This spring break led myself and a few friends to explore the Pacific coastal areas of Big Sur, Carmel, and Monterey – destinations touted for their aquatic life, picturesque coastlines, and outdoor activities. We only had less than two days to traverse the area so we made sure to do diligent research beforehand and created a worthwhile itinerary.
I had the pleasure of staying in the relaxation and wine destination of Napa Valley this past weekend. The theme of the visit – as is with all my vacations – was #StudentBudget. If you’re looking to discover the pricey wonders of Napa in a financially-tight fashion then look no further than my splendid experience.
We got our room at Napa Discovery Inn at a strikingly low $80 (taxes and fees included) from Hotwire.com. The tiny accommodations were nowhere close to luxury, but that’s never bothered me before. Our host was incredibly friendly and our room was well-sized and lacked any sort of questionable smell.
Napa is chalk full of wineries so that even after plentiful online research I had no idea where exactly to go during our two days there. Thus, our first stop was the Napa Welcome Center located in beautifully quaint downtown Napa. We told a lady there we were looking to experience the area as affordable as possible and she promptly handed us free and 2-for-1 wine tasting cards. And off we went…
First day destinations:
- Sutter Home (free tasting with card) – our sommelier was amazing. He recommended restaurants around the area and told us about the free tasting across the street at Heitz.
- Heitz (free without card) – beautiful backyard sitting area.
- V. Sattui (2-for-1 at $15 with card) – this was a major tourist destination, as the winery was named 2014 winery of the year. The grounds were absolutely fairytale-like.
- Peju – we stopped by here since this is only one of the few wineries to close past 4PM.
- Farmstead restaurant – worthwhile dinner spot. Warm and modern decor was on point and the food was delicious. We had the cheese rolls and vegetarian gnocchi.
Second day destinations:
- Napa Premium Outlets – not much to see here. It’s got your typical Coach, Michael Kors and J. Crew factory stores.
- Uncorked at Oxbow – free tasting with card.
- Oxford Public Market (restaurants and things for sale) – very similar to the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Worth seeing, but definitely has overpriced offerings.
- Melted – amazing little hipster lunch place in downtown Napa where you can find food that your wallet isn’t actually cringing at.
- Darioush Winery – this is just absolutely worth seeing. At $300/wine tasting there was no possible way we were touching any of their wines, but it’s perfect for photo-ops.
- Black Stallion – beautiful grounds again.
- Robert Mondavi Wine Estate – again, just a great place in Napa to take pictures.
- Yountville – home to 2 Michelin rated restaurants (French Laundry and Bouchon). Picturesque town great for taking an afternoon stroll.
- Ristorante Allegria – classy Italian restaurant in Downtown Napa. A great choice that is slightly cheaper than your typical Napa fare.
-Pictures of the Trip-
I’ve wanted a Rebecca Minkoff purse for years now to use an everyday bag, but couldn’t justify the price for such a small bag on my broke student budget. I even bought a Mini M.A.C. in deep blue a couple years ago, but returned it after thinking long and hard about how many smaller purchases I could be making using the same amount. In comparison to other popular bag brands, the prices aren’t actually that steep, but I just kept hesitating at the time. Alas, I finally received it as an early Christmas present during Neiman Marcus’ online Black Friday sale ($195 USD down to $137). Read More
As a resident of the California now, it only made sense that I venture to what I had heard toted as the mystical land of Yosemite National Park. We were only there for three nights, and despite skepticism of obtaining a campsite without having reserved ahead of time we lucked out and got a site when we arrived Friday afternoon. Word of advice though – October is probably the last acceptable month to camp in the area, as it was pretty chilly! Saturday night also saw an unfortunate amount of rain that managed to flood our tent…
Friday evening we visited Olmsted Point, and the major endeavor of our trip was hiking the John Muir Trail up to Vernal and Nevada Falls the next day. Again, we made it just in time to see some water left in the falls. The hike wasn’t too strenuous, but did consist of a good amount of stairs – I can only imagine how packed the narrow stair pathways would be during the summer. The journey was a beautiful one though, as one 7-year-old-looking girl exclaimed to me on her way down, “it is just a beautiful view up there!”.
We had a little too much fun with our European neighbors that night to take on the big hike up to Glacier Point the next morning so we drove our lazy asses up there. It’s the highest point in the park and certainly the most breathtaking one. All in all, the geographer in me totally nerded out at Yosemite’s vast topography and three days definitely was not enough!
Olmsted Point at Sunset:
The Famous El Capitan:
The Hike up to Nevada and Vernal Falls:
Above Nevada Falls:
Driving up to Glacier Point:
View from Glacier Point: