For those of you who have read my Route 66 adventures, you will know this is the next stage of a big trip we were on with our pals Ken and Barbie (names changed to protect the innocent). After finishing a good portion of Route 66 we headed North towards San Francisco, looking for an antidote for the craziness we had just experienced.
Day 1 and 2 Pacific Coast Highway: Backtrack to yesterday and we hot footed it from Santa Monica to Morro Bay to catch the sunset. We managed this with just twenty minutes to spare. Morro is a beautiful pacific seaside town with a volcanic peak still smoking. Ok so that’s not strictly true, that was my little joke with Ken. It was a peaceful scene punctuated by the sound of yapping sea lions. We just out-lasted the sunset despite the chilly breeze and found an eatery on the seafront, indulging in crisp white wine and oysters (substitute that for beer and big ass prawns for some people).
Up and at 'em this morning we were robbed of our sea views by the early morning sea mist. We decided to head on to Hearst castle to let the sun have time to burn it off. Imagine a National Trust style property that would have been built circa 1930s by a media mogul and you can imagine Hearst. Rich, over the top, palatial - we loved it! We took the tour and then made our way to local town of Cambria for lunch.
After devouring our deli sub we continued north on HWY 1 without a destination in mind (for this part of the trip we had not pre-booked hotels). One on the stopping points was a bay with elephant seals and a whole colony at that. We watched with amazement at the way they frolicked and luxuriated in the warmth of the sand. Our next stopping point was a famous bridge - or so I thought until we came across the actual Brixby Bridge some 30 miles later.
We had therefore stopped at some random bridge for ten minutes or so for no good reason! But Barbie and I got some great photos. Not long after this we stopped at one of the state parks to see a waterfall. We got more than we bargained for with a distant view of a feeding whale. Mostly we could only see the blow but it made the experience pretty special.
Nepenthe was an interesting stop, one recommended by the guide book and one we were not sure we would find. However, we happened upon it just at cocktail hour (funny that) and took drinks with fabulous views, the hot sun on our backs. Think of a tree top, wooden, African style bar. By this point we still had no hotel so made a quick choice to head to Monterey. We arrived and headed straight down to the wharf. There we waited on our table reservation with a few more noisy sea lions (who seem to hang around under piers) and had another wonderful fish based meal. When in Rome!
Having lots of fun but a very different experience altogether! It’s the tale of two trips. Night y’all!
Day 3/4 Pacific Coast Highway: We realised our energy reserves were depleted by this point and took two nights in ‘Seaside’ so we could hang in Monterey for a day without any driving. We really needed this break. I pushed for a visit to the aquarium and was so indulged. This really brought out our inner 12 year olds. It was an amazing aquarium and fitting as the whole bay is an environmentally protected area. We started with the big tank feeding watching them orchestrate feeding fishes big and small in a way that meant they didn't feed on each other! We nearly witnessed a penguin parade until they got too excited and stormed the crowd. Literally. We also took time to wander through the quaint town.
Four became five when we were joined by a special guest. Barbie met up with a school pal she hadn't seen for the past 30 odd years. Incredible. We found a microbrewery with a fire pit and hung for a quite a few hours, just being in one place, talking stuff and nonsense. It was bliss. Night y’all!
Day 5 Pacific Coast Highway: We hit the fast road to San Fran. Today was wine country day and we had some miles to catch up on. Starting in Napa, we had completely forgotten about the recent earthquake until we started wandering the streets of what felt like a semi ghost town. So sad to see the destruction. They’ve got as many businesses up and running as possible, but many buildings are greatly affected to this day. Our big adventure on this day was the Napa wine train. Terri was a tad disappointed as we weren’t getting the vineyard experience. However, the train was a good entry point and what could be better than dining on an Art Deco Pullman, drinking wine as the vines pass you by? Our trip began with the wine tasting in the bar carriage with clam shell seats facing outwards towards the scenery and then we moved to a dining cart for a beautiful four course meal. A very special experience. Night y’all!
Day 6 Pacific Coast Highway: San Fran baby! Up we got and headed through the mist towards Golden Gate Bridge. We never got a full view of that bridge all day - top stolen by the fog! We started with Fisherman's Wharf which had mixed reactions in the group. I enjoyed it and whilst busy it had a fun seaside pier feel to it. Why the UK can't do seaside and piers as well as the States is beyond me! However most felt it was too commercial. We moved on to the cable car experience, waiting in the line impatiently (don't expect an efficient experience if you do this). We were all surprised as just how manual the whole process is. Still when we got going we loved it. Long may those cars continue to exist! It took us to Union Square and based on how busy the streets were we decided to take refuge in the Cheesecake Factory. We gorged on four slices. - cherry, apple, oreo and lemon meringue. Way too much. We knew we needed to walk off our sins so strolled the length of China Town taking in the hustle and bustle of this vibrant community. We walked and walked until we found ourselves at 'the crookedest street on earth' at Lombard. Very interesting to watch - it's so popular they employ grumpy traffic officers to police the exit.
We felt ready for a rest and wound up at The Cannery - our final pub crawl on the trip ensued. We started with a British theme pub then went on to 'Dicks' a twist on the false 'have a nice day' service experience where the wait staff purposefully berate, and piss take with their customers. You need to enjoy having to go to the bar to get your own beer because they can't be bothered to bring it over. Also, you need to be ok with receiving your check (bill) screwed up and thrown at you and being told 'I'm done talking to you lady'. Fun! What happened next can only be classified as serendipity. There were a plethora of bars and restaurants to choose from and we started having a friendly little squabble on the street about where to go next. At which point a passer-by stopped and pointed out a good bar that they thought we should go to. We are always open to a recommendation and ended up at Lou's Shack which just so happened to have a blues band playing. We settled in at the bar and our crawl was brought to an immediate halt by the amazing live music. Barbie was permitted, by the bartender, to have water to accompany her alcohol if she took it in the form of shots. After a few hours and tummy’s growling we found a late-night restaurant for some late night fish tacos (which is the kebab equivalent on the pacific coast). I bought a cocktail for the sole reason the waiters would have to shout, ‘there’s a shark attack’. Who wouldn’t? We got our fill before heading to the hotel to say our goodbyes and crash. We were exhausted! It's been fun filled, quirky and non-stop - what an amazing two-week adventure with great friends. We are now off to decompress in LA for a few days before we fly on Friday on the A380. Night y’all!