Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to plan the perfect Girlfriend Getaway

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Patti, Erika and Dorothy at Hofsas House, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Husbands are great, but sometimes this girl just needs some girlfriend time.

Which is why I jumped at the opportunity to hit the road for a Girlfriend Getaway with two of my best food blogger pals: Patti Londre of Worth the Whisk and Dorothy Reinhold of Shockingly Delicious.

Thanks to the generosity (and PR-savvy) of Carrie, the third-generation owner of Hofsas House, the three of us drove up the California coast and spent three jam-packed days and two ultra-cozy nights in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

We were wined and dined. We unwound and de-stressed. We shopped 'til we dropped. We hiked up and down the hills of Carmel village. We plopped our middle-aged butts in the sand and soaked in the glorious winter sunshine.

Soaking in the winter sunshine at the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea

And we talked. And talked. And talked some more. I don't think we got even the teensiest bit tired of each other.

We had the perfect Girlfriend Getaway, and you can too. Here's the magic formula:

Pick the right girlfriends. Patti, Dorothy and I have known each other about three years. (Well, technically Dorothy and I have known each other longer, because our kids went to preschool together, but we didn't really get to be friends until we connected as food bloggers.) We know each other, but it's not like we've got decades of history or inside jokes that might make someone feel left out. We're still learning about each other's pasts. That made three days of nonstop conversation easy and fun. We also have similar temperaments: no-nonsense, up for anything, willing to lead or follow.

Toasting to a delicious dinner at Fandango in Pacific Grove

Make it a road trip. Car trips are so much more relaxed. You don't need to make your stuff fit into a carry-on bag. You can stop where you want and go anywhere once you get there. And it's okay if you accumulate treasures (very important - see below). Of course, this requires having someone willing to drive, which I always am. I like to drive. 

Enjoy the journey and stop along the way. It's about five and a half hours from my house in Santa Monica to Carmel-by-the-Sea. On the way up we jumped off the road in Buellton for an early lunch at Pea Soup Andersen's, a California road trip institution, and then again in San Luis Obispo to explore the pretty-in-pink Madonna Inn. On the way down we sacrificed speed for beauty by spending an hour on Carmel Valley Road, a glorious two-lane highway where I wouldn't have been surprised to see a "happy cow" California cheese commercial in progress. Getting there and back was certainly more than half the fun.

The dining room at Pea Soup Andersen's in Buellton

You'll find Hap-pea and Pea-wee at the bottom of every bowl of pea soup at Pea Soup Andersen's 

The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, pink and girly all year round

The bar at the Madonna Inn

We stopped to watch the seals along Monterey's 17-Mile Drive

Stay at a place that feels like home. Chain hotels are for business trips. A Girlfriend Getaway deserves a hotel with personality. Hofsas House, a big pink lodge built down the side of a hill over looking the Pacific, was the perfect home base for our trip. They serve breakfast in the tiny lobby, which means you start every day chatting with the proprietors about your plans. My room was cozy and comfortable; lighting up the Duraflame log in my private fireplace in the evening relaxed me instantly. We had separate rooms, but if you're into the slumber party thing, Hofsas House has many rooms big enough to share.

My room at Hofsas House had a king bed, a fireplace, a kitchenette, and a glorious ocean view

Spring for Hofsas House's wine and cheese package so you can sip while you watch the sun set over the Pacific

Eat well, drink well. Patti, Dorothy and I love food - we know that, you know that, and the wise PR folks who arranged this trip knew that. They showed us the best of the area. We had terrific tapas at Mundaka in Carmel-by-the-Sea, elegant Continental fare at Fandango in Pacific Grove, and a delicious farewell lunch at Jacks Restaurant in the Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay. We also tagged along on Carmel Food Tours' three-hour culinary exploration of Carmel-by-the-Sea, during which guide Staci shared local Carmel history as she led us through tastings of cheese, wine, charcuterie, chocolate, olive oil, vinegar, pizza and pasta at local shops and restaurants.  

Bouillabaisse at Fandango in Pacific Grove

Staci leading the Carmel Food Tour
Sharon at The Bountiful Basket led us through a tasting of olive oils and infused vinegars

The selection at The Cheese Shop in Carmel

Fresh sea bass from Monterey Bay at Jacks

Spinach gnocchi at Casanova, considered the most romantic restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Don't get up too early and don't go to bed too late. You don't want your Girlfriend Getaway to feel like work. For me, being awake at either dawn or midnight feels like work. I'm old. Your mileage may vary.

Play to your strengths. I drove and navigated. Patti suggested pit stops. Dorothy took notes. We all took pictures. 

A tiled balcony in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Look for treasures. Okay, that's code for "shopping." Trip souvenirs always have a story attached, which makes them extra-special.

The embroidered pashmina I almost bought (but didn't) 

Patti digging for gold in the garden at Pink Trash & Treasures in Buellton

My favorite trip souvenir: A big bracelet from Pink Trash

Push your conversational boundaries. We got into everything you'd expect middle-aged girlfriends to get into. Husbands. Children. Aging parents. Wild college years, how we met our husbands, how we lost our virginity (um, not in that order). With true girlfriends, nothing is off-limits.  

Indulge each other's whims and pass no judgment. We ate fast food tacos on the road because Patti had free coupons. We lingered in a shop over a teal blue pashmina because I couldn't decide whether I had to have it. Patti let Dorothy have the front seat in the minivan to keep car sickness at bay. And no one complained when the winding valley road I chose added an hour and a half to the drive home.

Spend part of your Girlfriend Getaway planning the next one. Once you find a good Girlfriend Getaway team, the possibilities are endless. Will our next road trip take us to San Diego? Palm Springs? Santa Barbara? Solvang? Big Bear? San Francisco? Stay tuned....

Tree huggers

Thanks to Carrie at Hofsas House, Chef Brandon at Mundaka, Fandango, Staci at Carmel Food Tours, Chef Jason at Jacks Restaurant, and all the lovely people of Carmel, Monterey and everywhere in between for a wonderful Girlfriend Getaway!


Libbety said...

What a wonderful trip! Living the dream Erika...
Thanks for sharing.

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

OK, I am now officially inspired and I know just the two girls who would make perfect road trip companions..

I'm thinking NAPA!

Erika Kerekes said...

@Rocky If you plan a getaway to Napa, leave room for me - I'll meet you there!

Anonymous said...

Boyfriend weekends never get the same cred. But I drove up the coast with my Table Set guys recently and did many of these same things, including a stop in Pacific Grove. XOGREG (yeah sippity sup)

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