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Cruise in Santa Cruz

36°58' 27" N 122°1' 51" W Santa Cruz

Oct 21, 2014  –  by Maeva

If you feel like escaping the craziness and the business of the city, a good way to do it is to drive from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Not so far yet so different. Santa Cruz brought us back to the life of chill and sun that is so unique to California. Our stop in SF did bring some upgrades though: I got blonder, Steph got a brand new backpack (first in like 7 years, so yes it’s a pretty big step.)

Maeva waking up in Santa Cruz
Maeva waking up in Santa Cruz
Steph shows off new backpack
Steph shows off new backpack

We spent the first few days chilling around town, discovering the surfer vibe that makes this spot so famous. A drive along the water through a few residential areas gives a pretty good idea of the Santa Cruz lifestyle: long hair, blonde hair, boards, all kinds of boards, bikes, longboards, pick up vans, wetsuits, nose rings… You get the picture. As Steph was still recovering from his little foot injury, we spent the first two days longboarding and watching the locals catch some waves on two famous spots: Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point. We strolled through the streets and treated ourselves – of course – to some delicious home made ice cream from Penny Icecreamery. Having caught the longboard bug, I completely fell in love with a wooden longboard in a Santa Cruz skate shop and just couldn’t resist. So we spent a couple hours in longboard sessions with Steph teaching me some moves. We’ll be showing you when it’s not too embarrassing.

Surfers and pelicans in Pleasure Point
Surfers and pelicans in Pleasure Point
Maeva and ice cream in Santa cruz
Maeva and ice cream in Santa cruz
Steamer Lane surf spot
Steamer Lane surf spot
Awesome RV Van in Santa Cruz
Awesome RV Van in Santa Cruz

One of the most amazing things about Santa Cruz is that it felt like an open air aquarium. Just stand and watch the surfers for a little bit and you will spot a whale jumping in the background, dolphins chasing each other, sea otters getting cozy with the paddle boarders, seals taking a swim, pelicans flying in a perfect line above the water… The first day we thought we were lucky to see all these animals. The second day we thought we were realllllllly lucky. The third we realized that this was life here: wilderness, hippiness and salt water. Luckily, we never spotted any dangerous looking fin. Although Steph did get startled more than once when shapes and fins emerged out of the water a few meters away from him as he was paddling on his surfboard.

Whale in Santa Cruz
Whale in Santa Cruz
Surfers in Santa cruz
Surfers in Santa cruz
Steph surfing in Santa Cruz
Steph surfing in Santa Cruz
Dolphin in Santa Cruz
Dolphin in Santa Cruz
Surfers and dolphin in Pleasure Point
Surfers and dolphin in Pleasure Point

As we stayed in Santa Cruz for a little while, we picked a cheap and old campground called Bobs Pine Grove Campground – which was great! It was quite empty due to the season, but that didn’t prevent us from meeting fellow travellers. Our campsite neighbour Daniel invited us to share some bacon and tortillas around a few beers with another traveler, a guy from New York just hitchhiking around California. We also met a really interesting man in his 60’s touring the U.S. with his two dogs in quite the setup: an electrical bike, a little shack for the dogs, a tent… And ‘touring the U.S.’ is a bit of an understatement. Because he’s been travelling for 2.5 years and has been in 32 states (!!!) How’s that for a road trip?!

Maeva brushing teeth at Santa Cruz Campground
Maeva brushing teeth at Santa Cruz Campground

A fun activity was also the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, one of California’s oldest amusement parks (founded in 1907!) We picked the thriller rides and did them all in row. The highlight? Definitely the signature ride of the park: the Giant Dipper, a historic wooden roller coaster that has become a landmark for the city. And if you’re used to the super high tech recent roller coasters, the sensations on this very old school structure as well as the noises it makes in the twists and turns are quite something!

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

But let’s talk about surf again. Surf is such a fascinating sport and for so many different reasons. The challenge, the force of nature, the visual appeal, to thrill of catching a wave… We headed for the surf museum to get a glimpse of the surf origins in this iconic spot. It’s a tiny house that walks us through old newspaper articles and photographs of surfers and their evolution over the past years. One of them was a gentleman called Jack O’Neill, founder of the world famous O’Neill brand and inventor of the wetsuit.

Surf museum of Santa Cruz
Surf museum of Santa Cruz

We finished off our stay with a huge ten foot swell on a Sunday. Such an impressive sequence of waves took the stage at Steamer Lane and hundreds of surfers jumped in the water to test them out. Steph was one of them, while I stayed on the safer side, camera in hand. It was quite the show to witness, with lots of experienced and fearless surfers. Though the locals tended to be a little on edge (“Get out of my way! Mine! Mine! Mine! F*** off, it’s my wave!), we were reminded again why surf is so compelling.

Huge waves for surfing in Steamer Lane
Huge waves for surfing in Steamer Lane
Surfer jumping in the water in Steamer Lane
Surfer jumping in the water in Steamer Lane
Surfers riding big waves in Steamer Lane
Surfers riding big waves in Steamer Lane
Lots of surfers on a wave and a drone over them
Lots of surfers on a wave and a drone over them
Epic surfing in Steamer Lane
Epic surfing in Steamer Lane

Homes of Sausalito

37°52' 20" N 122°30' 2" W Sausalito

Oct 20, 2014  –  by Maeva

A must do when visiting SF is to take a break from the city and head to the colourful houseboats of Sausalito. We took a walk on the docks through the quirky and uniquely shaped homes on the water, picturing life in such a cool setting. Here’s a selection of our favourite floating homes! Which one is your favourite?

House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito
House in Sausalito

Tales of San Francisco

37°46' 30" N 122°25' 10" W San Francisco

Oct 16, 2014  –  by Maeva

We left the long stretches of highway down the coast and its isolated beaches to find the city of the flower power. We reached it from the North on a Friday afternoon, taking the Golden Gate Bridge, like one should. #hellyeah. And I was driving!! (Anyone who knows my driving skills knows how impressive that is.) Steph didn’t leave me behind the wheel for too long though, we’ll say. Anyways, our first stop was obviously the viewpoint right after the bridge to get a sunny touristy shot in front of the world famous landmark. As we were watching the view, some people whispered to us “Hey, there are naked people down there, check it out!” Oh yes, there sure were some naked people on the beach down below. Well we did arrive during the heat wave.Welcome to Hippie town!

Golden gate bridge
Golden gate bridge
Steph and Maeva in front of the Golden Gate Bridge
Steph and Maeva in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

We had a bit of time, so we headed to the crowded Pier 39 for a bit of long boarding along the port, Alcatraz watching and possibly some ice cream… We then drove to Lombard Street to test Steph’s piloting skills in the famous downhill zig zag street. Ea-sy.

Alcatraz at sunset
Alcatraz at sunset
Maeva below Bubba Gump Shrimp
Maeva below Bubba Gump Shrimp

Later, we headed towards Berkeley, taking the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge, which gave us a pretty intense city reality check. Here’s a few numbers to get some perspective: 7810m/25623ft long, 2 decks of 5 lanes each, 17.5m/57.5ft large… Guinness World Records say it’s the widest bridge in the world and we believe it! Heavy traffic on such a monster of a bridge is a pretty insane experience. Especially when you’re not 100% where you’re headed. Thank God for Google Maps!

We were headed to Berkeley to join Duke – also known as Nico, a friend from France who lives there – who had kindly offered us to stay at his place. After a stop in a random coffee shop in a very Hastings-like street of Berkeley, we joined him and his coworkers at his CEO’s house up on a hill. As soon as we entered the house, we were like “WOW!”: a minimalist house with an incredible view of the city and its night lights. We enjoyed fun drinks and great conversation with the whole team of Five.com, a startup working on a unique conversation app. Every member had just been freshly named cofounder so it was definitely the right night to discover a bit of their tech startup world! Kyle also introduced us to a song that would be stuck in our heads for the next 3 days: “About a week ago, week ago…” Thanks for that! After a couple of beers, we also learned that we were going to sleep in the living room at Duke’s place next to a snake. In a vivarium. But an ACTUAL snake. I honestly thought it was a joke at first. But when we reached his super cool house, Duke gave us a quick tour and introduced us to his roommates (human and reptile), and it proved to be very real…

The following day was true Californian fun with a barbecue, a big surf session in Pacifica, a skateboard session and then some beers in the extremely very hot tub in Duke’s garden. Told you it was a super cool house! All of this with Duke, his roommate Ben and two of his coworkers: Kyle and Nils. Quite the boys crowd hey! Though the day activities were lots of fun, sipping some coronas in a 104 Farenheit jacuzzi was VERY enjoyable. And VERY warm. Let’s just say we were off to bed very quickly after that!

Barbecue at Pacifica
Barbecue at Pacifica
The boys and their surfboards in Pacifica
The boys and their surfboards in Pacifica
Kyle at the skatepark
Kyle at the skatepark
Skateboard session at night
Skateboard session at night

Sunday called for some actual visiting of the city, so we did it ALL:
– Fisherman’s Wharf
– Yet another view of the Golden Gate
– Walking down Lombard street
– Strolling through Chinatown and running into a dragon
– Stopping at Chipotle for lunch: yes we have a list of fast food places to hit, this one has been crossed off the list. And it’s burrito was definitely approved!
– Niketown, because why not
– Taking the cable car: that was realllllly cool. Best way to go up and down the cutest streets of SF is perched on the side of the wagon!
– Walking up and down the street, then up and down, and then up and down.
– Walk along the entire Embarcadero. Yes, that’s a lot of walking.

View of Golden Gate Bridge from SF
View of Golden Gate Bridge from SF
San Francisco homes
San Francisco homes
San Francisco cable car
San Francisco cable car
Steph in a surfboard truck
Steph in a surfboard truck

We even got to catch up with Hedi, Steph’s old classmate from Hetic, over some drinks downtown to chat about the startup community, work in North America, West Coast habits and life. He too is working on a soon to be released app with his team, confirming that SF is the ultimate tech startup hub.

The next days were a lot more chill as we failed getting the morning tickets for Alcatraz two days in a row (the only ones you can get without a reservation weeks in advance.) I guess we didn’t earn it as much as the people who were standing in line at 5am. Who are you people?! But it left us with lots of time to find the very best view of the Golden Gate Bridge in a sea of fog all the way up the hill on the North Side, find the cutest houses of the city on Alamo Square, picnic at the Golden Gate Park, watch the view from Twin Peaks and hang out with Duke and his roommates Ben, Paul and Alex over hot dogs and beers to share road trip stories.

Steph photographing the Golden Gate Bridge
Steph photographing the Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge in the fog
Golden Gate Bridge in the fog
Cute houses in San Francisco
Cute houses in San Francisco
Uphill street in San Francisco
Uphill street in San Francisco
Maeva in Alamo Square
Maeva in Alamo Square
View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks
View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks

Every time we hit a new city, we can’t help but wonder if that would be a place we’d like to live in. We thought about it more than once in the fog city that unites architectural beauty, cultural diversity, West Coast freedom, tech and startup communities, outdoor activities and vibrant city life. Though very busy (yes the hours stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge kind of traumatized us) and Vancouver-like (enough with the vegan yogis already!), SF is just so very unique in its character. So maybe..?

Duke, thanks again so much for inviting us in your lively home, we had a blast during our stay! Rock out the surf and the app-creating! Peace.

Duke, Steph and Maeva in front of Duke's house in Berkeley
Duke, Steph and Maeva in front of Duke’s house in Berkeley

“I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing in the streets, for I know that the streets of San Francisco are Free.” – Luisa Tetrazzini

Hippie Heaven

43°17' 42" N 122°21' 57" W Umpqua Hot Springs

Oct 7, 2014  –  by Maeva

We decided to quickly go to the Umpqua Hot Springs in order to get to Crater Lake while it was still sunny. Well, that didn’t quite work out. We ended up staying over 2 hours there, because well it was a-w-e-s-o-m-e. We had both been to the Hot Springs in Banff a while ago, and I suppose we were expecting something similar: a big swimming pool and an entry fee. So imagine our surprise and awe, when we started the 15 minute hike up the forest to arrive in the most beautiful, natural and free Hot Springs. A few basins dispersed through the rocks overlooking the Umpqua River – pretty much our version of heaven. But hippie heaven, mixing the chill, the peace, the love and the nakedness (or at least the toplessness.)

It was the ultimate relaxing and worry-free experience. The source of the springs was all the way at the top and every basin filled the next one, like a drop down fountain, bringing the temperature a little lower every time. So we switched from one small pool to another to test the different water temperatures, with a beautiful view and in a beautiful setting. What more could we possibly want? Now, THAT really made us feel on vacation! Needless to say, we reaaally didn’t want to leave and stayed as long as we could. We’re officially on the hunt for Natural Hot Springs now!

View of the Umpqua Hot Springs from the top
View of the Umpqua Hot Springs from the top
Steph in the Umpqua Hot Springs
Steph in the Umpqua Hot Springs
Steph and Maeva in the Umpqua Hot Springs
Steph and Maeva in the Umpqua Hot Springs