Traveling Down the California Coast

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a great holiday and I can’t wait for what 2017 has in store.  After christmas this year, I traveled to California and ventured my way down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  The trip presented spectacular views and I really enjoyed seeing a different side of what the  United States has to offer.  Everything centered around driving, but along the way, I stopped at various towns and scenic points to soak in the beauty and culture of the west coast.

I flew into San Francisco, however, I wasn’t feeling too well, so after an obligatory In and Out Burger run, I spent the first day in the hotel room.  Feeling better, the next day before starting the drive, I got to walk around and see the city which consist of a surprising mix of victorian and art deco architecture.  Strolling the hilly streets is extremely pleasant and it made me wish that I hadn’t fallen ill the night before.  After a limited stay in San Fran, I started the drive with the first stop being Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is a fascinating town.  To me, the pier, boardwalk, beach and views represent a textbook definition of California.  On one hand, everything is very classic, bustling and colorful.  On the other hand, it is extremely touristy, but the vibe is still enjoyable.   It was great to walk around and soak in the sunny atmosphere.

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The Santa Cruz Boardwalk

For some reason, the Santa Cruz pier seems to attract just as many sea lions as it does tourists.  The bars under the pier are laden with them, in addition to them swimming in the water.  I had a good time watching them communicate to each other and wattle across the planks.

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A typical day on the pier…

I continued on down the beautiful coast until hitting Monterey, a classic seaside fishing town known for its world class aquarium.  There is plenty of marine life in the bay as well as picturesque views.

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The town of Monterey

The aquarium in impressive, however, it is overflowing with families and kids making it maybe less enjoyable for others.  Outside the aquarium, however, there are beaches covered with seals and otters playing in the icy water.

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The amazing view from the workout room of the Monterey Hotel.  

Right outside of Monterey is a reserve and scenic area called the 17 mile drive.  Encompassed within the 17 miles are the famous golf courses of Pebble Beach and Cypress Point.  For the first morning in Monterey, I had breakfast at Pebble Beach’s clubhouse which overlooked the 18th green.  Being a golf enthusiast, I loved seeing the world class courses and the amazing views.

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The view from a lookout point on the 17 mile drive. 

For dinner, there’s a great restaurant in Monterey called Montrio Bistro that offers a wide array of well prepared American fare.  I enjoyed the duck, as well a tapas sized mac and cheese.  For desert, I had the bread pudding while others in my family enjoyed the “s’mores in a shot glass”.

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The scrumptious bread pudding at Montrio Bistro.  

 

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The atmosphere is very modern and chic.  The food is very well done.  

I highly recommend Montrio Bistro in Monterey for a great meal of classic American dishes and sustainable seafood.

After departing Monterey, I spent the day driving along the infamous Highway 1 and Big Sur.  This drive is fantastic with incredible views of the ocean and surrounding mountains. For most of the drive, the road is situated on the edge of the mountains, overlooking cliffs.  It can be a bit treacherous and nauseating, but it’s worth it.

Throughout Big Sur, there are many opportunities to pull over and examine the views.  On one stop, I spoted whales fairly close to shore.

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A vista point along Big Sur. 

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A beach stop along the highway that had cool tide pools, unique sand and beautiful rock formations.  Disappointedly, the water was too cold to swim in, although I did get splashed!

 

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The colorful sand at the beach.  

After surviving the switchbacks of Big Sur, I stopped at a magnificent house (or palace) called the Hearst Castle.  Located pretty close to the exit of Big Sur, Hearst Castle reminds me of an American and modern Versailles Palace.  Built and owned by William Randolph Hearst of the Hearst Newspaper Corporation, the house is a Mediterranean oasis of art amongst a giant ranch.  Although excessive and gaudy, the goliath structure will blow you away (as it did with me).

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The exterior of the big house of Hearst Castle.  The exterior is nothing compared to the interior which is chock full of fine and ancient art from Egyptian, Roman, Medieval and Baroque times.  

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The view and landscaping are not too shabby either.  

Upon exiting Big Sur and entering SoCal, I stayed a few nights in a ranch in the dessert.  Then, I continued the drive down on the coast towards LA.  The coast line becomes flatter and there are fabulous beaches everywhere.  I stopped at one particular beach right outside of Malibu which had great rock formations and the classic lifeguard stands.  I eventually made it all the way down, and after one day at Disney, debarked home from LAX, having driven the vast majority of the golden state.

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The Malibu Beach

Although the weather wasn’t particularly ideal, driving down the coast provided a great way to see the state.  I covered so much in about a weeks time that I feel I have a good understanding of California.  By driving, you see so many great sights that can seriously take your breath away, creating a great vacation.

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