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January 5th 2011
Published: January 5th 2011
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Tuesday 28th December – Day 88
We were up as early as we could be this morning, but in no hurry. We packed, checked out and then caught a cab to the car rental depot in downtown San Francisco. So glad that we took the cab as there was no way that we would have made the hike with our packs on, the cab driver took us over some of the steepest hills we had yet seen in the city. Picking up cars is usually pretty quick because we have prepaid vouchers, this time however we wanted to add an extra day so it took a little while longer. The poor lady behind the counter had to redo the booking 4 times before the computer would process it… by 9:30am we were on our way. The Dollar rental clerk gave us directions to get out of the city and onto the coastal road and it was pretty easy…. “Go around the block (due to all the one way streets) and then take the first left and stay on Geary St til you reach the ocean!” It was simple, and some of the road we had driven on yesterday in the GOCar so it was cool to see it again. We took it pretty easy, it is a beautiful drive along the coastline, beach and cliffs on one side, rolling green hills on the other. We made a quick stop to pick up a map and then grabbed some Maccas for brekky (the usual) and we were on our way again. Our aim for the day was to make it to San Simeon where we had booked accommodation for the night.
Along the way, we took many photos, drove the 17-mile drive at Pebble Beach, stopped to see the famous bridge the coast is known for and also a hidden waterfall at McWay Cove that falls straight onto the beach… Our first stop was at Santa Cruz, it was only a quick one as the theme park and all of the shops on the boardwalk were closed for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We both imagined what the place would be like in summer, it would be pretty fun! We arrived at Monterey around 11:30am, this is a nice harbour town with a long pier (as many of them have). We didn’t stop for lunch just yet as we wanted to get going on the 17-mile drive at Pebble Beach. We followed the scenic route and drove right next to the water. There weren’t many beaches instead there were rocky outcrops which the waves smashed onto. At the entrance to Pebble Beach you have to stop and pay the toll for visitors, they give you a map which points out the main attractions and gives you directions to stay on the road with the red dotted line, driving no faster than 30 miles per hour. It truly is an amazing part of the world, no chance that we could ever afford to live here though. With 3 golf courses and streets filled with mansions, it is definitely for the rich (and famous). Our first stop was at Bird Rock, a view point of a small rocky island that attracts many birds and harbour seals, just off the coast. It was close enough to see the seals and there were quite a few! Cyprus Point Lookout was gorgeous and there were some friendly Harbour seals lying in the sun on the beach, very inquisitive of those watching them. Next stop was the Lone Cyprus, a Californian landmark apparently, it is strange how it is out on the cliff by its lonesome though. Because we entered the drive from Monterey’s side rather than the highway we missed the highest lookout point so we headed there next, we were sure it would be a spectacular view of the Del Monte Forest and coastline but we couldn’t see anything past the trees! Our last stop, urged by Mischa, was to drive back to Pebble Beach so he could get a photo with the Pebble Beach Golf Course, the one where they play the US Open… yes, Jess was very impressed, not… but back we went, took the photo and were on our way again. The way out took us through the quaint coastal village of Carmel-by-the-sea, a little bit like Noosaville, and definitely carries the pricetag.
We were back on the highway again and following the coastline, the view was incredible, Jess asked Mish to drive slower so she could enjoy the view, he reluctantly agreed as he was enjoying the winding drive at the maximum allowed speed! The scenery changed along the way, as the road turned inland for a bit and we drove through the Redland forest around Big Sur. We stopped at the Big Sur Station (like a national park tourist office) hoping they would have a café for lunch, but no luck, they were closed, so on we drove. Not too far down the road we found a Bakery sign and got ourselves some nice pizza subs, they were on thick, thick slices of bread with a meaty tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese on top and they were still warm, freshly baked, yum, yum! The rest of the drive was a little tiring, there wasn’t too much to stop and see. We pulled over for pictures of one of the many lighthouses along the coast and we stopped for the waterfall at McWay Cove but other than that we kept driving for around another 2 hours til we reached San Simeon, it was dark when we arrived but only around 6pm.
Our hotel, Courtesy Inn San Simeon, was great. It is a motel style complex but it has an indoor pool & spa. In the small stretch of road surrounding it there are a lot of hotels and motels, the area is quite popular with tourists due to its close proximity to Hearst Castle, somewhere we would explore tomorrow! With our trusty free wireless access we looked up San Simeon for dining options and found on Trip Advisor (one of the God Sends of our travels) some advice on eating out. The restaurant recommended was the Sunset Grill, only a short walk down the road, which was good for stretching our legs. Dinner was awesome, well done Trip Advisor, Mish had onion rings and a chicken salad and Jess had a Chicken Club sandwich (huge). Fed and tired it was back to our room, Mish did a load of washing while Jess watched Glee, he then went to bed early for a change, but it was because his cold had developed a little more during the day and he really wasn’t feeling well.

Wednesday 29th December – Day 89
After a restless night, Mish with a fever, it was another day of driving ahead to get to LA by sunset. Breakfast was complimentary at the hotel, but didn’t consist of much. First up today was a trip to the local attraction, Hearst Castle, home to Mr William Randolph Hearst, a big newspaper owner in the early 1900’s (now owned by the Hearst Corporation). A quick stop at the visitor’s centre to purchase tickets, we arrived just in time to get on the 8:30am tour! Lucky for us, this one only had about 15 people on it, most of the others were about 52 booked out due to the large number of coach tour companies that bring their passengers here. The tour lasts an hour an forty-five minutes and includes the 5 mile drive on a bus to and from the castle, as well as a guided tour of the Main House' large rooms, the pools and one of the guest houses, this was tour option 1. There were a few other tours running to different parts of the property but #1 was recommended for first time visitors. Our guide’s aim was to enlighten us with the story of Mr Hearst, how the castle was imagined, then created and the people involved along the way. As you will see from the photos no expense was spared. There were some famous names (Carey Grant, Marilyn Munroe, Elvis, Amelia Earhart and so on) that were invited to stay here with Mr Hearst. His life, including his parents, was very interesting and they had great influence on some of todays standards. Jess wants to now read into more of the story. After the tour, they showed an IMAX movie about the building of the castle that went for about 40 mins; so it wasn’t until 11:15am that we actually got on the road again.
There wasn’t a lot in the way of sightseeing between San Simeon and Malibu so we pretty much drove straight through. We did stop for lunch near Santa Barbara, but is was drive-thru at Jack In A Box where we had fantastic chicken burgers / sandwiches, curly fries, smoothies and mini funnel cakes (yummy!). We were wanting to stay on Highway 1 and follow the coast but we found that the road was closed so we had to make our way firstly back to the 101 via the Santa Monica Mountains National Reserve and then upon reaching the 101, to get down to Malibu a little bit further along the way we had to again cross the Santa Monica Mountain National Reserve. Lots of windy hills and an hour and a half longer than expected we arrived in Malibu, not so much a town but a stretch of coastline with hundreds of beach houses lining the small space of land between the ocean and the road. By the time we got to Malibu, Mish’s feet were very tired, so we pulled over on the shoulder of the road, right along the beach so he could stretch his legs, we had been driving for almost 5 hours. The radio was constant amusement on the way as the stations kept tuning in and out as we winded along the coast (quite frustrating at times). After a quick break it was on to Santa Monica, where we were able to find a carpark for $1 an hour, walk out on the pier (again all the rides were closed for the winter) and watch the sunset over the water! It was a similar view to sunrise at Rio at the beginning of our trip, the sun going down not up, of course. Crazy to think that in our original plans there would have been only 2 nights of our holiday left… but no, one adventure left, EGYPT.
The night wasn’t quite over yet. We still needed to find us some sleeping bags, to the trusty GPS we turned. Our first search was for shopping centres, which led us to a Westfield at Culver City, only problem being that we had already looked in a Westfield in San Francisco and they had the exact same shops in this one! So leaving within 15 minutes (free parking) we moved on in search of a Target. Jess noticed that there was one on La Cienega Boulevard, the same street as our hotel, Holiday Inn LAX, so we tried there. It was actually a very successful spot. Not only did we pick up sleeping bags for less than $50 each, we also found some cold and flu capsules, panadol-like pills and a couple of other essentials that we had been looking for, one-stop-shop! And it was then only a 10 minute drive to our hotel. The next problem we encountered was parking at the hotel, it was $15. Not willing to pay this much Mish parked our car in the Maccas car park out front, until Jess told him to move it as we were not customers of McDonalds and there were only 8 spaces there, she didn’t want a ticket. So off he went and found a park opposite the hotel on a side street for free until 9am that was just as well lit as the hotel car park. Dinner was discussed and we settled for the hotel restaurant, which was reasonably priced and good food. We didn’t have to checkout until 12 noon so it was off to bed, hopefully with a little bit of a sleep-in to look forward to!

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