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A California Road Trip with Jeff Klein

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Every year following the Oscars, after Vanity Fair has thrown its party at Sunset Tower, I take a little vacation to unwind and decompress. This year, craving natural beauty, I flew to San Francisco and traveled along the northernmost coast. My other half was busy making a movie (this is a California story, after all), so I invited one of my oldest friends, Barry Tropp, for a boys’ getaway.

Sea Ranch: We began with grilled lamb at Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley [1517 Shattuck Ave.; 510-548-5049; chezpanisse.com]—I prefer the café to the restaurant—before driving north to the rustic Sea Ranch Lodge [rooms, from $250; 60 Sea Walk Dr.; 800-732-7262; searanchlodge.com]. It’s not the most luxurious place, but it has great character, and the views of the cliffs and the Pacific were staggering. Each morning I ran along the ocean while the seals lay in the sun on virgin beaches.

Carmel: On day three we set off for Carmel, stopping en route at Hog Island Oyster in Point Reyes for the freshest possible shuck-your-own oysters, barbecued and raw [20215 Hwy. 1; 415-663-9218; hogislandoysters.com]. Carmel Valley Ranch [rooms, from $300; 1 Old Ranch Rd.; 866-405-5037; carmelvalleyranch.com], where they serve s’mores every night around a bonfire, is also rife with beautiful runs and hikes. Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch Hotel is out there [rooms, from $135; 26270 Dolores St.; 831-624-6436; missionranchcarmel.com], so we stopped for drinks one evening—a classic beauty from the 1800s with a wild field (complete with grazing sheep) between us and the ocean.

Big Sur: The pièce de résistance was the Post Ranch Inn at Big Sur [pictured; rooms, from $595; 47900 Hwy. 1; 831-667-2200; postranchinn.com]: luxe, chic and earthy all at once. My room overlooked the Pacific and had a private porch and a hot tub cantilevered out over the sea. Dining by the fireplace is perfection, like being suspended in Philip Johnson’s Glass House but with a view of the ever-present ocean. After a final day spent at Esalen [55000 Hwy. 1; 888-837-2536; esalen.org] for a massage and a soak in the natural hot springs (we didn’t realize they were clothing-optional until too late), the hardest part was packing up and heading back to L.A.

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