From the time Curtis slipped a ring on my finger, we had dreamed of an exotic island honeymoon with white-sand beaches and candlelit dinners. But with Curtis midway through his Ph.D. in Arizona and plans for two California wedding receptions underway, it became clear that our trip to another world would have to be put on hold.
We had scheduled an intimate wedding, to be witnessed by our immediate family, followed by a dinner reception with friends and relatives in Pasadena, Calif. on June 26. However, because Curtis’s elderly grandparents wouldn’t be able to travel from San Francisco, we intended to also have a Chinese banquet in the Bay Area the following weekend.
In the meantime, we had six days and nearly 450 miles of coastline to explore.
Because Curtis was already a homeowner and we had both accumulated our share of coffee makers, toasters, and pots and pans, a traditional registry seemed, well, unnecessary. I had heard about the honeymoon registry and did some homework. Traveler’s Joy proved to be the perfect place to post the details of our road trip, and friends and family loved being able to treat us along the way.
The morning after the wedding we met our parents for breakfast, packed up our Dodge Charger rental car, and headed north toward Santa Barbara and a beachfront hotel room. I had lived and worked in Santa Barbara for a few years, and it was still one of my favorite places in California. A trip up the coast simply wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Santa Barbara’s wine country. While in town, we planned an intimate candle-lit dinner at the Wine Cask and spent a day in Santa Ynez Valley wandering through some of my favorite wine tasting rooms. We lunched at the husband-wife run Los Olivos Café of Sideways fame, and of course, we brought a few bottles home to our cellar for our first anniversary.
Cambria was the next stop on our trip, but on the way we stopped in Pismo Beach where we found the perfect place for lunch - the Honeymoon Café. It seemed to be a favorite among the regulars, but we were convinced its existence was primarily to pamper honeymooners just like us.
Since we were in town, we also scheduled a tour at Hearst Castle. Despite being a California native, Curtis had never been to the expansive mansion. We spent a few hours daydreaming and walking the exquisite grounds hand-in-hand before checking in to our boutique hotel for the evening.
We arrived just in time for happy hour and decided to get a glass of wine before heading to dinner. After some small talk, we realized I had attended high school with the wine bar host. Though we could have sat there reminiscing in the lobby all night, Curtis and I were determined to track down some excellent seafood while we were in Cambria. Our new friend Kyle gave us a great recommendation and we set out down the road, across the footbridge, and along the beach where we found an old wooden building: the Sea Chest. There was a wait for the oyster bar – which we took as a sign that it must be worth it. It certainly was! To one side was a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary (Curtis deemed it good luck, so we snapped our picture with the pair) and on the other side, a charming couple that said they make a point to stop in the little restaurant whenever they make a trip to the coast. They directed us to their favorite dishes on the menu, which we quickly gobbled up. If we weren’t already feeling pampered, upon hearing we were honeymooners, the chef at the bar made sure we had our fill of their finest oysters – the best we had ever tasted!
We had such a lovely time in Cambria it seemed a shame to leave. So we lingered in bed as long as we possibly could and then hopped back in the Charger for our trek up through Big Sur toward Monterey. The coastline was so unbelievably beautiful – and we felt a little spontaneous – so we stopped at a deli in Big Sur for sandwiches and pulled a bottle of wine from the trunk, a wedding gift from friends. We pulled off to the side of the road for an impromptu picnic. California’s Highway 1 is famous for its beautiful coastline views, oft considered some of the best in the world. We didn’t need to travel around the world for a romantic coastal honeymoon. We had it all right there.
The final stop on our trip agenda: Monterey. After all that strenuous driving (ha!) we made sure to book a luxurious couple’s massage, courtesy of Curtis’s cousins. And if that wasn’t relaxing, we spent an entire afternoon watching the fish at the aquarium. To wrap up our amazing road trip, we made reservations at an oceanfront restaurant, and canoodled over the same bottle of wine we had served the week before at our Pasadena wedding reception.
It may not have been the tropical honeymoon we had envisioned, but it had certainly been the epitome of a romantic getaway for the two of us. It was a little bit of tourism, and a lot of pampering. Our favorite part of the whole thing, though, was that with our Traveler’s Joy registry, it had been an adventure we shared with all of our dearest family and friends. Of course, it had all been meaningful to us, but often times, the gifts had also a special resonance with those who purchased them. Some friends of ours had stayed in Cambria for their anniversary, Curtis’s cousins had stayed in the very same Monterey hotel, and a friend of mine had visited from Sweden and loved her visit to the aquarium. We made sure to take lots of photos and posted them online to share.
Curtis and I find ourselves looking at the photos every once in a while, and have decided without hesitation, it truly was the best week of our lives.