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west coast road trip

The premise of this blog was to focus on issues with advertising, production and media. After returning from our family's spring break vacation, i though it may be worthwhile to post about. Think of it as a commercial break so I'm not completely off message. For those of you with families or who haven't had the opportunity to drive down the California coast you may find this useful.

My sister planned a family visit to LA about 6 months back. Rather than killing time over spring break in LA, we thought we'd plan a weekend trip to Napa Valley. Her kids had never been. It's beautiful. They're foodies. Most of all, it's a short plane ride and drive from LA. My wife thought why not take advantage and parlay this weekend jaunt into a family vacation. It's a perfect time of year and recession appropriate.

On Friday morning we flew into Oakland. Keeping with the nature and economical theme, we rented a Prius and drove to Napa. We stayed at Carneros Inn. Amazing resort. Let me caveat my previous statement by saying it aint cheap. Other than a few dining experiences it was our only major indulgence on the trip. It was well worth it. In Napa, we ate well ranging from Adhoc in Yountville, Thomas Keller's family style restaurant, to burgers at Taylor's Refresher's in St. Helena. Thanks to my sister, we went on a private tour of the Silver Oak Vineyard. They exclusively produce cabarnet but have a pinot coming out in May. I learned modern wine making is part science, part technology and part art. Kind of like filmmaking.

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Next stop, San Francisco. We stayed at the Fairmont in Nob Hill. It's a hotel from a bygone era like something out of "The Shining". Not my usual taste. We thought by the time our kids grow up these places may be gone. And, my wife got a great rate.

We squeezed a lot in in two days. The Exploritoum is a great kids science museum. Interactive and fun. The kids could've stayed all day. After that we went to dinner in Chinatown. Very cost efficient. The next day we hit the SF MOMA and Alcatraz. If you go to Alcatraz do the audio tour. It's 45 minutes. It kept the kids interest. Foodwise we had two great meals outside of Chinatown, The Slanted Door (albeit pricey) for dinner and Dottie's True Blue Cafe for breakfast.

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We left San Fran early and drove to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I've been to a million aquariums - Long Beach, Baltimore, Coney Island - you name it. This was the best. Like the Exploritorium, the kids can really get their hands dirty.  It's located right on Cannery Row, which is a little touristy for me but kinda cool if you're a Steinbeck buff. After the museum we drove 15 minutes to Carmel. We arrived at our hotel, La Playa, at magic hour. Perfect time for a walk on the shore. Breathtakingly beautiful.

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After a really good breakfast at Katy's Place in Carmel, we hit the road for Hearst Castle. It was crystal clear day, ideal for a ride through Big Sur. As you drive through the tree covered curvy roads high above the ocean, it feels as if you are at the edge of the Earth. We stopped a few times just to take in the beauty.

A few miles North of Hearst Castle there is a stretch of beach where seals lay in the sand to shed their skin. It's an amazing spectacle. Literarly hundreds of seals sunbathing on the beach. After witnessing the seals, we took the Hearst tour. The castle is remarkable not only for the architectural accomplishment but also for its history. The entire time I couldn't stop thinking about Citizen Kane. Strangely, there was no mention whatsoever of the movie or yellow journalism.

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That night we stayed at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. It is an over the top kitsch hotel. Each room has a theme. We stayed in the Safari Room. It was an experience...once. The idea was preferable to the reality. The next day we went to Santa Barbara. I'm not a big of a fan of Santa Barbara with the exception of La Super Rica. In all fairness by the time we arrived we were pretty beat. We passed on the sight seeing and took in the matinee of "Monsters vs. Aliens". In the morning we rented a pedal bike for a ride along the water then packed up the car and headed back to Venice.

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I couldn't say enough about what a great family trip it was. I highly recommend the coastal road trip with or without kids. Of course there were some bickering and a few tears but overall quality bonding. A good time had by all.

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As a side note, on the entire journey we only filled up once. Two tanks of gas with room to spare when we returned the Prius to Santa Monica.

in Travel

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