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San Diego

32°42' 57" N 117°9' 40" W San Diego

Nov 12, 2014  –  by Maeva

Back to me for the blog posts! After quite some time spent on my personal illustration project, I’m writing again for our little blog.

We arrived in San Diego, the last big city before the Mexican border, the last big city on the West Coast, the last big city in California. It wasn’t the same as other important cities we stopped by earlier on our road trip because this time we didn’t know anyone and had never been there. In all honesty, we were not taken aback by the city in itself. When we looked up things to do, it focused mainly on zoos, safaris, aquarium, sea world and things like this. We’re not into watching animals in cages so we stuck to what we knew: food, surf, longboard and movies. You’ll agree it doesn’t get better than this!

We did make a stop at Coronado Island, taking the high bridge for a nice view of the downtown on the other side. The island mainly consists in residential homes, airforce bases and a beach. After spending some time in the sun, we were craving frozen yogurt – no surprise here! We decided to mix things up and give Pinkberry a shot. It wasn’t as satisfying as Yogurtland we have to admit, especially because you don’t get to make your own… I mean, come on.

Steph and Maeva in front of San Diego skyline
Steph and Maeva in front of San Diego skyline
San Diego skyline
San Diego skyline
Pinkberry bowl in San Diego
Pinkberry bowl in San Diego
Maeva wearing Herschel in Herschel street
Maeva wearing Herschel in Herschel street

A very famous spot around San Diego is La Jolla, a great area perched on the cliffs along the ocean. It made the perfect place to go longboarding and watch some seals and paddle boarders struggling to take waves in the bright turquoise ocean. We were totally feelin’ it with our longboards, shorts and California hairstyles (=messy blonde salty sandy hair)!

La Jolla cliffs
La Jolla cliffs
Beautiful beach at La Jolla
Beautiful beach at La Jolla
Seagull at La Jolla
Seagull at La Jolla
La Jolla ocean view
La Jolla ocean view

We knew this would be one of our final stops on the West Coast so we jumped at the occasion of watching another double-feature at the drive-in. This one had 3 screens (fancy!) so you got to choose your theme: horror (HELL NO), cartoons or action. Obviously, we took action! We watched John Wick, which is basically the worst movie ever in terms of story – it’s just Keanu Reeves, fight, after fight, after fight, after fight. B-o-r-i-n-g. The Matrix days really are over… Right after followed Dracula Untold. Well, the story isn’t much better but it can always be fun to watch vampires fighting and biting each other right? Okay fine, I’ll admit it, Steph was asleep at the back. At least we had popcorn!

But what is San Diego most famous for? Take a wild guess. Surf of course! Steph knew he had to make the most of his time there as we were soon going to head inside the U.S. far from the ocean and his beloved waves. The good surf spots were Sunset Cliffs and Black Beach. The sunset perched on those cliffs was truly mesmerizing as crowds gathered to watch the fearless surfers paddling under the dark orange colours of nightfall.

Sunset Cliffs in San Diego
Sunset Cliffs in San Diego
Sunset in Sunset Cliffs in San Diego
Sunset in Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

We were just about to drive back up the coast to start part 2 of the trip: National Parks and driving to the East Coast. So we agreed a new fast food was in order and found the closes Five Guys. Now, if you don’t know Five Guys, you will be eternally grateful for this post. If you do, you know why we’re saying that. The concept? Just burgers and fries. A simple menu and fresh products. Everything made right as you order it. As soon as we took our first bite, we knew this restaurant had jumped right on top of our fast food ranking. The simple things are the best things. Their red and white decoration with vintage articles related to their business and burgers in general is nice plus! Right after, we treated ourselves to our second real movie theatre to watch the very unique Birdman. Now once again guys, GO SEE IT. It unites some of the most iconic actors of different generations: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, etc. to create a black comedy exploring the world of actors, self-image and creation. We won’t say more, just go see it. Like now.

Santa Barbara

34°25' 15" N 119°41' 53" W Santa Barbara

Oct 26, 2014  –  by Maeva

We finally made our way to sunny Santa Barbara. Sunny may be an understatement, it honestly felt as if we had stepped right back into the heat of August days. We stayed in this small beach town for a couple of days, just enough to combine some surf sessions close to Isla Vista Point, chilling and longboarding along the beach. Steph has been working hard at perfecting those barrels as you can see!

Steph taking a wave in Santa Barbara
Steph taking a wave in Santa Barbara
Steph surfing in a small barrel
Steph surfing in a small barrel
Steph fixing board on the beach
Steph fixing board on the beach

Also, Steph has been teaching me some longboard moves in order for me to stay more or less stable, and there has been some improvement! You will see the proof below. It does help that the board I got is totally beautiful with its wooden material and totally badass with a shark at the back! As the guys from the skate shop said, “If that’s the one you like, then that’s the one you should get.”

Maeva posing with her longboard
Maeva posing with her longboard
Maeva imitating the shark on her longboard
Maeva imitating the shark on her longboard
Maeva longboarding
Maeva longboarding
Steph selfie longboarding
Steph selfie longboarding

Although we missed Livia in town, she gave us tons of tips for places to sleep and cool hikes to go for. We followed her advice and slept in our van at the Rose Gardens at the Mission every night – perfect spot! We also went for a hike to Saddle Rock, but probably didn’t pick the right time. It was the middle of the afternoon and burning hot. The view was absolutely worth it though! We almost ran down the trail to jump into the car and rush to the ocean. It was our first swim without our wetsuits and it never felt more like summer! And of course, when we reached the sea, two dolphins were casually passing by a few meters away from the shore.

Steph on top of Saddle Rock
Steph on top of Saddle Rock

Now, if you like dolphins, I would suggest moving to SB. I mean yes, we saw some in Santa Cruz, but the Santa Barbara dolphins are way more fun. Why you ask? Well because they’re freestylers! They’ll come and tease the surfers by jumping around and offering an amazing little show. Steph will be practising his left turn and two dolphins will throw a backflip in the background, no big deal. Oh you want proof? Look below my friends. I’m SO thrilled that early one morning I got to capture Steph on his board and a dolphin jumping a few meters away. It was hard to coordinate both models.

Steph and the dolphins in the ocean
Steph and the dolphins in the ocean
Dolphins jumping in Santa Barbara
Dolphins jumping in Santa Barbara

Other than that, we visited the cute little downtown with its beautifully designed courthouse and the main street, State Street. Following Peter’s advice, we also treated ourselves to some tacos and guacamole at La Super Rica Taqueria, a cute turquoise Mexican restaurant – definitely worth stopping by!

Santa Barbara Courthouse
Santa Barbara Courthouse
Round house in Santa Barbara
Round house in Santa Barbara
Cool vintage car in Santa Barbara
Cool vintage car in Santa Barbara
La Super Rica Taqueria
La Super Rica Taqueria

Thanks again for the great SB tips Livia!!

PS: I should also point out that Steph developed a new addiction during the couple of days spent in SB: the Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino. It was just so warm that we had to share a Venti one every afternoon you know! First it was the Oreo Blizzard at DQ, now it’s the Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks.. what will be next?

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

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