Coastal California


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December 20th 2015
Published: December 20th 2015
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R: Today we completed the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles - well, nearly. We are about 30 miles outside on account of price and availability on Saturday night.

Route 1 hugs the coast for the route down to LA and beyond, so it's pretty easy to navigate here. After San Francisco is a series of state beaches, all with big surf, crashing waves, and varying amounts of sandy beach. The weather was cold though - so no taking any plunges for us. We stopped at Half Moon bay first, then continued down to various look outs including the poorly named Pigeon Point (for once I was disappointed not to see pigeons), Natural Bridges beach and Santa Cruz. We finally capitulated to eating a Taco Bell, and headed down to the coast, which had a nice pier populated by a lot of noisy sea lions on the supports. People clearly felt it was warm enough here as there were people playing volleyball on the beach, but sadly the mini waterfront theme park and roller coasters were closed for the season and resembled a creepy slasher-movie fun fair.

We ended the day in Carmel and Monterey, having just missed the sunset we settled in for our microwave night, and watched the rest of Forrest Gump on Netflix.

Next morning we headed down to Monterey for a nosy about, and after realising we were about the only tourists there, I got a few moments with a broken seaside piano to knock out a few tunes, and we were on our way to Carmel. We drove through Cannery Row, familiar from the Steinbeck novel, but after a quick drive through and seeing it now mainly consists of tourist tat shops, we headed for Carmel. Carmel gives you a Mediterranean air as soon as you drive in. It has a pretty beach and cute old town, which isn't directly on the sea front, which is great for wandering. We got talking to a few people, one who admired my shorts - or rather, my steadfastness in wearing them - and gave us a good recommendation to visit the Hansel and Gretel houses up the hill - which are exactly as they sound...

As an aside, while we were visiting the houses we found a car with "Keep Calm and Carry Guns" sticker on it. A poignant reminder on the country's obsession with weapons. Though, I suppose they would argue that if everyone "Kept calm" while they carried them, there would be no problem.

While admiring a pretty church, a man approached us and asked if we would like to ring the 12 o'clock bell. Not wanting to disappoint, we agreed, but had to wait a few minutes. When the time came, Cate performed excellently, ringing the first 11 to perfection, then handed over to me for the final "dong". Not realising how easy it would be, I pulled so hard it rang, recoiled, and rang a 13th time, so residents of Carmel may have thought America had finally adopted 24 hour clock as standard.

On we drove, through tremendous scenery and onto Big Sur. We stopped on an outcrop for lunch with an amazing view and while chatting Cate shouted "Whale!!" sure enough the elusive Grey whales which are migrating through this area made an appearance. We stopped at Julia Pfeffer Burns state park which has a beautiful bay and the only coastal waterfall in California, I believe. Stunning...

We continued on, through tight bends and sharp inclines along the coast taking it all in until we got to Morro bay, our lodging for the night. The next morning we headed on to Solvang, a Danish settlement which has now become a bit of a tourist attraction. It's full of windmills, bakeries and old Danish houses, but was quite fun for a bit. After that, we headed out to a Mission to learn about the Spanish Catholics who came to California to convert the natives. Though, in a strange turn of events, we ended up participating in a Mexican tradition, known as "Las Posadas", where two people dress up as Mary and Joseph and walk around various doorways and sing songs (accompanied by a walk along band) to try and secure a bed for a night, eventually ending up at a stable, donkey and all. The best bit was when the donkey began to eat the hay that Joseph was sitting on in an act of defiance.

Onward from there we went in search of a Christmas tradition of our own - Christmas pudding - but the British shop Cate had tracked down in Santa Barbara was in the process of becoming a French shop! How rude! Santa Barbara was nice, but we were only there a few hours - they have a stunning courthouse which is all open to the elements at some doorways with a tower and a good vantage point over the town. Stunning inside, it's all spanish style with Moorish influence. Maybe one day I'll get called to give evidence somewhere as fancy as this.

Tomorrow we are heading for Hollywood, so if you get our next blog, then we probably haven't "made it".


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