Earlier this summer SGP travel sessions took me to the most magical place. What made this trip even more special was that I decided to take my middle child along with me for the ride. Just the two of us. Since we are still a relatively new family of five, I am still learning the ropes and the ins-and-outs of three children (feel free to send me all the advice) but what I am already certain of is that solo time with my middle is super rare.
Months ago when I booked this trip and told my son that he got to come along he lost his mind. He was completely beside himself with excitement. And quite frankly, so was I. This guy has my heart. He is my main squeeze and I adore hanging with him. He is also growing up so fast and is the perfect age for traveling cross country. From start to finish, the trip was pretty darn spectacular. For the most part, I let my son call the shots and make the decisions and it was so good for him. Other than a few exhaustion-induced tantrums, he completely rocked the trip.
We flew into Santa Cruz and landed mid-morning on a Thursday so we decided to take advantage of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk before making the drive down to Carmel-by-the-Sea. A friend of mine gave me this advice and it was spot on. It broke up all the travel and gave us a really fun way to spend the afternoon. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it. Santa Cruz is adorable. The weather was perfect. The Boardwalk was an exciting way for my little man to spend the afternoon with his mom. He chose what we rode, when we rode it and what we did next. He absolutely loved calling the shots. He played a few of the Boardwalk games and insisted on winning a prize for each of his siblings. In fact he picked the games he wanted to play based on what prizes were available for winning and which ones he thought they would like best. For his baby brother he wanted to play this tricky game that gave out Paw Patrol prizes and for his older sister he wanted to win an emoji toy. Y’all he has the sweetest heart. After we had done all the things we were brave enough to do, we loaded up the car and drove down the coast to Carmel.
The remainder of Thursday was spent settling into our room at my sweet clients beach front home (yes, it was as Ah-Mazing as that sounds and I still cannot believe that they let us stay there). We all went into town together for a delicious dinner and then honestly, we crashed. Waking up at 4:30am to head to the airport will do that to you. Pretty sure we were in bed by 8pm that night.
Early Friday morning, we couldn’t wait a second longer… we had to explore the beach. We snuck out of the house and crossed the street to the famous Carmel Beach. It was SO cold. And foggy. But still so gorgeous. It was quiet with only a few other walkers and their dogs on the beach so we just wandered. My son couldn’t get over how soft the sand was. And how there were zero seashells (who knew!). Honestly, we only lasted about 30 minutes out there before we headed back inside to warm up.
After photographing a special session Friday morning (another post coming soon), we were off to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the day. Monterey is only about 15 minutes from Carmel so it was a super easy drive. We found a cute cafe on the coast and had a delicious lunch before heading into the aquarium. From the moment we walked in, we were both in awe for the next few hours. Every display was completely amazing. We made sure to explore every nook and cranny of the place over the next few hours before deciding we needed a change of pace. Afterwards, we walked the historic Fisherman’s Wharf a bit and explored some of the shops. We even found a cool tree to climb (I was with a six-year old after all).
On our way back from Monterey we went to the beach for a bit. It was a mild afternoon so we found a spot to hang out and just chilled. He played. I watched. He ran. I watched. He dug. I watched. It was great way to unwind for a bit:) That night, my son wanted pizza for dinner (per the usual). We got a recommendation for a cute little pizzeria in Carmel and I took him on a date. There was wine. Gourmet pizza. A fireplace. It was so nice. Of course, my son’s mind was blown because they let him play with a ball of pizza dough while we waited for our dinner. Truly, it is the little things:) And honestly I was fine with that because it let me drink a few sips of wine in silence. And I needed it because apparently when you get the middle child alone, they talk non stop.
After a slightly gloomy and overcast Friday, I was thrilled to wake up to gorgeous sunshine on Saturday! Before we tackled our big adventure for the day, I was dying to scope out “downtown” Carmel-by-the-Sea. At this point, I had heard all about it but only driven past so I was ready to see it in person. I told my son that we would wander around and explore for a bit and then move on. Honestly, he enjoyed our morning walk as much as I did. Carmel is possibly one of the cutest places on earth. And the flowers. My goodness, they are stunning and they are everywhere. Every turn revealed another adorable street filled with unique cottages and amazing floral displays.
After exploring downtown, we headed to the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Let me stop right here and tell you that this was the highlight of the trip for me. I would absolutely go back to Carmel just to go to Point Lobos again. I would plan an entire family vacation around getting to take my entire family here. It is completely amazing. All that to say, my nature loving middle child was in heaven as well.
When we planned for this excursion, I didn’t really look into what we were doing. Everyone just kept telling me, “Go to Point Lobos. They have cool tide pools.” Literally that is all I knew. I figured I would pack a backpack with some snacks, sweaters and water and we would be on our way. Y’all, we ended up spending FIVE hours hiking and exploring. You read that right, five hours. A six year old. Yep, we were exhausted at the end. Thank goodness I happened to pack a lot of snacks (because we skipped lunch) AND the picnic sites had water fountains (because we refilled our bottles a lot). Yes, the heavens were shining on us because it was truly a magical day.
Saturday evening, I photographed another session in Carmel (also another post). After the session, we were determined to watch sunset on the beach. I could not leave California without seeing one beach sunset. The problem was that it was already almost 8pm. And we hadn’t eaten dinner yet. I couldn’t ask my six year old to skip dinner. So, after the session we literally RACED to pickup takeout from a restaurant (which took way too long and almost screwed us). We RACED back from the restaurant and onto the beach, literally running all the way to watch the last 15 minutes of the most magical sunset. It was super chilly. We were starving. We played for a very few minutes, more to stay warm than anything. Truth be told we only lasted out there for a few minutes while we inhaled a few bites of our burgers. Finally we caved and went back inside to finish dinner and go to bed.
That evening, after a warm shower, my son fell asleep with all the lights while I started to pack up our things. We were both so tired but so happy. It had been a wonderful trip and I hated that it had to end. Sunday morning we went into town one more time to have breakfast at the famous Katy’s Place (for the second time). It was the perfect end to our magical little trip.
If you are still with me after this REALLY long post, there are a TON of photos to sort through. And even some iPhone snaps at the end. Oops:) Stay tuned for blog posts sharing the two family sessions that I shot while in Carmel. They were pretty amazing too! If you are interested in an SGP travel session, or would like more information, send me an email through the contact form. I would love to hear from you.
I just had to include some of the cute iPhone shots we took too. Lots and lots of selfies with my man:)