After finally getting round to blogging about the first leg of our Californian road trip last month, I am back with the next. My San Francisco, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe road trip. I have put them all in together in main because we didn’t spend that much time in each, but I at least want to mention each of them! My fave of the three was by far Lake Tahoe, followed by Yosemite, it felt like a real road trip to be on the high twisty windy roads, passing lakes and mountains. I had the best time, I so wish I was still there!
We found San Francisco was a bit of a bust for us, I will expand on that in more detail below, but briefly make sure you plan for San Francisco, or you could miss everything! Yosemite is just beautiful, but sadly the Tioga path road opened the day after we passed through so in the end we didn’t get to spend much time trekking. What we did do was stunning though, if you ever get the chance to visit it really is spectacular. As a result of the Tioga Pass road closure, we had to drive the detour to Lake Tahoe (which ended up having 2 detours on itself so took us 7 hours, but hey ho!). However, I am so glad we did. I adored Lake Tahoe and will be making the trip back to California to spend more time here. More on that below though……
San Francisco and Yosemite are insanely expensive. They are by far the most expensive places I have ever visited so I basically recommend anywhere that is in your budget! Even if you were to fork out a couple of hundred a night, you still wont get anything spectacular. My advice is save the money you would spend on an ok place here and spend it on an amazing place elsewhere on the trip (like Vegas, but that will wait until my next post!). Just pick a cheap motel that has online reviews which score high in the cleanlieness rankings and ignore the décor!
Lake Tahoe is the complete contrast, it was really cheap for a huge room. We stayed in the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa. When we first entered we were a bit unsure as it was so dingy and smokey, but that is because you walk into a casino. As soon as you get to the room, this is forgotten. We spent £90 for a room which had a walk in shower bigger than the spare room in our house, and it is not a small spare room! The bathroom itself, the size of my master room, it was insane! I would imagine in winter when Tahoe is full of skiers this is not how it works, but in summer I was amazed at how cheap it was. I would stay here again if I was to go back, which I most definitely will be doing one day!
Sadly, in San Francisco all but one meal was distinctly average! We discovered San Francisco is a bit of an oddity in that restaurants are not really marked on google maps. We tend to look for places on Google when we arrive at our hotel and plan where to go each night. However, we found there was nothing on Google maps in our area, so most nights we ended up heading down to the Wharf, where understandably the food is mediocre! On our last night though, we realised if we had just walked the other way out of our hotel there were actually loads of restaurants, they just were not listed online! They all looked really good as well.
We also found it is very easy to walk 22 miles (yup 22 miles no exaggeration) and not go past a single bar, restaurant or shop, if you just so happen to be a couple of streets too far over. We didn’t have internet walking about so could not just pull things up on a map while walking, we had figured we would stop and check in a coffee shop when we got to the area we wanted to be in. Well that failed, miserably!!! When we got home after this epic walk we were grumpy and wanted to leave San Francisco in all honesty, it kind of ruined the city for us. So my other piece of advice, check, and maybe download the map before you head out or you could be unlucky enough to miss everything. When I got back to the hotel on this particular day and plotted where we had been, I think in every area I had said we had to visit, we had missed the bustling centre by 2 streets or so. Very disappointing. Very much my own fault, but I wanted to pass on the advice!
The one place we did eat that was really nice was Blackwood, on our way back from the Golden Gate Bridge. I had the Smokey Cashew Nut Tofu and it was really good. If you are in the area, I definitely recommend eating here. The restaurant has a really nice laid back vibe, the staff are attentive but not overbearing and like I say the food was really good as well.
As we were in a convertible, I was concerned about our trip into Yosemite as I didn’t want any bears braking into the car (which it turns out they pretty much wont during a super busy day). So obviously we came with no food, although keeping it cool would not have been an option even if there were no bear/convertible fears. Having looked online, I was confident I would be able to find something to eat in the park, however, I was super surprised to see just how vegan friendly Yosemite is. The Village Store had a section of the freezer full of amazing vegan brands, they had soya milk, vegan sweeties, yoghurts, everything you could possibly want! It was as good as any large UK superstore. So if you are here to camp, fret not, there will be plenty food for you! The only thing I would suggest packing is your own marshmallows, as whilst they had plenty for the meat eaters, I saw none for the veggies/ vegans!
Finally in Lake Tahoe I only had one meal (due to a 12.30am arrival after our 2 detours!!), but it was really good. A quick google search found a café called Driftwood just around the corner from the hotel that had lots of options for vegans. They were queued out the door when we arrived, which is always a good sign, but we got seated pretty quickly. The food was very good, I thoroughly enjoyed it, the portion was nice and big too, which I always want at breakfast! I went for the Vegan Scram which was scrambled veggies and hash browns. It also came with a good portion of fruit and a cup of tea. If I lived in the area I have absolutely no doubt saying this would be my local.
Top Places to Visit
San Francisco has plenty of information online of where to visit, but our faves were the Wharf, the Penny Arcade, our boat trip out to Alcatraz and our walk along to the Golden Gate Bridge. As I mentioned above, if you have certain areas you want to go to, make sure you have a map to help you find them. We took a trip to Haight Ashbury amongst others and all we saw was row after row of houses…….
Yosemite doesn’t even need me to mention anywhere, everything is right there in front of you! Park where you can, grab your map and head out and enjoy. The campsites looked like great fun and I had real envy of those walking around who were clearly staying, so if you get the chance I recommend you camp out!
Lake Tahoe has the most stunning scenery. We were advised to drive up to Emerald Bay and the scenery was just stunning. The thing which amazed me the most was being in 30 degree heat, whilst looking at snow capped mountains, which in all honesty did not look far away! The other spot we headed for was Zephyr Cove which was absolutely heaving. But on the way opposite a fire station we found a great little spot where there was a great bit of beach. There were loads of little areas which were fairly private and would be the perfect spot for a day down the beach. The water was so blue and perfect. I think this was my favourite place on my road trip to be honest! I highly recommend you head up here for a look around!