Friday, August 03, 2007

Um....ahem...ah....hello there

I am alive. I am back. Life continues. All is well.

Our trip to San Francisco and down highway 1 to Big Sur was ridiculously gorgeous and absurdly fun.

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. My husband and I found it very, very bright there. I think maybe the angle of the sun is different from what it is here...? That brightness, plus the wonderful riot of colours San Franciscans use to paint their buildings, made for a blinding first few days.

We were also surprised by how arid it is there. And also how cold it is. It was a bit of a shock to me as a Canadian to be somewhere "warm" that was colder than what I'm acclimatized to in summer. Here, it is not unusual for days to get to 35 or 40 Celsius (with the humidex factored in) in summer. There, it didn't go above about 22 Celsius. At night, it was downright cold--as low as 8 or 9 degrees.

We met up with blog buddy Moose on our second night there. It was (nearly) her birthday, so we drank tart birthday margaritas and ate at a fabulous "nothing-fancy-to-look-at -but-theres-a-lineup-down-the-block" Mexican restaurant. Best enchiladas I've ever had, sin douda.

Highway 1
The drive down the coast was phenomenal. Heights dizzify me, but even I couldn't look away from the fantastic views of coastline and mountains. Every blink was a postcard.

We stopped in Santa Cruz one night. The boardwalk features a kick-ass amusement park, complete with several rollercoasters. It was fun just to walk around, not knock down any milk bottles at the gaming booths, and strenuously resist buying cotton candy, ice cream, and various fried stuff that wafted temptingly through the place.

I must say, something about night-time on the Santa Cruz boardwalk really creeped me out. I later found out that it's the boardwalk where they filmed the early scenes of Lost Boys--remember that vampire movie with all the hot male vampires? I must have recognized the set on some subconscious level...

Our B&B owner in Santa Cruz was a Mexican woman who made huevos rancheros for us in the morning, complete with homemade tortillas. That is what they serve for breakfast in heaven.


We made our way further south, passing through increasingly wealthy towns until reaching Carmel, aka The Retired Real Estate Baron's Shangri-La.

It's famous for being the town that Clint Eastwood was mayor of for some time. He owns the Mission Ranch there, he plays golf at Pebble Beach, which is just north of it, and lives--or should I say "has a home"--not too far from the golf course. He and several other megamillionaires seem to own a big chunk of the property, hotels, etc., in that area.

You are struck dumb and kind of gawp-mouthed when you drive into Carmel via the 17-mile Drive. It's like a movie set combined with a Smurf village blended with a Mediterranean villa. A little too perfect, a little too "retirement nirvana," for our tastes, but fascinating because it's something we have never seen before. (The whole time I was in Carmel, I couldn't get "Hotel California" out of my head...creepy.)

The Carmel Beach is simply divine, though, dahlings. And they have a really, really good little luxury mall there. Not that I can afford to shop in any of the stores, but it sure is fun just to look around.

We like "totally" scored like some like awesome deals on B&B and hotel specials in Carmel, dudes. Ironically, it was the least expensive place we stayed in. We even got a full "apartment" with kitchen and everything for more than $50 less than the going rate at most other places.

The Carmel drugstore is another sight to behold. Oh sure, they have your aspirin, your sunscreen, your maxi pads. But then there's the full wall of high-end summer perfumes and colognes. Yes, "summer fragrances" is a specialized category of perfumerie. I didn't realize that either, until I saw the wall-o-scents at the Carmel drugstore. And it's set up as an old-style drugstore with everything in glass display cabinets and on behind-the-counter shelves set in rich panelled wood reaching right up to the ceiling. Quaint, but inconvenient if you actually need to buy something because you have to wait for the shopkeeper to help you. You soon learn to slow down in Carmel.

Big Sur

Big Sur was another treat. There is no actual village called Big Sur, we found out (although the maps all give it its own dot--deceptive). But there is a strip of inns, hippies, cabins, camping, hippies, restaurants, galleries, hippies, and more restaurants all nestled in the mountains and redwoods overlooking the massive drops down to the rocky coast. We had dinner and consumed vast quantities of California wine up in the clouds in Big Sur.

We stayed at a place, fairly famous, called Deetjens Big Sur Inn, which was built long ago and is, essentially, a series of wooden cabins and outbuildings. It's really lovely and quaint but I must say that, coming from the land of cottaging, it wasn't as much of a big deal for us to stay in a wooden cabin as it was for some people who seemed exceedingly excited about it. Maybe it was the $150/night price tag...

We wanted very much to drive down to the famous spa and institute, Esalen, for a midnight dip in the mineral hot springs, but the 12-mile drive along the coast in the dark was enough even to give my courageous husband the heeby-jeebies.

Next time.

Andrew Molera Park

Our asses rapidly gellifying from all the driving and wine-drinking, we decided one day to take a 7-mile hike through Andrew Molera park. It was stunning. The first 3 or 4 miles run on a bluff along the crystal-blue ocean, overlooking wild, windy, white-sand beaches. The rest of the journey is up the mountain and through a stand of ancient redwoods.

As kilometer people, we were, uh, somewhat surprised at how much further a mile is than a kilometer. But it was worth the 3 hours of sweat and even worth running into that one rattlesnake. And carefully dodging entire forests of poison oak. And the tick problem. That hike was, honestly, probably the highlight of the trip for me. (That and shopping at Target, which we don't have here. Also called Tar-jjjay because of all the great couture. The Libertine for Tarjjjay collection? Shut up!)


There was a whale-watching voyage in Monterrey, visits to art galleries along the highway, a peacock sighting (just sort of pecking away beside the highway), and lots of other stuff.

On our last day, we drove across the Golden Gate bridge and into Sausalito, which looks directly across the Bay at the "back side" of Alcatraz (the "front side," at least as we came to know it, is visible from San Fran's Fisherman's Wharf--a horrible tourist wasteland of poorly made sunglasses and massively overpriced t-shirts...avoid it if you ever go there.) Anyhow, Sausalito is stunning. A little jem nestled in the oceanside hills. The town is basically vertical--built right onto a mountainside. If--no--when I go back, I'd like to spend more time there.

The End.

That and 18 hours of flight time about sums it up.

A couple of cultural notes:

1. Californians really are larger-than-life. They're extremely tall. It was very strange for me to be in a place where everyone was at least as tall as me, if not taller.

They're also boisterous, friendly, smiley, and easy to talk to. Sort of like Canadians with the volume dialed way up.

2. It was depressing and strange to see the migrant workers covered head-to-toe in the industrial farm fields (I'm guessing to try to keep pesticides off their skin and out of their lungs), hunched over and picking berries, etc. It really makes you look at the produce department differently. Enough said.

3. I'll never stop being shocked by the gulf between rich and poor in the U.S. and how often this "class" gap intersects with race/cultural background.

It was a fantastic trip. I will go back.

Now back to real life.

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Blogger Stylefinder (Editor) said...

YAY! You're back! I missed you. Glad you had a fun trip, I've been meaning to do the Oregon Coast drive forever...

12:32 PM  
Blogger whyioughtta said...

Hi SF!

I wasn't able to get onto your blog...maybe a Blogger problem?

Glad to be back.

Definitely do the trip. That whole area of the States is something else.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Fat Sparrow said...

"One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach. All the damn vampires."

Yay, you're back! And you went to all the pretty places! Next time around, you've got to check out The Mystery Spot and Hearst Castle and Solvang. Cheesy, but fun.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Carolina Lange said...

I loooooove California! Great pictures!

10:32 AM  
Blogger DeepBlueSea said...

Bitchen pix man!

Great to have ya back. I can go shave now.

12:34 AM  
Blogger tsduff said...

Okay - WOW!

1) I never knew you were Canadian 2) I didn't know you were coming to my part of the universe
3) Your piccies are beautiful
4) I want to go back to all the places you visited (been there, done that, but can't wait to do it all again)
5) How could you come and not say boo?
6) Never mind - I was out of town in Wyoming.
7) Whoever your tour guide was (was it you?) she/he was RIGHT ON, you saw some of the jewels of our state.

2:06 AM  
Blogger whyioughtta said...

Thanks for the comments, all...

TS: Sorry! I did do a post right before leaving that mentioned I was going to San Fran, but I didn't give specific dates. Next time I go out (and there WILL be a next time), I'll definitely drop you a line!

Our tour guide was our own whim & fancy. We just got in the rental each day, looked at the map, and said, "hmmmm...I'm thinking Monterrey..." It was awesome.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Moose said...


You have now officially seen more of California than I have.

2:24 PM  
Blogger jackp said...

slight correction.

i didn't get 'the heebie jeebies'.

we were tired from our hike, and i didn't feel safe about driving late at night that tired...

just for the record...

carry on..


11:09 AM  

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