Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Weeks 21 – 31: Orange County > San Diego > Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Orange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

San Diego, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

San Diego, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

San Diego, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

San Diego, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

San Diego, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travel

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travelOrange County, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travelJoshua Tree National Park, CA | picklesnhoney.com #PHroadtrip #roadtrip #travelHighs

And the award for most photos in a blog post goes to… Thanks for scrolling this far. <3

Almost 3 months and they went by in a flash, thanks in large part to consistently sunny, warm weather and a very comfortable house all to ourselves. We splurged on rent to give the dogs a big, fenced-in backyard and both puggles and humans were totally spoiled (the dogs are whining (again)? send ’em outside to play!).

There really is something special about Southern California beaches and blue sky for days. The light there—what you see in movies—is true. It has that clean, warm, glowy thing going on that’s so damn pretty. The water temperature was an unusual and balmy 69 degrees the entire time we were there, which made Aaron’s first surfing attempts comfortable (though the waves did give him a beating).

It was much-needed and so nice to unpack and not have to re-pack or spend long hours driving for a few months. Even with California gas prices being way above the national average, we brought our costs down by a whole lot. Same for grocery bills (I love Trader Joe’s) and being able to do a week’s worth of shopping at a time and make nearly every meal at home.

We have to give a BIG shout-out and thank you to our friend, Jessie, who used to live in the area and told us the most wonderful, spot-on suggestions of things to do (Crystal Cove, with breakfast at the charming Beachcomber Cafe), the best beginner surf spot (Thalia St.—free parking too!), where to get awesome coffee and doughnuts (Alta and Sidecar), and which neighborhoods have the cutest houses (Newport Beach/Costa Mesa). Thank you, Jessie! XO

If you’re in the area, make sure you visit Joshua Tree National Park. The sunsets are killer and it’s an interactive park in that you can climb, hike, and relax just about anywhere. There’s something for everyone.

Lows

You know the theme song for the show Weeds? It had to have been written for Orange County, California. As East Coasters, we had never seen suburban sprawl like this. You guys…I know this post is loaded with beach-y sunsets, but pretty much anywhere that wasn’t ocean and couldn’t be built up was covered in row after row of 1990s style beige construction. Yes, there are lovely pockets of mid-century modern architecture and homes with charm, but for the most part, Orange County is a ticky-tacky land of strip malls. So many strip malls.

Orange County is also a bubble. A pleasant, highly manicured, but very disconnected-feeling bubble. Based on our experience, it seems like people either have a lot of money or are trying to look like they do (think: million dollar houses, no furniture). Replace the number of Toyotas you would see most anywhere else with Mercedes, Bentleys, Lamborghinis, and Maseratis. At an average income of about $100k/year (according to Wikipedia), a fancy car and million+ dollar house just doesn’t add up. We marveled that all of the cars are always spotless, because people wash them like clockwork on weekend mornings. Similarly, people perpetually water their lawns to the point that the grass is soggy in the mornings. Coming from Northern California, even Santa Barbara, where people take the drought really seriously and will shame you for having a green lawn, it was shocking and also baffling because there are regular reminders in public spaces and newspapers about the importance of water conservation. A couple neighbors even mentioned that in Orange County, people would sooner pay a lot more for water than conserve it. #TheresNoIinTeam

Overall, we loved the weather, having our own (very nice) house, and feeling comfortable. However, it occurred to me that if I were to live in Orange County for a while, it’s possible I would become a more self-centered and less compassionate person. Truly, I think the environment makes it hard to become otherwise.* 

Recipes Made

eggnog pancakes / coconut bacon bits / gingerbread dark chocolate truffles

#PHroadtrip

*I know that’s saying something coming off of previous road trip posts where the lows were things like “spiders!” or “it was really hot.” We stayed in Laguna Niguel, where the people were noticeably less friendly. Had we stayed in Old Town Laguna or parts of Costa Mesa, for instance, I think we may have experienced more of a ‘neighborhood’ vibe. On the flip side, we were able to get a ton of work done while not socializing. 😉

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  1. Rosie says

    I was waiting for a road trip update. This one didn’t disappoint! Beautiful images.

  2. Pat says

    I read your blog all the time but never comment. I had to comment this time though to tell you that your pictures are absolutely spectacular. I could scroll through them over and over again.

    1. That’s so great to hear, Pat! You just made Aaron’s day.

  3. Grandma Kiki says

    The photos are wonderful! What a beautiful part of our wonderful country viewed through your lens!

    1. The Southern California landscape is definitely dreamy. That California coastline…there’s nothing like it.

  4. Aw yay! This just made my day Amanda! I’m so happy to hear you visited and loved a handful of the places I sent you on my way-too-crazy-long of a list ;). Alta is my fave. You captured it so perfectly here! Hope you two are enjoying your time in Sedona. We go home to Irvine in the OC this weekend for a week and I just can’t wait. Your post is getting me even more excited! XO

    1. Woo hoo! I’m sure a trip home to Irvine will be a nice respite. Being from Boston, we were like “wait…THIS is winter?! We’ve been doing it wrong.” It’s just so pleasant there. 🙂 You’re going to have the best time revisiting all of your fave places! XO

  5. Lisa says

    I have been waiting for more of your trip posts!! I’ve saved them all in the hopes that one day i will be able to do this! Also, thanks for the pics of Joshua Tree, that looks like a must-do!! Thank you for all the tips!! Safe travels!

    1. Super flattering that you’re saving our travel posts! I hope you’ll be able to swing a similar trip. It really is life-changing. <3

  6. Jennifer says

    Your lows made me laugh. My husband and I were thinking about moving to LA after college, and didn’t. Thank god we didn’t because two years ago we visited a friend in Malibu and got a taste…. it was awful! I mean there were things we liked and loved, but we were just too east coast to ever want to LIVE there. There were cool places to hike, but I remember being clueless about where I would go for a run. There was a raw vegan restaurant I wanted to try out, but we didn’t have a car, and the highway made it so I couldn’t just walk there. I was also amazed at how thin everyone was. At least in South Jersey you see a lot of thin women with chunky guys, and it seemed the men in south california was very slender as well.

    But as your photos show, the beaches were amazing. And I might go back again just for those and the food. ^__~

    1. Your comment made me laugh! We drove through Malibu on our way to Orange County and while I’m sure the views from those super expensive beach houses are spectacular, the big highway running through it was just terrible! I think the Newport Beach area is much more charming than Malibu, though it’s still so shiny/flashy and SO much plastic surgery (you don’t see that in Boston!). We didn’t like much of the culture there. It lacked soul…but we’re suckers for the charm of the much older East Coast and places like Portland, OR which is basically the polar opposite. I also can’t do cities that aren’t walkable.

      The beaches really are amazing there. I still prefer the raw beauty of Northern CA/Sonoma Coast though…that place is other-worldly.

  7. Oh my gosh, these photos are so stunning!! I was in LA a few years ago and didn’t get to make it to Joshua Tree but I definitely need to get back and visit!

  8. Kait says

    YAY ROAD TRIP UPDATE! East Coasters railing against West Coasters! A Weeds reference!

    *ahem* I missed ya’ll a bit. And this post was SO worth the wait.

    xoxo

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