Roping and bowling in San Lois Obispo

Madonna Inn I remember staying at Madonna Inn some 30 years ago. Clearly its kitsch, garish décor made an impression on me. And I had the same plans for our Smalls.


The Inn is something of an institution – located exactly half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Every single one of the 110 bedrooms is different – and the restaurant and bar feel more Las Vegas than California.

We stayed in the room called American Home, chosen less for its interior design (very red, stripey with an enormous stone fireplace) but more for its two double beds. The Smalls were thrilled by the Inn and the first night we ate in the steakhouse and danced with some vacationing Midwesterners.

cowboy roping competition at Madonna Inn


Most tend to move on after one night at this one-off party inn. But we had decided to stay for the day (and an extra night) to explore the area. A hike up Madonna mountain, encountering some REAL cowboys mid-roping competition and a trip to 1050s-retro Pismo Beach made it absolutely worth it.

PS clearly I am more click-happy than ever while we are on this fantastic road trip… if you fancy taking a look at more of our holiday snaps, do check out/follow my Instagram feed.

P1170476Pismo Beach

pismo beachP1170479pismo beach pierP1170520

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big thumbs up to Big Sur

Anywhere which describes the Lonely Planet describes as ‘more of a state of mind than a pinpoint on a map’ is going to irritate Him and make me all the more curious. I was SO curious about Big Sur. And then all those who instructed me that I must include this no (stressed) man’s land in our trip only fuelled my curiosity further.

route one coast line

No traffic lights I had heard. No phone nor internet signal (yippee). No banks nor shopping centre. No street lights after dark… just the moon and the stars.


I was sold. We had to make the trip.

And what a scenic trip it was down Route One (the coastal road).


Raw, beautiful Pacific Ocean on one side of the road and the Santa Lucia range of mountains on the other.


In the 50s and 60s Big Sur became a retreat for artists and writers (or even common city folk) wanting to escape the stressed of everyday life.

Pfeiffer Big Sur

We hiked to the top of the Pfeiffer State Park. The coast redwood trees were breathtaking (as was the uphill climb!) and we were pretty impressed with the Smalls’ stamina.


Heading to the Big Sur River Inn afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a huge burrito each as we cooled off our feet in the river and enjoyed the peace of this hippy, chilled place.

burrito at River Inn


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geek shoes on a ranch

I didn’t shop in San Francisco. Not even a tiny weeny bit. Our 4 days there were full of much more interesting pursuits and – anyway – I do struggle with the underlining fact that everything can be bought anywhere in the world nowadays.

BUT… as we walked down to Union Square to pick up our car rental… He dragged us into Merrell looking for a new pair of laces for his hiking shoes.

geek shoes on carmel valley ranch

And there I happened upon these: my very own geek shoes. The shoes I never knew I needed (or could bare to wear!). The moment I tried them on (despite Mini shaking her head and rolling her eyes emphatically), I was sold on pure comfort.

carmel valley ranch


Now we are rurally embedded into this glorious ranch in Carmel Valley, I’m living in these geek shoes – therefore fully worthy of this post.

making s'mores by the campfire

making s’mores by the campfire

In fact, we’re walking the socks off the Smalls here. Set within 500 acres of the Saint Lucia Mountains, there are literally hundreds of miles of hiking trails and even the family pool is a good 25 minutes walk across the fields of vineyards, lavender and down past the ranch’s apiary.

the vineyards

the vineyards

the Smalls walking to the pool

the Smalls walking to the pool

Merrell All Out Bold

Back to the shoes: the Merrell All Out Bold is super-lightweight, made with breathable air mesh (not sweaty) and my feet feel really well supported with a brilliantly grippy rubber sole.

Merrell All Out Bold

Of course, you don’t need to be on a ranch, I fully plan on wearing these back home (especially with yoga/gym kit). And I reckon you just need to add socks for an ultra geek look.

My Merrell All Out Bold shoes cost $100 but I’ve had to link to the US site as I can’t find them on the UK site.  I’ve written to Merrell to ask them for more info and I’ll add the right link for UK peeps just as soon as they email me back.



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BrainWash in the city of fog

Forgive me while I talk about the fascinating subject of clothes washing.

A few friends heard me voice my concerns over my light-packing-passion as I prepared for this trip. I knew that we didn’t have enough clothes without at least a couple of loads going on during our travels. Chicago was easy – our apartment building had machines in the basement at our disposal.

San Francisco Life of Yablon

San Francisco, on the other hand, is littered with a launderette on every street (or so it seems). I had been eyeing up a couple of those local to our hotel when He read about BrainWash.

The most genius idea: a café cum bar cum launderette cum playroom for those with dirty washing and empty stomachs.


BrainWash San Fran

We were sold. On went the washes, while we ate breakfast. Into the dryer went the clean wets while we played pinball.

BrainWash San Fran

BrainWash San Francisco

Delicious multi-tasking and now we have clean clothes for the road trip tomorrow.

San Francisco Life of Yablon

Goodbye San Francisco… we are all a bit smitten with this city of fog, lights and steep hills.

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