I’ve officially been on this road of life for 30 years. To some, turning 30 is a huge milestone; a mixture excitement and sadness at the idea of growing older. A week into 30, I’m just happy to be living a great life with loved ones, to have gained more knowledge and experiences along the way, and lucky to always aspire to do what I love.
In the days leading up to my birthday, I decided to do just that. I filled it with fantastic individuals, activities I enjoy and added a few new experiences along the way.
#Roadto30 First Stop: San Jose, Ca.
In April 2015, I won a weekend stay at the Hotel Valencia Santa Row through LA Travel Magazine. I had one year to redeem it and of course I waited until the last possible weekend before the certificate expired.
It’s a five-hour drive from Los Angeles to San Jose and I took to the open road solo. Game plan? Nope. Just a full tank of gas, a GPS, a Go Pro (compliments of Joymode) and a hotel confirmation number. Lots of Ciara-time.
Let me just say, California is freaking gorgeous. There is so much more to this state than Los Angeles. From the country towns to the ocean villages, desert landscape to the Redwood Forest – here are some photos from birthday trip number one:
Accommodations: Hotel Valencia at Santana Row
After driving for hours through wet and windy valleys, taking a turn onto Santana Row felt like I stepped onto a movie set. Lined with fancy shops, lush landscaping and fine dining, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay for the weekend. Hotel Valencia resides right in the heart of Santana Row. With their beautifully designed courtyards, classic art sculptures, a fantastic daily happy hour and the most luxurious California King, I’m not sure how I even managed to leave the hotel to explore the rest of what the area had to offer! The next time you’re in San Jose, this is where to stay.
An Unexpected Gem: Saratoga, Ca.
I woke up on my second day of travel with no agenda. I decided to take to Yelp and my to my surprise, my searching lead me to a nearby town called Saratoga. WHAT? I flipped…out. Wait – Saratoga, California?! This filly ran out of the hotel and straight into the car to find this little quaint vineyard town only 15 minutes from San Jose.
Little fact: Call me strange, but I’ve had this silent urge to visit all other towns in the U.S. that share the name with my beloved Saratoga Springs, NY. For months I had been looking up Saratoga Springs, Utah, but stumbling across Saratoga, Ca. made my experience that more special.
By 9:30am I had found the local coffee shop, walked up and down the main strip, and made a visit to the Saratoga, Ca Chamber of Commerce to get a better idea of the town history. In speaking with the coordinator at the chamber I learned that Saratoga is known for it’s wineries, high-end boutiques, and, get this: It is just a few short miles from the Big Basin Redwood National Forest. Okay, first Saratoga… now Redwoods?!
I could have stayed all day in Saratoga but once I learned how close I was from those tall ass trees, I had to check them out for myself. A lover of the great outdoors, I grew up camping and hiking in the Adirondack Mountains. The time I spent in the woods and on Lake George as a kid shaped me in ways I can’t describe. I giggled to myself the entire ride and stopped as many times as I needed to in order to soak up the experience.
Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains was my first pit stop, then I continued on for about 45 minutes until I was in the heart of the Redwood Forest. No words can properly explain the joy I felt being surrounded by the trees that hold health and history of our beautiful earth.
…This land was made for you and me.
On the way back to LA: San Luis Reservoir
Though it is not a natural wonder like the Redwoods, The San Luis Reservoir is absolutely breathtaking. I took a different route going back to Los Angeles from San Jose, which provided me to opportunity to stop here for a quick lunch.
As drove the remainder of the way home, I realized that this was really the first trip that I have ever taken alone. Okay, I moved across the country alone, yes, but this trip was not for business. It was not a visit to see family or friends, but truly just time away for me, and I know it won’t be the last.
If you’re thinking of getting away… just. go. Don’t wait 30 years to #ExploreMore.