafood restaurant, especially if you’re driving north from Carmel. If you have the time, you can keep driving north, or you can head east to enjoy delicious wine and good food in Napa. Keep in mind to plan your trip to Napa beforehand because the best restaurants accept reservations a few months in advance and are fully booked in just 30 minutes! Just like The Rolling Stones tickets. You can also drive east from San Francisco to Yosemite. And we’ll tell that story another time.


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