From San Francisco we headed towards Yosemite via Napa Valley, which is in the opposite direction and not actually en route at all but we wanted to pop in given its reputation for fine wine and picturesque location. I must say we were somewhat disappointed with Napa as we had been to Healdsburg the week before, a smaller wine town that is a bit more off the beaten track and thus has maintained its charm. It seems food and motel chains as well as outlet stores have invaded Napa.
Disappointment was a thing of the past when we got to the Yosemite National Park. After a long drive, expertly navigated by me thanks to Google Maps, we arrived at our old-world hotel in the park where we spent 3 nights. It took us a while to get into Yosemite; I think partly because we are so used to looking for game in the parks we go to that to ‘just’ look at scenery was a bit tricky at first. This wasn’t helped by the fact that our latest rental car, an electric-blue Dodge Avenger, had extremely narrow windows! It didn’t take long though for the spectacular and majestic surrounds to win us over as we admired view after view after view. That’s not to say we weren’t extremely excited to spot a black bear!
From Yosemite we headed back west to the coast to follow the famous California stretch of Highway 1, including Big Sur, down to Los Angeles. Our first stop was the lovely town of Carmel. Despite being a very wealthy town they have rules in place to preserve its appeal, including no streetlights, pavements or home postal delivery … and certainly no McDonalds! We stayed in a lovely B&B that is a true testament to the fact that there is great yet affordable accommodation available throughout the States. We visited the Monterey Aquarium, which is consistently voted the country’s number 1, but as hard as we tried were still bored by fish swimming in tanks. Not so with our next stop – Pebble Beach. Yes, Guy was in heaven as we drove the 17-mile route around Pebble Beach admiring its top courses – Cypress Hill, Spyglass, Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach itself, my golfing husband’s ultimate. Even as a non-practicing Golfer I could appreciate the beauty of these perfectly manicured courses. Unfortunately, Guy didn’t play and as we stood watching the golfers come in on the 18th I am sure I caught him wiping a tear away! Definitely on his ‘to come back to’ list!
From Carmel we made a beeline down the coast, enjoying some of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen, with a stopover in San Simeon to ogle at the OTT wealth on display at the stunning Heart Castle.
Our next stop, and the last before San Diego, was supposed to be Santa Barbara but our lack of forward planning caught up with us here, being a popular weekend spot for southern Californian’s, and with no room at the inn we kept going. We didn’t think we’d have a problem getting to LA soon enough and finding a place. That was before we hit the mother of all traffic jams at what we later discovered is the second worst point of congestion in the US despite the 6 or more lanes – in each direction! So despite it being a Saturday night a 4 or 5 hour trip became 9 hours and eventually we stopped at the airport and crashed into the nearest bed.