“Amtrak or coastal road. Which one would you prefer?” I’d asked Vince before leaving the UK.
Previously we’d travelled from San Francisco to New York on the Californian Zeypher. Trundling across the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Meandering alongside the Colorado River & stopping at various locations enroute. It had been one of the most enjoyable trips we’d taken.
“Drive, ” was his response.
So this is how we found ourselves standing at the Avis car rental desk. Looking forward to collecting our Ford Fusion Hybrid. The first time driving a car with electric capabilities, we were interested to see how it affected fuel consumption and of course what the cost of petrol was in California. Roughly $1.24 per gallon. Still rather cheap, despite our lower than expected currency exchange rate.
We spent our first evening watching a golden sunset on the blonde beach at Carmel-by-the-sea. Chatting with a couple who had driven down from the mountains, to sit along the pacific coastline and enjoy the sunset together. I thought they were romantic. They found us fascinating. An idealised version of others lives, delivered by each couple.
Parking just off the sand, we dipped our toes into the Pacific Ocean for the first time. We were driving Highway 1 to Los Angeles – arriving to spend a few days with Connor on sunday. It was wednesday.
Our accommodation on the outskirts of Monterey, a simple travelodge, suitable for our needs and a quick overnight stay. With comfy beds, spacious rooms and a balcony overlooking the pool. It turned out, an ideal place which I’d arranged through Booking.com but I wouldn’t want to stay there in the Summer. It would be way to busy for our liking but in wintertime it was an ideal stop off.
Our first stop Monterey Bay: travel always seems to reflect life. For many years I’d wanted to start a Californian travel adventure in Monterey Bay but standing along its shoreline. Listening to the sealions honking just offshore. I was finding the fantasy of my imagination, slightly different to the reality. My interest drawn not to Monterey Bay aquarium as I thought it would be, after many years yearning to visit but to a little stretch of beach, where I was watching army veterans receiving a surf lesson along its shoreline.
The water chilly but swimmable.
I felt a tad jealous, with not being able to be as active as I’d like, whilst still recovering from broken ankle and ligament damage. I wanted to jump in and feel the cold as it pushed any anxiety I might be experiencing, straight up and out of my body like rocket fuel. I let out a large sigh. This was why our journey was ok as a road trip. My recovery meant that much of what I would normally like to do would be off the menu on this occasion!
Carmel was a delightfully twee town. Reminding me of a disney movie in a way. There were galleries and a bakery with the biggest cakes (made my eyes grow as big as saucers on spying them) yet it didn’t really grab us. As we drove away from the beach, the dark drew in. I was glad we had decided to visit in winter. Even with the huge, wide roads we were already encountering. I was beginning to imagine what the area would look like on a bustling and busy, sunny, summers day!
One thing we discovered whilst driving, was from what we experienced, you really had to keep your eyes peeled if you wanted to detour to one of the many interesting tourist sights. It wasn’t till we were nearly upon them or actually driving past them, that we encountered the signs. You really had to stay on your toes.
We were beginning to find that a glass of wine or a bottle of beer – came in at around 10-15 bucks and if we wanted to eat, then clam chowder could be found on the menu nearly everywhere.
It was fun beginning to explore California. Our stop in San Francisco had been brief – purely for the visit to Alcatraz. Staying off Columbus and close to the bay front- we found the safeway supermarket (do you adore exploring the supermarkets abroad like we do?) with the breakfast burrito on offer.
Oh my.. scrambled egg, a couple of slices of ham. Monterey jack cheese, spicy jalapeños, finished off with chipotle sauce. I was in my own kind of heaven.
Although San Francisco seems to have some real problems with homelessness, which we could see for ourselves. We felt safe enough in the area we were, for the short time we stayed.
The walk to the bay front short and divine and seeing bars like Appelbees in an area which reminded me of Play de Ingles in Gran Canaria – although not necessarily for me, brought to life movies like Couples Retreat and allowed my heart to sing with happiness.
This was the start of our californian coastline adventure. Dreamed about for years. Now part of our reality. We were off!