Valentine’s Day Love Letters to California

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we talk about love.

Not romantic love, but an equally real, perhaps equally cheesy type of affection – for the state of California.

Dozens of you have written to me about why you love Carmel-by-the-Sea, Atascadero, Napa, Laguna Beach or the Golden State as a whole. As befits this holiday, your proclamations were soft, passionate, and largely indifferent to our state’s failings.

You told me California might be burning, drying up, getting wildly expensive and sinking into the sea, but you love it anyway.

Frankly, me too. Enjoy.

(PS Many of you have written that I will continue to share your submissions in the coming weeks. As always, you can reach me at [email protected])

“I tried to get away from San Francisco during the pandemic, back to my hometown of Baltimore. I did that a year and three months before the City by the Bay called me back.

Every block in San Francisco holds some kind of beauty. Magical succulents, gorgeous hillside views, colorful Victorians and people, being themselves the way they want to be. I felt the most intense sense of belonging since my return. My heart will always be in San Francisco. I am in love with this city. — Ali Moss, San Francisco

“Having grown up in Minnesota where the winters are quite cold, I especially love the winters here in Escondido. The clear blue skies, the ridges of the hills around you, and the warmth of the sun on your skin even with a cool breeze at 60 degrees. Add to that the sounds of all the birds and it’s a magical morning. After 2 years of Covid, breathing deeply is truly a pleasure that I relish on a daily basis. — Mark Vaughan, Escondido

“In 1964, my family moved to Hacienda Heights, and for the most part I’ve been a Cali Girl ever since. Hacienda Heights is almost the place to live. We’re close to the beach and the mountains. On a clear day, since the roof has a view of the snow capped Big Bear.Freeway access is beautiful, although rush hour traffic has changed dramatically.

I took my first ride on Highway 57 the day it opened to the public. There were no cars, so our drivers and teachers let us go at 105 km/h. What a thrill! — Mari Turner, Hacienda Heights

“The Golden State feeds my soul/Its benefits both tactile and visual/

A state so rich in culture and spirit / More than enough for the residents /

Its sun pours down, warm honey on the skin / Feeding on its riches, from barbacoa to wine /

Linen and pine patchwork quilts/ Deserts, mountains, shimmering coastline/

California, mi amor, will you be mine? — Masahana Kato, Los Angeles

“While I’m grateful to be studying in Europe this semester, I dread spending Valentine’s Day without you, my dear Berkeley.

If there’s one thing this distance made me realize, it’s that nowhere in the world can eclipse your indisputable strangeness. From the dinosaur man of Sproul Plaza to the street performers of Durant, to the contrast between $8 lattes and $1 tacos, no two days in Berkeley are alike. — Jessica Belloch, Madrid

“My dear California,

I tried to leave you once. That was decades ago, and you’d put me in a funk for the same reasons you scare others away – traffic, cost of housing, and, for me, my family and a hometown I still adore miss me.

So I got in my car and headed for the coast. But before I got to Big Sur, I realized why I had to stay. Where else in the world could I get in the car and, within hours, arrive at the white sand beaches of Carmel? The cobalt blue waters of Lake Tahoe? Neon mustard on the green hills of Napa? Even though your scope and intensity can drive me crazy, you are the most magnificent and complex state I know. I love your geography, your ambition and your open-minded, forward-thinking people, which I will never take for granted.

California, we’ve been through a lot together over the past few years — fires, drought, Covid. And yet, these unfortunate developments have only made me dread losing you and heightened my appreciation. As I gaze out my window at the beauty of bare oaks against a cornflower winter sky, you, my dear, are my home. Even when you break my heart, I will still love you. — Lisa Wrenn, Walnut Creek


A vegan version of the typical hard shell taco.


Today’s travel tip comes from Cynthia Nunn, a reader who lives in Santa Maria:

“One of my favorite staycation destinations is Cambria, located on the Central Coast. It’s about 10 miles south of Hearst Castle (San Simeon) and is a gem of a small town. Lynn’s Restaurant offers the best pies on the West Coast. Hotel prices vary by season and it’s not cheap, but there are several smaller hostels worth the cost ($300+ per weeknight right on the beach). There are several hiking trails on or near the water. Cambria isn’t exactly the cultural hub of the West Coast, but it’s just a really nice little town to spend a three-day weekend exploring.

I live about 50 miles south of Cambria so this has been one of my favorite destinations for many decades.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.


At a time when environmentalists often oppose agribusiness in California’s water wars, conservationists and farmers are uniting to protect salmon.

Read more from Reuters about a Northern California experiment that’s been in the works for a decade.


Thanks for reading. I will be back tomorrow. — Soumya

PS Here today’s mini crosswordand a clue: Humor with a twist (5 letters).

Jonah Candelario, Lyna Bentahar and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can join the team at [email protected].

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