|If you'd like to sit back and go travelling with me,
here for a
musical montage of this trip (Media Player and sound needed).
This was our second road trip in California, this time
driving on Highway 1, the coast road, for the majority of the journey.
We stayed in B&Bs and an apartment, all booked by myself through the
internet, using information from CABBI (Californian
Bed & Breakfast Inns) and Trip Advisor to help in my search. I'm
pleased to say that all the arrangements went without a hitch which
was a great relief. We decided to fly into San Francisco and back out
from Los Angeles, the reverse of our trip in 2000. Our itinerary was
as follows: Olema (North of San Francisco, in Marin County), Carmel,
Cambria, Santa Barbara, South Pasadena, San Diego and Idyllwild. About
1100 miles and 18 nights so a fairly leisurely pace.
Thursday 12th April
We were fortunate enough to have saved enough BA Miles
to qualify for Club World, so had a very comfortable flight with good
food and some good films. We collected our Avis car, a Ford Focus
which had ample room for us and our luggage. San Francisco in the rush
hour, what a start to the driving experience for Martyn. Rather him
than me. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge with its spectacular
views, and perfect weather - no sign of the fog that is so often found
in this area.
We turned off the busy Highway 101 onto Highway 1 -
which was incredibly twisty and slow, but with beautiful coastal
scenery, and finally arrived at The
Bear Valley Inn
in Olema at about 7pm, where we were to stay 4 nights. This is a
lovely place with very welcoming hosts, Amanda & Ken. After our busy
day we decided against going out for dinner, filling the odd gap
with the chocolate nuts and bananas in the cosy lounge. We met Kathy
and Bob, fellow guests from Ohio. We're hoping they will visit us
when we start our walking holiday business!
Friday 13th April
We awoke to beautiful sunshine and a good breakfast
and then set off for Pint Reyes Lighthouse, about 40 scenic minutes
drive away. We walked from the visitor centre, enjoying the pretty
wild flowers, the birds and fabulous ocean views where we looked in
vain for migrating whales. It was freezing in the biting wind but
hot in sheltered areas. There are 300 steps and lots of long slopes
down to the lighthouse - unusual since lighthouses are usually at
the top of cliffs! It had to be sited lower than the high fog line
and is beautifully preserved. We then drove on to the Historic
Lifeboat Station a few miles along the road and walked the mile to
Chimney Rock, across the headland where we saw many more wild
flowers. Our next stop was Drakes Beach for coffee and a snack -
entertainment provided by the spectacular waves - then a walk and
return to the Inn via the excellent Bear Valley Visitor Centre.
In the evening we ate at The Farmhouse, a friendly
pub/restaurant serving enormous portions of delicious food: for
Martyn local oysters, for me coconut prawns and wild Alaskan halibut
for us both. We drank Californian Sauvignon Blanc which amazed us by
being 14¾% proof, surely a record for a dry white?
Saturday 14th April
As forecast, the rain started during the night but
we had a walk planned and decided to be brave. Our walk was The Bear
Valley Trail, just over 4 miles each way. We bought some picnic
items at the deli and departed from the Visitor Centre. It was very
wet but a lovely trail and the rain eventually eased off. We were lucky
enough to see some deer and some unusual birds - we think they were
red-winged blackbirds and turkey vultures. By the time we reached
Arch Rock, the sun was shining and what a view, stunning. We were
the only ones there for a short while but it then became very busy -
great timing on our part. Walking back was much nicer with the sun
We dined at The Farmhouse again in the evening - at
this rate we'll be like barrels by the time we get home.
Saturday 14th April
Amanda was away so Ken cooked our breakfast and very
kindly gave us a packed lunch as we were off to San Francisco for
the day, leaving early at 8am. We were there in an hour, having
taken a faster, but still mainly scenic, route. We had tickets
already booked for an afternoon trip to Alcatraz so collected them
and then went on our Bay cruise (Red & White Line) - again already
booked. Have to say it was rather spoilt by the number of tourists
who were only interested in taking photos of each other, oblivious
to their surroundings. They were making such a noise and rushing
around changing position for their photos. It was a nice cruise but the headset
commentary was of poor quality. We went close to Alcatraz and the
Golden Gate Bridge and the views were great - the weather was very
clear, no sign of any fog.
On our return we ate our lunch in a pretty garden
area on the Wharf and then explored Pier 39 of which we had happy
memories from our previous visit with our daughters a few years ago.
Then back to Pier 33 for the trip to Alcatraz. The boat was full and
on arriving we were given a tour introduction and then watched a
film showing the island's history. Next we went on an audio tour
which took us right around the actual prison. It was fascinating,
certainly a real punishment. We didn't have much time left to look
around the rest of the island as the boat was returning at 4.30.
We'd thought it would have been later so a tip: book an earlier trip
than we did, you can stay as long as you like but only if there's a
Back on the mainland we had an early dinner at
Dante's on pier 39, a very good value set menu with sensibly sized
portions so we managed 3 courses. Then back to Olema for our last
night.Monday 16th April
We were sorry to leave this lovely
region but also keen to see what other delights the coast road would
have to offer as we set off along Highway 1 for Carmel. The views
are spectacular and we encountered little traffic. I was reading
East of Eden by John Steinbeck so was keen to visit some of his
country but I did make a mistake regarding the location of the
Steinbeck Museum and we found ourselves in Monterey instead of
Salinas. No matter, we visited a waxworks museum instead and learned
a little but it was rather old-fashioned and uninspiring. The same
couldn't be said of the Aquarium, however, which was superb.
Expensive but beautifully laid out and a centre for conservation.
It's right on the seafront and very modern and one of many
highlights of the holiday.
We drove on to the Carmel Country Inn, where we had
a suite with bedroom and lounge. This really wasn't B&B as we know
it in the UK. Both places so far have had complementary sherry for
guests. We ate out at a Vietnamese restaurant and enjoyed it very
much. We did a spot of window shopping, amazed at the number of art
galleries and shops. it's certainly a very smart place indeed, quite
unique and mainly very individual shops.