California Dreamin' on Highway 1

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September 25th 2015
Published: September 28th 2015
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So we left our home near San Francisco, a little sad to be leaving such a great place but very excited to be heading back to the coast again! After a brief stop in Santa Cruz - best described as Blackpool with sun - we picked up Highway 1 down to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where we’d booked a campsite for a couple of nights. It turned out that this campsite was quite something: swimming pool with fancy chairs around the edge, wifi (on a campsite?!) and views over to the lovely hills behind. When we hit Carmel itself that evening, it all became clear – this was a very fancy place! We found an Olde English Sweet Shoppe with everything from Crunchies to Digestives… but I couldn’t bring myself to spend £1.50 on a Curly Wurly so left empty handed!

The next day we were surprised to wake up to fog but set off as planned down Highway 1 to Big Sur. The views were somewhat limited and we were a bit disappointed that there was absolutely no beach access unless you were willing to pay $10 to park… very different to the Oregon coast. We headed back to Carmel’s mile long beach and found a nice quiet place to cook our lunch and read a book.

Our next stop was Pismo Beach, so the following morning we continued down the coast, making various stops on the way. Today it was quite a different experience – the sky was bright blue, the sun was shining and we could see miles and miles of beautiful, rugged coastline with rocks dotted around the shore. Our favourite stop by far was to see the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas. There were hundreds of them and they were brilliant, shuffling along the beach and making hilarious farting noises to communicate with each other!

Arriving at Pismo Beach, we eventually found a campground and set off to explore – it seems that Pismo has seen better days, and is basically a tired looking beach resort. It did, however, have a brilliant seafood café where we sampled clams – delicious! – and a very nice sunset from the pier.

Our final day of Highway 1 involved a short drive further down the coast to Santa Barbara. The campsite that we had in mind was past the city, on the Carpintería State Beach. Despite our fears, we got a site easily enough and headed back to the city to explore. Santa Barbara is great and we spent a lovely couple of hours wandering down State Street to the pier and then back to the court house. There’s a very Spanish feel to the architecture… although significantly cleaner than your average city in Spain! At the court house we came across some girls doing a scavenger hunt, shouting that they needed a British accent. I informed them that I could do quite a good one, they were delighted and I will soon be a Youtube sensation saying “Jelly Palm Brazil Argentina” in my best ‘British’.

The rest of the day was spent on the beach at Carpintería, followed by Tom’s Carbonara cooked on a picnic bench right on the sand watching the sunset… we decided we could live here! This feeling was compounded the following morning when, woken up early by the LOUDEST TRAIN EVER, I decided to take a walk on the beach at around 7am… beautiful! When I got back, Tom was cooking breakfast = best morning ever!

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