A family holiday to Hawaii

It has been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Hawaii. We’d been talking about it for a little while as I’d always said I wanted to go as a joint celebration for my 30th birthday and our 10-year wedding anniversary, both of which are in 2018. I’d been saving up for about 3 years so had a nice little stash of cash ready to go and as luck would have it, we happened to have the free time and the funds to go in September.

It was INCREDIBLE.

Like, exactly as you’d imagine Hawaii to be.

Also, it’s a LONG way!

We had an 11 hour flight to San Francisco followed by a 4 hour layover, followed by a 5 hour flight to Hawaii (with a wonderful hour and a half delay sitting on the tarmac – joy!) but to be quite honest, it really wasn’t all that bad. Hux is a little pro on aeroplanes now and Cali just took it all in her stride. We built her a little arena out of cushions and set up Moana on the iPad and she was happy as can be.

We were only visiting Oahu on this trip. I had originally had my heart set on Kauai but the more we looked into it, Oahu seemed the more kid-friendly option and the accommodation was slightly cheaper too. We were staying in Waikiki for the first 3 or 4 days and then heading off to stay on the North Shore for 9 days before returning to Waikiki for another 2 days. We were a little bit worried that Waikiki would be one enormous tacky tourist trap but we were pleasantly surprised at how upmarket and lovely it was.

Leonard's Bakery Oahu

We stayed at an AWESOME hotel called The Laylow. I literally cannot express enough how much I love this hotel. I’ve stayed in some pretty swanky digs in my time (Charleston Place in Charleston, the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco, the Waldorf Astoria in New York) and this is definitely my favourite. It was just so cool but with absolutely no air of pretentiousness at all.

The Laylow Waikiki Honolulu

The first couple of mornings we woke up pretty early thanks to jetlag and made our way straight down to the beach to catch the best of the surf and enjoy the quietest time of day in the sea. I haven’t been on a surfboard in about 10 years so I was pretty nervous but it was amazing to be out in the ocean again. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Obviously we had to visit Honolulu Zoo but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. It was easily one of the worst zoos I’ve been too. They had an owl in a cage that looked just about big enough for a budgie. Not impressed.

I’m not even entirely sure where to begin describing North Shore. It’s just fantastic. Despite being one of the most popular places for some of the biggest surf comps in the world it has managed to retain that wonderful dusty, sleepy feeling to it. After you’ve passed through the main town of Haleiwa there’s basically nothing there! There’s one supermarket, a bakery and a couple of food trucks and fruit stands. Not a Starbucks in sight. It was fabulous. (I’d highly recommend the Impossibles Pizza truck and Panda’s Thai truck). Another thing I totally loved was the culture of how people live out there. Huge groups of mums with hundreds of kids swarming on the beach having the time of their lives but thinking nothing of it because this was just daily life for them. Watching tiny groms paddle out into huge waves as their dads watched on from the beach with a proud glint in their eyes. Literally the best life imaginable.

North Shore Oahu

Waialua bakery haleiwa

North Shore Oahu Hawaii

Shrimp truck North Shore Oahu

Waialua Bakery Hawaii Oahu

Mastsumoto Rainbow shave ice Haleiwa

Dole Whip Oahu

The whole place is just stunning. We had most of the beaches to ourselves most of the time and there are loads of beautiful overgrown pathways leading you down to the sand with the bright blue crystal sea at the bottom. There’s also the amazing cycle path that runs parallel to the beaches meaning you can safely get between them all without having to drive everywhere.

Oahu North Shore

Sunset Beach Oahu North Shore Hawaii

North Shore cycle path Oahu

Our first 5 nights were spent in this Airbnb in Pupukea. We had no idea when we booked it but it’s really close to an awesome beginners snorkelling spot called Shark’s Cove. Kalani who owns it was so lovely. I’d asked about a cot for Cali before we arrived and when we turned up, he’d ordered one from Amazon for us. It made such a huge difference to our stay. I loved that little cottage. It was the perfect size for us.

Airbnb in Pupukea North Shore Oahu Hawaii

Hux and a snail

Our next 3 nights were spent in this Airbnb which has THE MOST INCREDIBLE views of the sea. It was crazy dreamy. It was awesome being right on the beach and sitting and listening to the waves crashing late at night. It was super basic inside and we ended up having to make a bed for Cali out of the sofa but you really can’t beat it for location – and at such a reasonable price too!

Beach front Airbnb North Shore Oahu Hawaii

The kids really had the most amazing time. Huxley loved playing on the sand and snorkelling and spotting turtles and monk seals and generally just being allowed to be as feral as he liked. He’s very proud of himself for being able to say ‘humuhumunukunukuapua’a’, which is the name of their state fish. Cali is definitely a water baby. Every time we turned up at the beach she’d just start waving and smiling at the sea. The first few days she did just try and eat all the sand she possibly could but she worked it out after a couple of days!

Turtle Bay Beach North Shore Oahu

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Hux snorkelling Oahu

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monk seals at Turtle Bay beach Oahu

sandy baby hawaii

The Sunrise Shack Oahu north shore

Turtle North Shore Oahu Hawaii

Cali Haleiwa Bowls

(Look how dirty she is!!!)

The island of Oahu is so tiny! We had a hire car while we were in the North Shore and one of the days we’d planned to drive all the way down to Kualoa Ranch and check out the crazy beautiful mountains there and we thought it would take us hours when we looked at the map but we were there way before lunchtime! The Nu’uanu Pali lookout was great fun too. The views are breathtaking and the wind is literally breathtaking. Huxley thought it was hilarious. We also really enjoyed our walk around Waimea Valley and swimming in the waterfall there (although it was more like a trickle when we went!). I’d have loved to have attempted a few more adventurous hikes but holidaying with two kids is tiring enough as it is!

Nu'uanu Pali Lookout Oahu

Nu'uanu Pali Lookout best view oahu

Kualoa Ranch Oahu

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Diamond Head Honolulu Hawaii

Now we’re back home and I’m just dreaming of the day we can go back and explore some of the other islands! It was pretty hard to leave paradise and come back to grey, cold, rainy England!

A trip to San Diego

After spending a day or two in Los Angeles, the plan was to have a nice, easy drive down to San Diego and maybe stop in the shops at Disneyland and visit Huntington Beach again on the way. Turns out, the weather had other plans for us and with it threatening to rain the entire time we were in San Diego we decided to wake up super early in the morning and drive down a day early so we could go to the zoo. I’m pretty glad we did as this turned out to be the best day weather-wise and the day we were meant to go to the zoo, it rained torrentially all day!

If you watch my vlogs at all, you’ll know that Huxley is OBSESSED with animals so San Diego Zoo was basically like taking him to the Holy Grail. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so excited. As we walked through the gates he started singing ‘We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, How about you, you, you?’ which I didn’t even realise he knew! Bless him. It’s been about 6 weeks since we went now and he still studies the zoo map every single day and asks at least once a day if he can go back. He was totally besotted with the pandas. I didn’t take that many photos as I was trying to enjoy the day rather than snap photos of giraffes and tigers that a million other people had taken before me. You all know what a rhino looks like anyway! The elephant enclosure was amazing and the general feel of the zoo was exactly as you’d expect – totally awesome! Loads of beautiful green plants and the enclosures were all really lovely looking. The only thing we messed up on was that we took the sky ride thing across the zoo once we’d walked halfway around. I thought it was a return journey so we left Huxley’s bike and then because the queue for the return journey was ENORMOUS, we ended up walking most of the way around the zoo without Huxley’s bike which was a bit of a fail, especially with me being pregnant and it being so hot! It was an awesome way to see the zoo though as you could see all the animals chilling in their enclosures from above. (You can watch my vlog here if you want to see a bit more).

San Diego Zoo Giraffes

Panda at San Diego Zoo

I have to admit that after everyone telling us for months how much we’d love San Diego that we were both a little bit disappointed. I’m sure the crappy weather didn’t help as we’d basically planned to spend every day at the beach but instead we were scrambling around trying to find other things to do to fill our time and to be honest, we didn’t find much. We’ve got no interest in SeaWorld and the Safari Park was too expensive and we didn’t feel like San Diego had that much else to offer. The same thing happened to us with New Orleans though. We both agreed that it wasn’t somewhere we would rush back to and that it was nowhere near as good as San Francisco. I think we’ve both decided we’re definitely more NorCal people. Sorry Southern California!

One of the days we decided to check out the Mexican border and nearby town of Chula Vista as they are said to have the best Mexican food. We wandered around an outlet mall and bought a few souvenirs in the Disney store before looking at the enormous barriers and deciding we didn’t fancy standing in a queue for up to 6 hours with a toddler just to say we’d been over the border – especially as we lived in Mexico for 3 months anyway a few years ago so it’s not like we’d never been before. We drove to the funniest looking Mexican restaurant ever called Fernandez Catering. Literally on the side of a motorway and looked like someone’s house and we were definitely the only non-Mexicans in there. It was bloody awesome. Nick had a beef stew called a ‘birria’ but I didn’t eat anything because my pregnancy sickness was overwhelming at that point.

Fernandez Catering Chula Vista Birria

We visited two other Mexican restaurants nearby after that where I managed to eat a pastor taco (thankfully!) and it turned out to be probably the best damn taco I’ve had in my life. I have to admit that I spent most of our San Diego stay asleep as Huxley was a total nightmare going to bed while we were there. I have no idea why as he’d been no trouble at all during the rest of our California trip. But it got to the stage where we were having to drive around for an hour or two at midnight in desperation trying to get him to fall asleep. Yeah, that didn’t make it very fun.

There was one day where the sun poked it’s head out for a little while and we decided to go to La Jolla as people had told us how nice it was. Again, it was okay, but didn’t stand out in my mind as being that great. Huxley enjoyed seeing all the sea lions on the beach though (despite the smell!). People were swimming in the sea with sea lions swimming around next to them but when we got to the beach there was a warning sign saying not to swim because there’s so much yucky stuff in the water so we left them to it and went further down the coast for a dip.

La Jolla San Diego

Watching sea lions at La Jolla San Diego

Sea Lion on the beach La JOlla San Diego

San Diego beach

Beach at San Diego

As you can probably tell from the moany tone of this blog post, I wasn’t sad to leave San Diego and I was actually pretty damn excited about getting back to San Francisco. We drove about 8 hours all the way to Santa Cruz with a few hours stop in Los Angeles for some food. Thank god for iPads!

Driving in California

A trip to Los Angeles

At the end of our stay in California we tagged on an extra 10 days as a holiday. I know it probably sounds like we were already on holiday but Nick had been working really hard and we definitely needed the break. Granted, driving 8 hours down the coast with a toddler in the car isn’t the most relaxing way to spend a holiday but Nick had been banging on about going back to LA from the moment we returned home from there in 2010. Being a food writer, LA is obviously the place that gets talked about the most. It always has the newest, most innovative restaurants and most trends seem to stem from whatever is happening there. So, it was only natural that our entire trip was based mainly around where we were going to eat! (No changes there!)

Our first stop was a place called Ohana Poke Co on Sunset to try a poke bowl, which are all the rage right now and I can’t seem to open a website without a mention of one recently. And rightly so. It was light, fresh and totally delicious. Just what you want in the beating heat of a bustling city (or a nice beach in Hawaii I’d imagine!)

Ohana Poke Co Los Angeles

After that, we went straight to Grand Central Market, which is a little bit like Borough Market in London and is the home to the famed Egg Slut, whose line was by far the longest! The cool thing about Grand Central Market is that there are tables scattered around all over the place so you could go with a bunch of friends, all buy something from a different vendor but still all sit together at the same table without having to feel awkward about it. Not only that but it’s a photographer’s dream, with all it’s neon signs, cool hipsters and Instagram-worthy food porn shots waiting to be taken. (Sadly not for me though as mine are all blurry!)

Now totally full of food we drove to Griffith Observatory which is somewhere that we didn’t make it to on our last trip to Los Angeles because we were stupid enough to ditch our hire car! Personally, I think the trip to LA is worth it just for this. Not only are the views from the observatory arguably the best in the city, there are tons of awesome hikes you can do from there all while being watched over by the Hollywood sign. Add to that the fact that when the observatory is open it’s totally FREE. It’s a beautiful building to wander around and has some fascinating displays inside.

Hollywood sign from Griffith Observatory

Hux at Hollywood Sign

After that, yep, you guessed it, more food. This time at Guisados, a Mexican place that Nick really loved. I wasn’t quite so sold on it but I think that’s because we ordered a mixed platter so I had no way of knowing what was going to be spicy and what wasn’t and that along with being pregnant and nauseous meant that I didn’t have the best time there.

As I’m writing this I can’t quite believe we did this all in one day but after that we went to Echo Park. Rather than staying at a grotty motel on the side of a freeway, we were staying in an awesome Airbnb in Silverlake. This meant that we were much closer to all the cool restaurants and our stay had a really lovely ‘neighbourhood’ feel to it. Our Airbnb hosts were amazing and I’d highly recommend their place to anyone looking to stay a few nights. The view of Downtown from the shower is unreal! Anyway, I digress! So, we went to Echo Park and it was golden hour and the light was dreamy and the air was warm and it was just so perfect. I actually spotted mega bloggers Evelina & Racquel Natasha snapping outfit photos a few meters away as we watched the turtles swimming in the lake! They are both SO BEAUTIFUL. Echo Park is another must-see when visiting LA for me, especially if you have kids.

Echo Park, Los Angeles

Echo Park at Sunset

The following day we got up nice and early and made our way to what is quite possibly the hottest brunch spot on the planet right now, Sqirl. We were a bit anxious as it’s notorious for having queues around the block no matter what time you arrive so we were pleasantly surprised to find no more than 4 people stood in front of us when we got there! I have to admit that a lot of the time I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food and it’s usually Nick forcing me to try stuff, and with also being pregnant, all I really wanted was a fry-up. But Sqirl is definitely NOT that kind of place. They are credited with being the ones who made #avotoast what it is today. They serve theirs with hot pickled carrots, garlic creme fraiche, sorrel and za’atar. See what I mean? Not your ordinary breakfast offering! So, I did initially turn my nose up at a lot of the menu offerings as some of them sounded truly bizarre. I played it safe and chose the quiche (which was probably the best quiche I’ve ever eaten alongside Tartine in San Francisco & Big Sur Bakery) and a side order of bacon (which was also out of this world) and Nick ordered their famed crispy rice salad. We added an order of ricotta on toast at the last minute after seeing someone tucking into it at the table and I can honestly say that was the best decision we made that day. It was truly life changing. You wouldn’t think that ricotta and toast would work. But trust me, it REALLY DOES. I also had a homemade rhubarb lemonade that was insanely scrummy. Seriously, if I could eat there everyday for the rest of my life I’d be a very happy lady.

Famed ricotta toast at Sqirl LA

We’d planned to spend the rest of the day at the beach and playing in the sea. Unfortunately for us, the weather had other ideas. It was beautiful and warm and sunny in Los Angeles, until you got to Santa Monica. I’m not even kidding. It was literally just the beach that was shrouded in fog. You could see the clear-cut line where the cloud ended and the rest of the sunny city stretched away from the ocean. Being British, we of course soldiered on and settled down on Venice Beach despite not being able to see more than a metre in front of us. To be honest, once I laid down on the sand, it was actually gloriously warm and I could easily have fallen asleep there.

Fog at Venice Beach

After about an hour, we decided that we wanted the sunshine back so we parked up outside a Starbucks to use the free wifi like total tourists as our mobile phone credit had run out and Googled ‘water parks’. Unfortunately, due to it being only April, most of them were still closed but then Google threw up a lovely looking little park called Coldwater Canyon Park nestled in the middle of the mansions of Beverly Hills. It was amazing. There was a beautiful little manmade creek running the length of the grass which Huxley happily played in for hours. It was nice and shady and there were toilets and a regular play park right next door. And you could ogle all the incredible houses and keep your eye out for superstars at the same time. Dream!

Coldwater Canyon Park, Beverly Hills

After that we decided to return to Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset. It was crazy busy but totally worth every second. The sky turned a million different colours in the space of about an hour and it was great fun watching all the lights gradually switch on and it felt like the city came to life beneath you. They had the huge telescope open so you could get a look at Jupiter but the queue was quite long and Huxley was already getting a bit grouchy at this point so instead I queued up outside one of the smaller telescopes on the front lawn and got a glimpse of a teeny tiny ball of light. It was awesome.

Griffith Observatory sunset

Griffith Observatory sunset los angeles

 

If you’d like to see a more detailed account of what we got up to in Los Angeles then you can watch my vlog here.

 

 

A day at Muir Woods National Monument

A few weeks ago we went to Muir Woods. Muir Woods is a national monument (which is slightly different to a national park but don’t ask me why!). It’s just outside San Francisco and is totally beautiful. It’s basically a huge forest full of enormous redwood trees. I’m not sure why we’ve never been before as it’s super close to the city but it’s just something we hadn’t got around to.

Muir Woods National Monument Entrance

Anyway, we turned up one Saturday, about mid-morning to find a nice long queue into the car park – it was the first sunny Saturday in about 4 weeks so we should have known it was going to be busy! After some sneaky parking manoeuvres we were off and ready to go. Our visit also coincided with their Junior Ranger Day which was cool because it meant Huxley got some stickers and an activity pack to fill in as we were walking around. They let us in the front gate with his little bike but we found out later that they’re not allowed in (neither are pushchairs – so bear that in mind if visiting with a baby/toddler). I actually felt rather awkward pushing his bike around as there are tons of signs about keeping quiet and his bike can be pretty noisy so we ended up carrying it anyway just to try and not disturb the peace!

Muir Woods California

Nick & I both had mixed opinions about Muir Woods. It’s obviously very beautiful but due to it being a national monument and so close to a major city, it’s also VERY busy (it’s the most visited national monument in America). I’ve just read on Wikipedia that in 2017 they are introducing a reservation system to limit the number of cars able to enter every day so that’s something else to bear in mind if you plan on visiting next year. We thought the traffic was bad when we arrived mid-morning but it was nothing compared to the insane queues we saw about 3pm when we were leaving. Add to this the entrance fee of $10 per adult too and we really started to question whether it was worth it. We’ve been to other places further down the coast in Big Sur (and I’m sure there’s more further north too) where you can see redwoods for free. We’ve just parked the car up at a random location and gone on a mini-hike in the woods and it’s been just as beautiful – and I’d go so far as to say nicer as there aren’t a million other people there.

Muir Woods Redwood Trees California

We had a really lovely time at Muir Woods but I don’t think we’ll go back. It’s not super breathtaking like Yosemite is and I think there’s better places to see redwoods but if you’re on a whistle-stop visit of San Francisco then it might be worth adding to the list if you’ve never experienced anything like this before.

Muir Woods National Monument

Nick & Hux

Nick & Hux at Muir Woods

Me & Hux at Muir Woods

Family photo at Muir Woods

Junior Park Ranger Day at Muir Woods California

Life in California

Oh my goodness I am SO behind on all of this! To be honest, I haven’t been taking a lot of photos the past 2 weeks as it’s been raining for 12 days straight. Thankfully that’s over now and it’s back to glorious sunshine and wonderfully warm.

So I’m afraid there isn’t any real structure to this post, it’s basically just a photo-dump of all the nice things we’ve been doing recently. Our weeks have been filled with trips to the park, hiking in the hills and visiting San Francisco zoo.

Our first hike was back when we were still staying in Sonoma. We decided to do the Sonoma Overlook Trail which is a 3-mile round-trip and has stunning views over Sonoma and the valley – and San Francisco – which nobody had told me about so it was a very nice surprise! Huxley was amazing and walked nearly the whole way up. He loved spotting all the different animals we saw along the way. On the way down we even spotted some deer that got really close to us! He fell asleep shortly after that, bless him!

View of Napa Valley from Skyline Wilderness Park

View of Sonoma from Sonoma Overlook Trail

Huxley hiking

Sleepy-sausage

Our favourite park to visit right now is Crane Park in St Helena, it’s so beautiful and always full of kids. We stayed there for 5 whole hours one day! St Helena is a bit further up Napa Valley and it’s just incredible.

St Helena Napa Valley California

Crane Park St Helena Napa Valley California

Napa Valley California

We had dinner at In’n’Out Burger a few weeks ago. I’ll probably get things thrown at me for saying this but I really don’t rate it. The burgers are okay but not that different from McDonalds but the real killer for me are the fries. They taste powdery and dry and are so vile I could barely stomach them. But Huxley had fun with the dinosaur stickers and little hat that they gave him so it was worth it just for that.

In-n-Out burger California

In-n-Out burger Huxley

We visited San Francisco zoo a few weeks ago after Huxley had been going on and on and on about seeing some animals. We all thought it was amazing and were very impressed. The whole place is so green. There are trees everywhere. Huxley loved seeing the lions, tigers, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras and penguins – the only thing missing was an elephant but there’s one at Oakland Zoo which we might visit soon. Huxley could have stayed and watched the hippo all day I think. All he wanted was to see the hippo do a poo and all I can say is that the hippo delivered! I’ve never seen someone so excited about some poop! They also had a little farmyard area where you could buy food to feed the goats and brush their hair.

Feeding goats at San Francisco zoo

Brushing a goat at San Francisco zoo

Zebras at San Francisco Zoo

Chocolate-ice-cream

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

View of Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

 

 

A day at Lake Tahoe

Our first weekend here was a Bank Holiday, President’s Day to be exact, which celebrates George Washington’s birthday, and we decided to spend our time visiting Lake Tahoe. It’s somewhere we’ve both always wanted to go but on our previous visits to California, Big Sur, Yosemite and Napa had won out.

It’s about a 3 hour drive to Tahoe from Sonoma, which in American terms is considered ‘just down the road’. We had fun pointing out all the big chain restaurants we could spot on the side of the freeway and I was really surprised at how quickly the huge snowy mountains came into view on the horizon. The fun really started when we pulled off the freeway and started up the winding mountain roads. I definitely squealed like an excited child at the first sight of snow.

We’d been tipped off by a friend to take the scenic route past Donner Lake for some spectacular views and I’m so glad we did. Check this out….

Donner Lake California

Donner Lake near Lake Tahoe California

After a quick photo pit-stop we continued on to Lake Tahoe itself, which is about 30 minutes further. We drove past loads of places doing tubing (which is sliding down the snow in a massive inflatable rubber ring) and it looked SO MUCH FUN. I was absolutely desperate to do it with Huxley but we decided to see the lake first and go on the way back (unfortunately we had far too much fun at the lake and Huxley fell asleep in the car so I never got a chance to do it! Boo!)

We decided to drive around the North side of Lake Tahoe on this visit, which I think is a lot quieter than the South end. To be honest, I was totally surprised at how uncommercialised it seemed. I was expecting massive Nike stores and McDonalds all over the place but it all seemed to be independent ski shops and mom-n-pop restaurants which was really nice. We did take a quick dip into the massive resort of Northstar, which is where the Ritz-Carlton is and it was a totally different vibe. It was insane. Everyone looked like they were DRIPPING in money. It was so swanky. Northstar’s slogan is something like ‘the way it should be’ and I have to say I probably agree. We actually didn’t end up venturing in as parking was crazy.

Anyway, our first stop in Lake Tahoe was King’s Beach which was a little dull. We had a quick explore of the beach and then decided to hop back in the car and drive round a bit further. I hadn’t actually realised that Lake Tahoe was split almost down the middle between California and Nevada until we drove over the state line. The difference was clear almost immediately. The Nevada side of the lake was much less built-up. I think the next bit we stopped at was Sand Harbor. It was totally beautiful. The water is crystal clear. Everything was so blue and it was like being in a dream.

Being February, there was snow on the beach which Huxley really enjoyed but it was sunny enough to be pleasantly warm. We threw snowballs at each other, explored all the nooks and crannies of the rocks and built a snowman on the beach (whose head Huxley proceeded to eat!).

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe Nevada

Lake Tahoe Nevada February

Lake Tahoe in February

Huxley at Lake Tahoe

Making a snowman on the beach at Lake Tahoe in February

All in all it was an amazing day and a trip that I would definitely recommend to anyone. We’re desperate to go back and try out some of the fun activities on offer and I know Nick can’t wait to get himself back on a snowboard again. California really does have it all!

Settling in Sonoma

So we’ve survived our first week in Sonoma! Huxley and I have been alone all day every day for an entire week and I haven’t cried yet (although I’ve come close!). I’m not going to lie and paint a picture of sunshine and roses. I’ve had a bit of a tough time this week. Huxley has reverted to not eating or drinking anything other than milk or cheese – and not the normal orange cheese that you get here – it has to be the super expensive pre-sliced, pre-packaged white cheese that looks the same as it does at home. He’s also regressed in the potty training department a little bit too. This has made him very clingy and means he doesn’t want to go out anywhere. I’ll admit that there was a day when I shut myself in the bedroom for 20 minutes just so I could have some peace and quiet. (Is it bad that I’m already Googling relaxing holidays for when we get back?? I’ve got my eye on Mallorca* right now.)

The one shining beacon of hope in all of this is that we’re in California so the weather has been outstanding every single day so far. It’s so nice to be able to make plans and actually be able to stick to them and not have them rained off. That said, it is due to rain 3 days this week so it’ll be interesting to see how well I cope then!

This week I’m going to try harder to make dinners that look like normal food but have tons of hidden veg in them. I saw a great recipe video on Facebook for a ‘hidden veg’ mac’n’cheese that I’m dying to try out. Nick and I have managed to eat fairly well, with plenty of incredible avocados and oranges, I just worry about Huxley not getting enough good stuff but I’m hoping he’ll settle down soon enough and get back into the swing of things (until we have to move house again at the end of February – and we haven’t found anywhere to stay yet!!)

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom and I’ve had some really lovely moments with Huxley this week. We went for lunch at a diner together, got ice-cream at Baskin Robbins, had an amazing time at Sonoma Train Town and have had a blast running around the amazing parks they have here. We’ve also been out to eat as a family at The Fremont Diner and El Molino Central. We’ve just returned from a long weekend in Lake Tahoe too which was incredible (post coming soon! Or you can watch my weekly vlog!)

Palm Tree California

Small club sandwich at Big Bear Diner Sonoma

Hux eating bacon

Pretty house in Sonoma

Huxley in California

Huxley eating Baskin Robbins ice cream

Huxley at Sonoma Square Park

Hux eating a cookie

Mint It's It ice cream sandwich

Traintown Sonoma

Carousel at Sonoma Train Town Railroad February

Feeding goats at Sonoma Train Town

The Style Box at Sonoma Train Town

*This is a collaborative post

Our first week in America!

To quote Adele, hello from the otherside! We’ve been here a week now and are nicely settled into our house in Sonoma so I thought I’d do a bit of an update as to what we got up to over the past week. (You can also watch my weekly vlog if you’d prefer to see it in video form!)

Hux was an absolute angel on the flight. I was a bit worried about taking an active 2-year-old on an 11 hour plane journey but he did really well. He fell asleep literally the second the plane took off and slept for about 2 hours. Once he woke up he was so well behaved (thanks iPad!) and the only time he cried was when we came to land because I think his ears were hurting him. So all in all, it was a win!

We spent the first 3 days in San Francisco which was a bit crazy and busy due to the SuperBowl which happened on Sunday. It was the 50th one and security was nuts in the city. We had to walk through body scanners and everything just to get to the Ferry Building! Our first meal is always at Gotts Roadside. It’s one of my favourite places to eat in the city and one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. The garlic fries are insane.

Ferry Building SuperBowl50 San Francisco

Bay Bridge at dusk San Francisco

Jetlagged Hux

The next morning we woke up at 2am (thanks jet lag!) and lazed around until about 5am when Hux started getting restless so we walked to Bob’s Donuts which is possibly the best place ever. It’s open 24 hours and they make the softest, most incredible doughnuts – and it’s SO CHEAP. It’s not at all fancy and we love it so much.

Bob's Donuts San Francisco

Hux eating Bob's Donuts

After that we did a bit of shopping in downtown and Nick bought me a new North Face down jacket for my birthday. Then we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf (which we hate but we wanted to visit the Patagonia store there) before going to the Exploratorium as it just so happened to be their quarterly free entrance day. The Exploratorium was AMAZING! So much better than I was expecting. It’s a bit like the Science Museum in London but everything is hands-on so it would keep kids entertained for HOURS. Hux was probably a bit little but he had fun running around. If you had kids that are like 8+ they would have a blast. From there we walked to Nick’s happy place, Red’s Java House. We turned up at like 4.02pm and they shut at 4pm in the winter but luckily the guy took pity on us and let us in for a beer and a cup of tea!

San Francisco Exploratorium

Red's Java House San Francisco

On Wednesday we basically spent the whole day at Dolores Park as the weather was beautiful and obviously visited Tartine. I know I say this about everything, but you really can’t miss Tartine if you visit San Francisco. It’s so perfect.

Dolores Park San Francisco

Quiche at Tartine San Francisco

Tartine San Francisco

Hux

The Style Box Dolores Park

On Thursday we went to Outer Sunset to visit Mollusk Surf Shop before hanging out on Ocean Beach and watching the enormous waves crashing onto the beach. Then we drove to the Warming Hut so that Huxley could get a proper look at the Golden Gate Bridge. We also spotted Miss Universe having her photo taken while we were there!

San Francisco Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Hux at GGB

After that we drove to Moraga as we were staying with Nick’s friends for a few nights. It was super beautiful and we had a great time, although I didn’t really take any photos while we were there. On Friday they took us to Tilden Park which is a big mountain with incredible views of San Francisco (seriously though, it’s now my life goal to buy one of the houses on the side of the mountain with that view!). It also has a pretty lake, a farm and rather randomly, a carousel.

View of San Francisco from Tilden Park

Carousel at Tilden Park California

Saturday morning we got up and went to Walnut Creek as my iPhone needed upgrading so that we could use the American sim cards we’d bought. I needed a new one anyway and am due an upgrade in June but it’s nice to have it a bit early! Then we just made our way to Sonoma and got settled in our new house (for the month!) before heading to Safeway to buy lots of yummy food (read: mainly avocados).

On Sunday a friend of ours invited us to his house to watch the Superbowl. He’s really into barbecue, which is how him & Nick met and he made some amazing food. We didn’t watch any football but Hux had a great time running around the pool and throwing a ball in and getting it out with the net!

Now I’m just settling in to life in Sonoma. I’ll admit I haven’t found it easy the past few days. Don’t get me wrong, Sonoma is gorgeous and there’s tons to do here in the way of beautiful hikes and the weather has been incredible but Huxley has been a total pain. He’s probably just missing home and is a bit confused but he’s just been in one of those moods where he won’t listen to what I’m saying, he won’t do anything I ask him to and all he wants to do it sit around watching TV and eating junk food. He fell asleep at 5pm today though (hence how I finally have the time to write a blog post!) so maybe he’s just exhausted. Who knows?!

San Francisco part 2

When we returned to San Francisco after our trip to Yosemite, we were staying in an Airbnb apartment in Noe Valley. It’s our favourite part of the city but we’ve never stayed there before because all the hotels are in downtown. This was our first time using Airbnb and I think we’ll be using it quite frequently from now on.

The apartment was at right at the top of one of the biggest hills in the city, just behind Dolores Park. It was a studio/basement apartment underneath a beautiful 3-storey house. It was essentially just one room with the bed partitioned off and a bathroom but it was perfect for us and just the right amount of space for all our stuff and our pram. Our hosts were so lovely and helpful and it was really reassuring to know that they were right upstairs if we needed them. (If you’re interested, this is the apartment we stayed in – they also rent out the floor above which is bigger and has access to the garden)

The first evening we went to watch the sunset over the city from Dolores Park. Unfortunately we just timed it wrong and I think we missed the best of it. Oops!

Dusk at Dolores Park, San FranciscoDusk at Dolores Park, San FranciscoOur first day back in the city was spent exploring Noe Valley and the Mission. We went to Omnivore Books on Food and I bought an awesome pie book. We tucked into amazing al pastor tacos at El Farolito (Nick had tongue and brain tacos) and grabbed some donuts from Dynamo Donuts – the lovely lady even gave us a couple extra because she’d had a quiet day! They were completely delicious and I love all the different, playful flavour combinations but if I’m honest, I think I’m more of a traditional soft and fluffy Bob’s Donuts kinda gal.

Al pastor tacos from El Farolito, San FranciscoDynamo Donuts, San Francisco(L-R) Meyer lemon huckleberry donut, Caramel apple donut, Hibiscus heart beet donut & hot cross bun donut

Maple apple bacon donut from Dynamo Donuts San FranciscoMaple apple bacon donut

Lemon pistachio donut from Dynamo Donuts in San FranciscoLemon pistachio donut

The weather was quite nice the next day so we got up early and went to the best breakfast spot in the city, Tartine. Seriously, if you go to San Francisco, if you only eat one thing while you’re there, make sure it’s from Tartine. After that we caught the train to Outer Sunset and popped into Mollusk surf shop where Nick picked up some new t-shirts. The girls stuff was awesome but it all looked dreadful on me so I left empty-handed…for about 5 seconds, until we crossed the road and found an amazing art shop called 3 Fish Studios where we spent ages trying to decide what art to buy until I finally settled on this little beauty.

Then we walked along Ocean Beach up the hill to The Cliff House and peered over at the Sutro Baths. It would be so awesome if they were still there, they looked incredible!

Ocean Beach, San FranciscoOcean beach, San FranciscoOcean Beach & Cliff House, San FranciscoEmma The Style Box UK lifestyle bloggerAfter stopping for a quick drink (an Arnold Palmer) we caught the train back to the Mission and took Hux on the swings in the park. Huxley LOVED the train…and the swings.

Palm treeDolores Park, San FranciscoDolores Park, San FranciscoThe next day we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to Napa to see our friend Derek who works for Naked Wines that Nick met when he first went to the American Royal in Kansas a couple of years ago. This was our second visit to Napa to see him. We stopped at Busters Southern BBQ in Calistoga so Nick could try California tri-tip before visiting the new Naked Wines winery where Nick and Derek mixed their own wine. We finished the day off with a trip to El Molino Central for fish tacos and piles of guacamole.

Buster's BBQ, Calistoga, CaliforniaThe next day in the city we got the bus to Alamo Square and walked to The Mill to try the infamous $4 toast. I actually think that $4 is quite reasonable for toast, especially as it’s all completely handmade and it’s a huge slice of toast! We met the owner, Josey Baker last time we were in San Francisco and he is the nicest guy ever and I’m so pleased for him that it’s going so well.

The Mill cinnamon butter toastCinnamon butter toast from The Mill, San Francisco

From The Mill we walked to the Haight (which I hate) and down to Golden Gate Park to take Huxley on the swings. It was lovely and sunny and we laid out a picnic blanket. Less than 10 minutes later the heavens opened and it poured down with rain! So we made our way over to the adorable Hollow cafe which I discovered via Julia’s Instagram a few weeks ago where we shared a gluten-free peanut butter cookie and a marshmallow and some tea.

Hollow Cafe, San Francisco

The weather was much nicer the next day so we got the bus to the marina and walked along Crissy Fields to The Warming Hut and sat eating a bagel next to the Golden Gate Bridge. After returning to the Mission, we went to Dandelion Chocolate. It was amazing. Super expensive but worth it for a one-off treat. Nick had the thickest hot chocolate ever and I had a chocolate milkshake and we shared a smore.

Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy FieldSmore from Dandelion Chocolate, San FranciscoThe next day was our last full day in the city and it was a scorcher. We started the morning by going to Hayes Valley where we bought Hux a pair of little Toms and got an ice-cream from my favourite spot in the city, Smitten. We walked back to Dolores Park and stopped by the community pool where Nick & Hux had a quick dip to cool off before heading to back to the park to chill out in the sunshine for a few hours and soak in the atmosphere. They are currently redeveloping the park so half of it is closed off so it was absolutely heaving. I love watching the mix of people that hang out in the park. When we got home we bumped into our Airbnb hosts who had been away visiting friends in Santa Barbara for the weekend and they gave us the biggest strawberry I’ve ever seen!

Baby boy TomsGiant California strawberryOur last morning was spent walking around Noe Valley and the Mission, revisiting our favourite spots like Tartine and El Farolito before we sadly made our way to the airport. It was an absolutely brilliant first family holiday and I can wait to take Huxley on more adventures.

Here’s some pictures of the beautiful San Francisco houses that didn’t fit in anywhere else in this post….(as if there weren’t enough photos already!)

San Francisco houseSan Francisco houseSan Francisco houseSan Francisco house

Yosemite National Park

On Sunday we left for Yosemite, but not before I got some surprises for my first Mother’s Day! Nick & Huxley had been out on a little adventure back to Bob’s Donuts the morning before and while they were there they had picked me up a mug as a present! I also got a beautiful card made of Huxley’s hand prints made to look like a field of flowers.

It was a beautiful day in the city and the view driving over the Bay Bridge was amazing. We made a quick pit-stop in Tracy to feed Huxley (which didn’t look very nice) and then carried on through hills that looked like the Microsoft wallpaper before they slowly turned into mountains. It wouldn’t be a drive through California without a strawberry stop!

California strawberry stopCalifornian strawberriesWe stopped for lunch at Sugar Pine Cafe in Mariposa. I had french toast with bacon and Nick had eggs, bacon, hash browns & chicken apple sausage (sounds weird but was really good!)

We arrived in Yosemite just after midday and started by locating our motel. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the pictures I’d seen online but actually it was rather quaint and charming. Our room was ridiculously massive, as was the bed, which could easily have slept 6. It had a pretty well-equipped kitchen which was part of the same room but the first thing that Nick & I noticed was the enormous pink spa bath sat in the corner in the room with a huge gas fireplace behind it. It was the funniest, cheesiest looking thing I’ve ever seen. The loo was in a room about the size of my lounge, it felt like an epic quest to get the sink, and the shower was about the same size as my entire bathroom at home! To top it all off, alongside the 70s carpet and wallpaper, the bed looked really dramatic with big wooden legs and intricate metal carvings of bears on the headboard. On the upside, there was a heated indoor swimming pool and amazing pizza place on site.

After dumping our stuff we drove 5 minutes up the road to the entrance of the park. It was $20 for a whole week! Absolute bargain! I’m so glad that Nick was driving as I would definitely have crashed. The whole place is completely jaw-dropping. They’ve thought this through though and the drive round the park is one-way with two lanes so that the faster traffic can overtake the gawping masses and there’s loads of places to pull over and enjoy the view.

Yosemite National Park

When we arrived everything was so clear. It didn’t even look real. It looked like a movie set or a computer game. I was a bit worried because of the time of year we were visiting as I’d read lots of stories about the whole place being shrouded in low snow clouds so I think we were pretty lucky. The first site we saw that made us stop was Bridalveil Falls. A few minutes further and you come to the magnificent El Capitan. When you first clap eyes on El Capitan it really is something special. It’s so imposing. I haven’t seen a lot of mountains but I’ve been skiing in France & Austria and trekked round the Himalayas and I’ve never seen a cliff face like that before.

Bridalveil Falls at Yosemite National Park

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaAfter doing our fair share of gawping we finally parked up and made our way to one of the many disabled-accessible trails (god I love America!). On our way we walked past a family of deer that I could have reached out and touched they were so close, just wandering around, minding their own business. We also caught sight of Yosemite’s other famous site, Half Dome. There really aren’t any words to describe it and my photos don’t do it justice.

Half Dome at Yosemite National ParkBeing a blogger, I did the natural thing and snapped a couple of outfit photos…beats my usual backdrop of a rusty old garage out the back of my block of flats!

The Style Box at Yosemite UK fashion bloggerEmma The Style Box at Yosemite National Park lifestyle bloggerScarf: Zara | Jumper: Jigsaw | Jeans: Abercrombie | Boots: Clarks

Our walk took us along an easy path up to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. Judging by pictures I’ve seen, the falls wasn’t at full capacity, I think this comes later in the Spring, but it was still spectacular.

Lower Yosemite FallsHux-at-Yosemite-FallsHux certainly enjoyed the walk through the woods on his dad’s shoulders…(although we did have the pushchair as the whole route was a wheelchair-accessible path which is awesome)

It was only a short walk, maybe about a mile, but as we’d stopped and watched the waterfall for so long it was getting late and we wanted to get Huxley into the pool for a swim at the hotel before he went to sleep so we headed back to the motel.

The next morning was much cloudier and grey, it was snowing up in the mountains. The lovely lady at the entrance gate advised on which routes were still open and what the best things to see would be. She recommended that we drive up to Tunnel View which is definitely up there in the list of top things I’ve ever seen in my life. It should be on everyone’s bucket list (especially if proper mountain climbing is off the agenda, as it was for us – although I’d love to go back one day and hike to Glacier Point– think Half Dome would be a bit much for me!). Fortunately the snow clouds were still high enough for us to see the view but by the time we’d left the snow had taken over and it had gotten quite dark and you couldn’t see as much. I wish we had gone the day before and seen it in the bright sunshine but it was kind of cool and moody in the grey. The scale of the mountains and the forest is just unbelievable.

I suppose the benefit of the early morning and the bad weather meant that we pretty much had the place to ourselves apart from two nice American lads who were taking photos of an old hoover for some reason. They offered to take a photo of Nick & I and we both chuckled about how funny it would seem that Huxley wasn’t in the pictures (he was asleep in the car about a metre away) but we could hardly say ‘sorry, can you just wait while we wake up our son’. Luckily, Huxley woke up before we left and we managed to drag him out of the car for a few quick snaps but it was absolutely freezing and had started to snow so we didn’t hang about!

Again, these photos don’t do it justice at all….(this website has some pretty incredible panoramic shots of the place though)

Tunnel View at Yosemite National ParkNick at Tunnel ViewMe & Nick at Tunnel View, YosemitePoor little sausage doesn’t even have a jumper on. We are such bad parents.

After a little while I started to lose the feeling in my fingers and toes so we decided to get on and start walking one of the trails. The first one was the walk to the base of Bridalveil Falls which was only half a mile so took no time at all. After that we did the walk to Mirror Lake and spent the whole time tripping each other out about bears. We pretty much had the whole trail to ourselves so every crack of a twig saw us both jump out of our skins. All the signs and the website reckon it’s a 2 mile walk but I swear it’s longer than that!

YosemiteMirror Lake at YosemiteIt was a bit weird when we arrived at Mirror Lake as we weren’t really sure if we were in the right place or not. I think because it was cloudy the reflection wasn’t quite as clear and we were expecting there to be a sign telling us we’d arrived or a group of people stood there looking at it but there wasn’t any of those things! Also, I don’t think the lake was quite as full as it could be but it was a nice walk, passing under the cliff face of Half Dome which was pretty cool.

That afternoon we headed back to the city. We were going to take a different route back and stop in a different town for lunch but unfortunately due to the snow, and not being able to use our mobiles, we didn’t want to chance it. We did stop briefly again in Tracy as Nick had read about a BBQ place which was unfortunately shut. We ended up having the infamous Taco Bell Dorito’s taco which has been scientifically designed to hit all the right taste buds and make you want more. Neither of us had ever had Taco Bell before and I can confidently say I will NEVER eat it again. I’ve never had anything so disgusting in all my life. Even the promotional photos on the windows were making me feel nauseous as we went through the drive-thru. (Seriously, look at their breakfast menu….waffle taco…BARF)

We also spotted a rather lovely lady on the side of the road in Tracy which I think summed up the place nicely. It was pouring with rain and not that warm and she was stood flagging down cars in camo trousers and an open camo jacket with a red bikini top on underneath. Classy. I wish I had a photo of that.