Thursday, May 17, 2012

California Dreaming

We picked up a red convertible Mustang and cruised around San Francisco for the afternoon, with the Golden Gate Bridge as our last stop before hitting the road, south down the California coast.

Our aim was to get to Carmel By The Sea by that night, which was approximately a two to two and a half hour drive. We arrived around eight in the evening, the car crawling through the quaint little town, until we found somewhere to eat. It was pretty quiet and not many places were open. We dined at an Italian and seafood inspired family restaurant. Food was average. The highlight was the gas fire pit we sat next to that kept us warm.

Since the front desks at all the inns in Carmel were closed, we headed to Monterey to spend the night.

After a good rest, the next day we got started at a reasonable time and drove all along the coast until we reached Santa Barbara that night.

The coast was breathtaking with many beautiful vista points to stop at and take in the Pacific Ocean. The photo opportunities were numerous but the sheer scale and feeling of being there in person is so much grander.

You really need to take your time, just when you think you'll gain some miles, you pull up around the corner to another vista point and you can't help but stop to take in the views.

We started by doing the famous 17-mile drive, then checked out Carmel beach and hit the road towards Santa Barbara.

There's a few pit stops long the way. Rocky Point Bridge has a restaurant nearby called Rocky Point Restaurant perched on the edge of a cliff with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean for your viewing pleasure. The decor is tacky, but food surprisingly decent with very generous portions. I had the burger with house seasoned fries, as well as a mimosa to pep me up for the rest of the trip.

I recommend packing a lunch or at least snacks, as you can easily stop along the way and picnic. Definitely pack water and if driving in a convertible, slip slop slap!

I really enjoyed Big Sur, in the thick of the national park forest. If i liked camping, then this would be a spot I'd want to do it at. There's a pit stop with a gas station and souvenir and coffee shop. We parked and walked past all that, to the southern most part of the stop and stepped into the Iron Maiden for a beer. They serve food so if you're looking for a feed, I's skip the cafe and hit up this pub instead. That's where we met a local and his wolf pet Tiana (she's 12 years old, friendly and absolutely beautiful). Big highlight as it was proof that people can have wolves as pets. Since I've been watching Game of Thrones, I've been trying to convince Chris to let me get a wolf! So this was all the proof I needed. Unfortunately we found out the guy that breeds and trains them passed away recently and that day was his funeral.

We continued on to San Simeon to check out Hearst Castle. There's a massive tourist centre at the valley, so people don't actually get direct access to the castle, instead they get ferried up and down the mountain by buses once they book in for a tour. We got there too late as the last tour departed for the day (at approx. 4:15pm) plus it was booked out anyway. So if you want to see the castle make sure to book online ahead of time. We weren't sure when we'd get there so we took the chance. Oh well, next time. We did see the small museum at the visitor centre which gives some interesting facts and history on the Hearst family and W.R. himself. Living the dream indeed.

Our last stop off before reaching Santa Barbara was Santa Maria. We had dinner at Dickie's Barbecue Pit. Santa Maria was not too appealing, slightly inland from the beach, its surrounded by large roads and farm land. We were starving, dinner proved tasty (for take away) and the Manuel carving out the meat was extremely passionate about BBQ. Their motto is "slow smoked, served fast".

We drove the last miles to Santa Barbara, glad to rest our weary heads when we got there, after such a big day of sight seeing and driving.

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