50 days in California – almost Accommodation Free!

We have just returned from a 3 month trip exploring California and had the most amazing time and with 50 days almost ACCOMMODATION FREE! saving us $6,380 and allowed our travel budget to stretch much further.   We stayed in beautiful homes in locations we had always wanted to visit and with an added bonus that is positively PAWSOME!

For years we’d talked about exploring California. High on our list to visit were Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon and Death Valley in particular  as well as San Francisco. We never really thought that dream would ever happen.  

Being part of the TrustedHousesitters Community has given us that travel opportunity.

For the last 2 years we have been almost full time house sitting in the UK and in this time we saved £9,000 on rental accommodation to go towards our 5 year International house sitting travel fund.   By living free of charge in other people’s homes while the owners themselves travel, allows our own travel fund to stretch much further.  But the huge added bonus in this journey, for us as animal lovers, is that you get to have the company of the owners’ pets too.

With 5 great house sits booked on the Trustedhousesitters website, on the 31st October 2019 – feeling super excited –  we flew out to Los Angeles.  We had 24 nights in California before our first house sit began in San Francisco, so as soon as we arrived in LA airport, with our car rental booked, we set off up the iconic Pacific Highway Route 1 – the start of our leisurely 16 day road trip visiting all the iconic Tourist locations we had so wanted to see before any house sitting began.

At the end of our road trip we drove down to San Diego as we still had a week before our first house sit began  – read here about our week in  San Diego

Our first house/pet sit began 23rd November with adorable 18 month old Samoyed – Mookie in San Francisco. This house sit meant we had 10 nights accommodation free in San Francisco, living in a modern 4 bedroom house in a great location very close to Ocean beach and Golden Gate Park.  Mookie loved to travel with us as we explored the City, including Fisherman’s Wharf and PIER 39 with views of Alcatraz, Union Square, Mission District, Haight-Ashbury.

Our second house sit was 8 nights with sweet, very shy, Poodle Julian in San Rafael, just a little further North of San Fran.   He loved walking  into town with us and it was a lovely lazy week for us and great just living like a local. We had a drive to Stinson beach with him and a day out to the nearby beautiful bayside town of Sausalito that Julian’s owners had recommended to visit. We stayed with the owners the night before the sit, they cooked a lovely meal for us and left us their car to use. The have become great friends.

Our next house sit was  further North, in the ‘gold rush’ town of Placerville, caring for Suni the cat and 3 hens with big personalities. Most morning we had a visit from the Wild Black Turkey crew!

 It was during this sit that we were able to drive to Lake Tahoe.  We got up early and with the pets all fed and settled we had time enough to drive all around the lake, stopping to take in the beautiful snowy scenery of the Nevada mountains, the stunning views of Emerald Bay lake, walking around Incline village and sitting at Secret Cove Beach.   As we left in the evening we passed the South Tahoe ski resorts vibrant and colourful getting ready for the Après-ski mood. This was definitely a dream come true for us to visit Lake Tahoe.

After a leisurely 3 day coastal drive down to LA again, taking in Malibu as we went, where of course we had to stop and nose at the awesome beach front houses, we arrived at Venice beach for our Christmas and New Year house sit.  A lovely modern house just 5 minutes walk to the beach, with cats x 2, Cashmere and Smudge. With these two easy cats we were able to explore Venice and more of Los Angeles –  including Beverley Hills, Hollywood and Rodeo Drive.

We left our Venice Beach house/pet sit on the 4th January and then had another break in our house sitting calendar, so we took the opportunity to visit Death Valley. 

We collected our car rental and drove over to Ridgecrest for an overnight stay and then we headed on towards Death Valley.   As we drove closer to the California/Nevada border our views of the Shoshone mountains alongside the barren desert landscape were pretty spectacular.

We had booked a Motel at Pahrump, in the heart of the Mojave Dessert,  but as our route actually took us to Death Valley side first and arriving at mid-day,  we were able to spend a half day in the Valley getting a feel for where the main iconic sites were, chatting to the Wardens, collecting maps etc.  We then drove to our Motel, great room with restaurant attached and friendly owners.   It was about an hour away from Death Valley, anything closer was double in price, this suited us great.

We stayed in Pahrump for 3 nights which gave us 2 further full days in Death Valley.  The weather was great for us, mostly blue sky days and what an amazing place Death Valley is.   It really is sheer beauty around every corner.  The colour palette of Death Valley is mind blowing.  From the entrance to exit there are picture perfect landscapes and just driving around there were so many breathtaking views.  Snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains, desert plains, massive craggy rocks and canyons, the colourful 8 mile loop of Artist’s Palette and Artist’s Drive, the massive Mesquite Sand dunes, Zabriskie Point for amazing views over the rocks and canyons and the best place to see the sunset.  The Badwater salt basin, 282 feet below sea level – it was like nothing we had ever seen before.  Dantés View was closed at the time of our visit.  We pinch ourselves that we have been able to visit this amazing place, for sure Death Valley will be high on our list of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

After Death Valley we drove down to beautiful Palm Springs as we still had 7 nights before our next house/pet sit.  We got a real bargain with our Palm Springs Accommodation in a great location, really comfortable rooms and the same brilliant rates all year round. Palm Springs is in the Sonoran desert region of the Coachella Valley.  The City is surrounded by mountains and towering palm trees can be seen everywhere.  Palm Springs has an upmarket feel, the main central street is full of great little restaurants and cocktail bars and boutique shops and gift shops etc.  The coffee shops are a great place to sit in the sun and people watch. We loved the very popular Thursday evening VillageFest – stalls of arts, crafts, farmers market, hot and cold food vendors.  We had some great food.

Our next house sit was back to the coast of LA, in Santa Monica.  We were just 10 minutes walk to the beach, caring for Kai the German Shepherd/Pit bull cross.  This was one of our most challenging sits but in the end our most rewarding.

Santa Monica has a beautiful long sandy beach and here you get to see views of the glorious  sunsets over the Pacific. This is where you head to if you live in LA to get away from city life. We checked out the average nights cost to stay in Santa Monica if we weren’t house sitting with free rent and it was well over $120/night. The carnival atmosphere along the beach areas is vibrant especially on the central beach Pier – this is where iconic Route 66 finishes. The beach next to the Pier is where the original Muscle Beach was located and it’s still the venue for beach work outs and practicing acrobats – what a location for an outside gym!

Downtown Santa Monica has a classy feel with a large open air shopping Mall and a pedestrianised smart 3rd Street Promenade. At the weekends talented buskers/artists perform here, hoping to get spotted by the LA entertainment world. There’s a twice weekly Farmer’s Market, it’s very popular!

After Santa Monica we headed to the nearby quieter beach resort of Redondo, checking into Moonlite Inn for our final 3 nights before leaving the California on 28th January 2020.   Redondo has a beautiful long sandy beach and again you can see, as most of the California coast, amazing colourful sunsets over the sea.  Yep, we’ve had our fair share of superb California sunsets.

We had 3 lazy days walking the beach, watching the pelicans on the rocks, reminiscing about all our amazing times as we had travelled around California and pinching ourselves that we had made it all happen and it had been so much fun.  All the places we had seen, the adorable pets we had cared for and the lovely people we had met.  It was all so much more fun than we had ever dared to hope it would be. 

Spending all this time in California and visiting so many amazing locations would never have been possible without joining Trustedhousesitters and having the opportunity to stay in owners homes exchanging our care of their home and pets for free accommodation.

From California we headed straight to Spain – living in a beautiful villa with pool in Javea, caring for adorable Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Tully and Tizer.  

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