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Road Trip around California
Our first stop on our trip was Santa Cruz. We stayed in the Beach View Inn which I had chosen for the reasonable price and location. We wanted to be close to the attractions such as the Pier, amusement park and restaurants without having to drive jet lagged and on the wrong side of the road.
The Beach View Inn was dated but clean. The only problem was, we wanted to get some rest after a 14 hour flight and some very noisy people woke us up at midnight.
Santa Cruz was nice for a visit to walk through the amusement park and have dinner on the Pier. One afternoon and one evening was enough though.
Would probably be a great destination for families.
We drove the next day to Monterey. We had planned to be there for the weekend to attend the Laguna Seca Historics and the Pebble beach Concourse.
We walked around the Cannery row area which was touristy but nice. For lunch we stopped in at Louie Linguini's. I had the Mahi Mahi which was really nice. We were interested in trying the Californian wine as it has a reputation for being very good. It did not dissapoint. The wine was fantastic. At the end of our trip we did a Nappa Valley wine tour but the wineries selected did not seem to be up to the same standard as what the restaurants were selecting.
We had fairly good weather but it is not tropical. Good idea to take a light jacket in summer for the evenings. The sea fogs are incredible.
We stayed at the Monterey Surf in. It was extremely expensive as were most hotels that weekend because of Pebble beach and the Laguna Seca Historic car racing.
The first night they had us in one of the corner rooms which have no windows. While the room was nice, it felt very claustrophobic. The next night a room became available with windows and they moved us here. We discovered most Californian hotels provide a small breakfast at reception. This consists of sweet muffins, or waffles, really bad coffee and artificial orange juice. No tea :(
We tended to miss breakfast most days.
It would be a great improvement if hotels included tea and coffee making facilities in the room. Some hotels have coffee makers but never tea. We missed this as it is something we expect from Hotels and Motels in Australia. It was still a nice place to stay and we were able to walk 5 minutes down the road to the local mall. There was a Californian Pizza kitchen chain restaurant and Hula's Island Grill. Hula's had great Pina Colada's and my vegetarian burger was fantastic. Good place to go near the hotel for an easy meal.
The Laguna Seca Historic Car races were a great day out. The theme this year was Porsche. It was fantastic to see old Porsche 917's racing. Many beautiful cars and my fiance went crazy buying t shirts and posters.
We also saw Jay Leno. He made an appearance and a few people ran up to him asking to have their photo taken with Jay. I thought he was really nice as no one was turned down.
The food was vile but that is normal for most car race tracks we go to. Take lunch if you want good healthy food.
We had bought tickets for the Pebble beach concourse a couple of months ago over the internet $150 each. If you buy on the day they go up to $170.
The concourse was a great day out looking at other peoples collections of beautiful cars lined up on the golf course. The place was crowded and everyone was dressed in resort wear. It was very classy.
Was surprised at the lack of good coffee and food considering the type of event. Best to take your own lunch.
Carmel is such a beautiful town. It looks a bit European with nice shops. This was one place we found good expresso coffee which is difficult to find in California. The beach had white sand and there were some beautiful houses.
There was a fog that day so the sky was grey.
The drive down the coast from Monterey was spectacular. The coast is wild and rocky.
We stopped for breakfast at Rocky Point Restaurant. They have spectacular views over the ocean and provide a great breakfast. The squirrels are so cute and look through the window watching you eat.
We stopped near Hearst Castle and considered taking the trip up there but there were lots of people waiting. It looks great in the pictures.
Feeling pretty tired we decided to stop at Pismo Beach. The town it's self is not that great but has a pier and a nice beach. Probably more of a cheap place for families and college kids. No nice shops, cafes or retaurants. If we could do it over I would have pushed on to Santa Barbara.
Had an OK mexican meal. The pina coladas were great. We really indulged in these while in California.
The next morning we pulled out of Pismo Beach, just got around the corner and there were factory outlet stores. We heard that Levi jeans are really cheap in America and they are :)
My fiance bought 5 pairs at $35US. In Australia they are over $100. We were glad we bought them here and did not wait until we got to San Francisco as they were dearer there.
I love Santa Barbara. The beach is lined with Palm trees and the Spanish mission style shops and houses are beautiful. We walked along the pier and then caught the electric shuttle bus up into town which would only be a 20 minute walk.
The shops are beautiful and we stopped at a nice wine bar and sat in the afternoon sun drinking amazing Californian wine.
As we walked back through town in the late afternoon to our hotel near the waterfront, there was a produce market with fruit and vegetable stalls that had appeared in a section of the main street. We bought big juicy peaches and pistachio nuts to snack on. It really is a nice place and I would have liked to spend a couple more days there.
Unfortunately there was not enough time and we didn't get down to Santa Monica as we had a hotel booking in Yosemite national park.
We reluctantly left Santa Barbara and went up to Yosemite. The scenery along the freeway was stunning with brown grassy hills. Along the freeways you see clusters of signs indicating which fast food outlets are at the next exit.
I rarely eat Mcdonalds but had to eat it on this trip due to the lack of any nice cafes with healthy food. A very different food experience to what we have at home driving through the states of New South Wales and Victoria where we have cafes with good food, coffee and tea.
We did find an abundance of fruit stores with beautiful fresh fruit and nuts. It was great being able to eat big juicy peaches and nectarines as these are out of season at home.
The scenery was great.
We arrived at Wawona hotel and the weather was very hot to what we experienced on the coast. It was over 30 celsius compared to the coast which hovered around 20 celsius.
Wawona hotel consisted of some beautiful old buildings with verandahs around them. Our room was in the main building on the 2nd floor and was very comfortable. We had booked a cheaper room without a bathroom. The bathroom was shared facilities.
I did think that this would be inconvenient at first but the hotel provide you with robes so it is easy to get to the toilet in the middle of the night or to use the showers.
They provide a reasonable meal at the restaurant in the hotel.
The first afternoon we sat on the main verandah and drank gin and tonics ordered from the waiter.
The second evening we bought some drinks from the local shop and sat outside in the grounds on the seating under the trees watching squirrels frolic in the late afternoon sun.
They have a nice swimming pool if you want to cool off.
The next day we went to see the sequoia trees which were very old and magnificent.
There were many squirrels in the forest and we saw a deer.
The drive up to the valley floor in Yosemite was wonderful. It is about 45 minutes from Wawona hotel. The scenery is spectacular. I would have liked to do the starlight tour but it is such a long drive to go back there in the evening and we were feeling very tired.
They have full moon tours but unfortunately it was not full moon when we were there.
Definitely make this a stop on your road trip. It is such a beautiful place.
San Francisco is a beautiful city with very steep streets but quite cold in summer due to the heavy fogs that roll in.
We arrived there in the afternoon after our drive from Yosemite. The navigator advised us to go up this very steep street. We took one look at it and turned right. You have to have nerves of steel and good brakes to live in this city.
We stayed at the Travel Lodge on Lombard Street. The guy at reception was very friendly and helpful. The room was clean and comfortable and the price was reasonable.
Lombard Street was a good place to stay as it is fairly central and there are lots of buses going past the hotel. There are many nice restaurants in the surrounding streets and it is a good area close to the Marina area.
Fishermans wharf is about a 20-minute walk from our hotel. It is very touristy but a nice place. We ate lunch at Johnny Rockets, which is a 50's style diner restaurant. They had vegetarian hamburgers, and we also enjoyed a malt milk shake.
We also ate at the Franciscan which is a restaurant overlooking the sea at Fisherman's wharf. The food and wine is good. The view of the ocean out of the big windows is wonderful and the menu is like a cookbook with pictures and descriptions of ingredients, which I thought, was a nice touch.
I wanted to try a raw food restaurant while in San Francisco so we went to 'Alive' on Lombard Street. The food was fresh, tasty and well presented. A good experience.
A friend of ours told us about Quinn's lighthouse which is a really good seafood restaurant overlooking a marina in Emeryville. We had a wonderful lunch with great food and spectacular Californian wine. Need a car to get there though.
When we first arrived in San Francisco, we went to buy tickets for Alcatraz. We were told that tours were sold out until next Tuesday. Luckily we were there for 5 days. If you buy from the street vendors, it is very expensive therefore I would recommend buying tickets on line before you go.
We did a ghost tour while we were in San Francisco. We met our guide and fellow ghost hunters at the Queen Ann hotel, which is a beautiful Victorian hotel with antique furniture. This in its self is something to see. Our guide took us through the streets filled with beautiful old Victorian homes and told us about the peoples lives that had lived there as well as some strange happenings. It was an interesting history tour of the area and a little spooky but the children on our tour seemed to enjoy it.
We also did a Haight Ashbury tour, which is a history tour about when the hippies descended on the area and Golden Gate park in 1967 - 'The summer of love.'
Haight Ashbury is a very alternative area with interesting people, shops and cafes. Our guide Stan, was really informative and told many interesting stories about famous people living in the area at the time. You also got the impression this was a close community as every second person in the street said hello to our local guide Stan.
People in San Francisco are very paranoid about fire as the city is full of wooden houses so you frequently see big red fire engines driving through the streets. The fire department in the Haight Ashbury area had the emblem of the band the Grateful Dead on their truck. They sought special permission from the band for this. The Grateful Dead's house was one of the many famous houses we saw on the tour.
It was relaxing walking around streets in the morning sun looking at beautiful old Victorian houses. They call them 'Painted Ladies' as the hippies and gay population in the area were responsible for painting the houses different colors with colored trim. They are very pretty and tastefully painted.
Alcatraz was a worthwhile trip. They gave us headphones with an audio presentation. You were directed to start at a certain point and the audio presentation moved you around the prison to various parts describing how life was and the history of the place. The headphones are definitely the best way of getting the most out of this tour.
We drove across the bridge to the vista point on the other side and walked about quarter way back along the bridge. The morning was foggy with cold winds. We definitely needed our jackets that day. On our final day in San Francisco we drove back across the bridge and up along a road around near the coast. The weather was beautiful and the views of the bridge were stunning.
We took a wine tour on a bus through Napa Valley and Sonoma. It was nice to be driven around through the beautiful countryside of the Napa Valley while feeling tipsy from all the wine tasting.
I really thought that the wines from the selection of wineries that we visited were not as good as what was offered in various restaurants. It was still a nice day out.
San Francisco is a beautiful city with lots of culture and history. Five days was a bit too long if you are a tourist probably because we were used to driving around from place to place on the rest of our trip. I really enjoyed our time there and the people were great.
The Bad - Not wanting to end on a negative note after a wonderful Californian
experience, I will start with the bad.
Sales tax not included on the price tag. This is annoying.
Having to tip. Why don't they just include this in the cost of the meal. It's so much easier for everyone and ensures the staff gets paid.
No Cafe Culture??? We were very surprised. Where are all the espresso machines and great Italian coffee. Starbucks is not the answer. Nice cafe's with healthy food and treats would be a great addition to a Californian road trip.
Clusters of fast food places along the freeways. Where are all the cafes ?? :(
Hotels/Motels need tea and coffee in the room. So much more relaxing to come back to your room and make a nice cup of tea with milk.
The sickly sweet muffins offered for breakfast in most hotels would be better replaced by toast and conserves. I can't eat cake for breakfast.
Californian people - Generally really friendly lovely people that are very helpful
Californian Wine - We experienced many wonderful Californian wines.
The coast road is spectacular.
Thank god for fruit stalls along the highways with big juicy peaches and pistachio nuts.
Yosemite National Park - Very spectacular.
Levis Jeans and Merrill shoes were way cheaper than in Australia.
Lots of Cool classic American cars.
50's style diners like Johnny Rockets that have vegetarian burgers as well and serve malt milk shakes.
Big SUV's - they are everywhere on the road. It's an amazing sight to see driving down the freeways surrounded by them. The funniest site was in a car park where a little petite lady of mature age who looked like a nice motherly type person, drove up , parked and stepped out of a huge white Chevrolet truck. You go girl! :)
Wouldn't mind a ford F250 at home. Not sure about parking it at the mall tough. Could get a bit tight. Our SUV's are not as big.
Not getting down to Santa Monica and Malibu
Not being able to stay in Santa Barbara and Yosemite longer.
Not enough time to go to Long Beach and stay on the Queen Mary.
Not enough time to see and do everything.