Day 30 San Francisco! Goodbye USA!

1148 Kirkham Street San Francisco

This morning was packing morning – dreaded for a few reasons.  Firstly because it means that our holiday is over!  Secondly because it means having to fit everything into the suitcases!  We had plenty of time so I took my time and did a better job of it than when we left Washington.  I zipped up with a smidgeon to spare!

By 10am we had cleared out the house, culling, culling, culling down to smaller and smaller piles until it was all either packed or thrown out.  I took some photos to remind me of our San Francisco home.

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Then we loaded the suitcases into the garage downstairs and headed off into the city.  What to do? We had no agenda for today.

So we started with the good old N tram into our familiar Powell Street station, then a walk up the hill to the Cable Car Museum.  I saw the funniest sight on the steepest hill.  A man was walking his dog and the dog had to pause for a No. 2.  They kept popping out and rolling down the concrete footpath in all directions!  The man very diligently chased it all down and bagged it.  Must be a daily occurrence for him.

Dog poohing on hill

The Cable Car Museum was great.  I had no idea about the process and equipment that underlay the cable cars that make it up and down the steepest hills.  A single continuous cable for each route!  It made me think twice about actually going on them!

Cable Car MuseumCable Car MuseumCable Car Museum

We then walked down through Chinatown to find the San Francisco Railway Museum.  We saw a bit more of Chinatown and I kept saying that I wanted get my last browse through there… but we kept walking and discovered an area that we hadn’t really seen before.  I had been asking hubby what the Embarcadero was.  I kept seeing it on the map and trams.  I wish we had discovered it earlier as it was the best part of San Francisco.

It started with the discovery a nice Safeway which provided lunch and a last hit of our Monopoly game stickers that we had been collecting from Pavilions in Santa Monica.  If only we had been able to find a supermarket like this over the last few days when we were looking for lunches.  The food was great.  Soup for the 12 year old and sushi for me!

We ate across the road in a park and noticed that the area seemed more open.  The apartment buildings were newer.  We then kept walking and found the Embarcadero Centre which looked like a shopping mall with restaurants outside.  We didn’t pause to look inside.  We had seen enough shopping malls.

We kept walking towards the water and found the best of the waterfront.  Beautiful restaurants and the gorgeous Ferry Building Marketplace!  How had we not found this before??  Full of boutique and gourmet produce and great eateries!  I had been asking hubby to check out what the Ferry Building had in it…  Next time we stay near here and spend more time here.

Embarcargo areaEmbarcargo areaEmbarcargo area

Caught our favourite vintage F tram back to Powell Street and saw this dude get on board.  How low can a pair of duds go??

Undies and jeans


A few times today we had checked the queue for the cable car near Powell Street as I was desperate for another ride but this time on the outside of the cable car.  While the queues had been only about a dozen people long yesterday each time I looked, I hadn’t had my pass on me (had lent it to the 12 year old so he could go on it with the hubby when they were out and about looking for the sports warehouse).  It was now nearing 3pm and we were running out of time.  Luckily this time, the queue wasn’t too bad.  I left hubby and the 12 year old minding our spot in the queue while I whipped across the road to Westfield to my by now very familiar public toilet (that rarely ever auto flushed…).  By the time I got back they had had to let people in ahead of them as they had reached the front of the queue and were now several people back waiting for the next one.  The next one arrived and we jumped on.  I grabbed the number one standing position at the front on the right side.  Hubby and the 12 year old headed around to left side and found seats on the outside and harassed me to come around to them before they lost my seat.  I didn’t want a seat though, my dream was to stand on the outside at the front just like Monk from the old TV series (well he probably didn’t do it as he was germ paranoid but I’m sure that that is where I had seen it happen and thought it looked cool).  I succumbed and went to join them and wasn’t happy.  I lasted one stop then asked our jolly driver if I could hop over the seat to resume my luckily still free number one spot.  Even better he held the cable car still while I walked around the front and jumped on.  Then I had the best ride of my life!  I had to hold on with both hands so couldn’t take many photos but it was fabulous!

On the other side, hubby and the 12 year old had other cable cars whizzing past them from the opposite direction with lots of kids hanging off and they were high fiving them.

I got just this one photo that I love with Alcatraz in the background and showing the steep street that we were about to zoom down.

Alcatraz and cable car

Hubby got this cute one of the 12 year old standing on the outer platform.

Cable Car

That ride was so worth it.  The weather was great.  The driver was fun and we loved it! Got off very satisfied.

By now it was around 3.30 and time to meet Poppy and the 17 year old in our favourite meeting spot in the Food Emporium on the lower level of Westfield, right next to the Powell Street station.  We caught the vintage F tram back for one last run.

I had a decision to make.  I hadn’t yet done my final browse through the streets of Chinatown but I knew we wanted to head off by 5 at the latest back to our suburb for dinner then luggage collection and taxi.  I ummed and ahhed and laboured over Google maps while on the tram, trying to pick the optimum spot to get off closest to Chinatown.  I missed it and we ended up back at Powell Street.  Should I still try for Chinatown?  It was 4/4.15pm by then.  While I thought about it, we walked back to Westfield and the 17 year old wasn’t there yet so I decided to make a run for it.  I also wanted to exchange one of the pashmina’s that I had bought yesterday which had an odd coloured thread in it.

So off I dashed, walking at high speed.  It wasn’t too far away but I really didn’t know exactly where the shop was that I had bought the pashmina in.  I just thought I would know it when I saw it. And sure enough I did.  It was a couple of blocks into China Town.  I approached the rather cranky lady who had served me yesterday and pointed out the flaw in the pashmina.  She cast her beady eyes over it several times, picking and pulling and obviously desperately not wanting to replace it. Eventually she succumbed and gestured me with a flick of her hand back to the racks of scarves to find a replacement (no eye contact of course).  I made it to the rack and had my hand poised over a replacement cobalt blue scarf when I heard ‘hello, hello, hello’.  She was trying to attract my attention.  I went back to the counter and she had a very satisfied look on her face.  She had managed to unpick the single red thread that was spoiling my $6US cobalt blue pashmina…  Obviously a replacement was now out of the question…  She indicated that a damp cloth and iron would soon make it as good as new.  Whatever…  I grabbed it and bolted back for the Powell Street station.  No time to look at anything else in China Town.  This was the only thing that I didn’t get to do that I would have liked to do.

Caught up with the others and hopped on the N tram for ‘home’.  Time for an early dinner.  What to have??  Hubby wanted another sports bar experience and I was OK with that.  We got off several blocks early and trawled Irving Street.  Poppy was desperate for a pie that he had not been able to find in the US (they don’t seem to be big on pies).  We had seen a pie shop in Irving Street and eventually tracked it down.  Poppy wasn’t that happy with the result but that was dinner done and dusted for him.  Hubby and I trawled endlessly criss crossing the street, checking out menus on bars and restaurants, wanting that last great sports bar experience.  Sadly the only one that the could find was the same Mexican food bar, The Taco Shop @ Underdogs that we had already eaten in.  I wasn’t up for Mexican prior to a 15 hour flight…  We settled for a drink in the bar then pizza in Irving Pizza across the road which was very ordinary but had to do.  We discovered a new toy in the shop – mobile charging devices for phones.  The marketing person was there and ‘joined’ us to explain his product – I can’t remember the name of it but you need to create an account and download an App then you can charge.  They can track you down if you take off with the charger.  Suited the 17 year old and we eventually got rid of the salesman.

Time to trek up 16th Avenue one last time and collect our luggage from the garage.  All went well until we realised that the mini bus taxi we had pre-booked was not coming…  Phoned the company and found out that it had broken down.  Not sure when they were going to let us know that…  My US cell phone was still active and on its last day of credit (great timing!).  We phoned for another mini bus taxi and were informed that they did not exist.  Apparently the one that broke down was not a mini bus either!  I don’t know how that was going to satisfy the order that we placed for 5 people plus luggage!  We had to order two!  Then great confusion with Poppy about who was going in which taxi.  At one point one of the taxis looked set to depart with just the boys on board.  I jumped in and we were away.  We had a great run to the airport and were so sad to say goodbye to San Francisco.

At the airport there was no queue at the Qantas counter whatsoever!!  It was eerily quiet.  We check in immediately and headed for the Qantas Club (Air France).  It wasn’t big but not too many people and we made ourselves comfortable with plenty of time to spare.

The flight was on time (11.30pm) and we had already pre-booked exit row seats for the adults and two seats together for the boys at the back of the plane.  It soon became obvious that the plan was only just over half full!  We ended up with a row each to stretch out in.  Well except for me as I opted to stay in the exit row in which it turned out seat arms did not move, so had to stretch out vertically rather than horizontally.

A couple of hours into the flight we had dinner and I popped a sleeping tablet.  I dropped off and woke with only 4 hours to go!!!  That has never happened.  It makes international flights so much more bearable!!  I watched a few movies and soon we were descending into Sydney.

OMG!  One of the best holidays of our life over!  It was so fabulous!!!

Squeezed the luggage into the hire car (thanks to the 17 year old), dealt with the car locking itself with the keys inside (thanks to the 12 year old who crawled in through the boot) and headed for Canberra.  Next to no jet lag thanks to that great sleep and on with Canberra life!

Day 29 San Francisco! Shopping and Chinatown!

Custom Converse

No agenda today!  Yah!  Hubby and I headed off for breakfast at Zazie in Cole Street (on the way into the city on our N tram).  Not bad but raved about here.  Wouldn’t hold up against good Australian cafes.  We shared Eggs Benedict and French Toast Tahiti.  The most amazing feature of the cafe was that no tips were required!  They actually include them in the prices on the menu.  How modern!
Zazie BreakfastZazie BreakfastZazie BreakfastIMG_1994Zazie Breakfast

Then we headed back on the tram into the city and met up with the crew for a visit to Converse!  The boys selected their custom designs and we left them to be created.

We separated.  Poppy went off to cover the rest of Chinatown, I went shopping and the boys disappeared to find a sports warehouse that they had seen yesterday (turned out to be a very long way away…).  I revisited my favourite clothes store, Anthropologie and fought for a pair of rose pink jeans that had been taken to a change room for me but given to another person!  Eventually they found me some and now my shopping is complete with Anthropologie.

I roamed the inner city until the boys returned around 2.30 in time to pick up the Converse.  The completed products looked great!
Custom Converse Custom Converse Custom Converse Custom Converse

Then we all went to Chinatown for a look.  I didn’t think I would like the shops but was eventually lured in and loved them! They were just getting better and better when I sensed that the boys’ attention span was waning…  I’ll come back tomorrow and look at my leisure without them.  The handbags in the last shop were incredibly ornate and made by a local designer – $100 – $300US.
ChinatownChinatown handbags Chinatown handbags Chinatown handbags

Then we separated again with Poppy and the 12 year old heading home (or so we thought…) and hubby and I queuing for a while to catch the trolly bus.  I wanted another ride after being trapped inside on the last one.  The queue had been short all day but of course now it was long… and we gave up and caught the N tram home.

We got home to find out that Poppy had bailed out of the tram a few stops early when he thought he saw an inspector coming…  We had an incident on the first day in San Francisco when the 17 year old went to pay for a $1 tram ticket with $10 on board the tram and didn’t get any change (he found out then that they don’t give change on board…).  Ever since then we had been putting the kids on for free to use up our ‘credit’…  So the 12 year old didn’t have a ticket on him.  Poppy saw the inspector and decided to skedaddle.  He called to the 12 year old to leave the tram but the 12 year old was burdened down with 2 bags of our shopping that he was taking home for us and couldn’t make it!  Poppy left him on the tram and the 12 year old got off at the next stop which was still several blocks from home.  The 12 year old was not impressed and gave Poppy an earful all the way home!  So much for thinking they were safe together…

Chinese take out to round off the holiday and deal with our washing!  What a saga trying to order the Chinese with my Aussie accent.  The 12 year old wanted Beef Noodle Soup.  Do you think the person on the other end of the phone could understand me??  He kept saying ‘bay?’ ‘bay?’.  I spelt it and gave him the menu item number over and over again.  I think he got it eventually.  When we walked in to get the take out, we had to give my cell number that I had used to order it.  He recognised me straight away and had a good laugh.  He couldn’t understand himself why he had not been able to understand me!  The take out was OK.  The Americans seem to love garlic in everything so that was a bit of a battle for me.

Day 28 San Francisco! Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts!

Palace of Fine Arts

We awoke to a drop in temperature (down from 26 deg C over the weekend to just 19 deg C) and some cloud cover.  Our plan was to cycle the Golden Gate but I didn’t want to do it in bad weather and make the job even harder.  So we caught the N tram into the city first and I whipped in a quick bit of shopping in Old Navy.

Within half an hour the sun had started to peek out so we caught the vintage F street car to Fisherman’s Wharf to pick up the hire bikes.  The variety of street transport in San Francisco is great and I love the vintage slant.
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Vintage street car Vintage street car

Equipped with 4 bikes, we headed off for the Golden Gate but it probably took us 1 to 1.5 hours to get there.  The foreshore was just so gorgeous that we kept stopping to take photos every 2 minutes.  Especially of the Golden Gate bridge which still had a smudge of mist and appeared to be floating.  It is just so photogenic!
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A astounding sight was of people swimming in the harbour.  It must be freezing! They were obviously the regular ‘iceberg’ rappers as we had seen them there yesterday too.

Another distraction along the foreshore was the surprise discovery of the spectacular Palace of Fine Arts. I say surprise because we weren’t looking for it and wondered what the thing with all the magnificent columns was on the left. We ended up approaching it from the rear and I think that was the best way as it unfolded before us a delightful surprise. Had we approached it from the front we would have had to fight our way through the busloads of Asian tourists that had also ‘discovered’ it. The proportions probably don’t come across that well in photos, but set in San Francisco, it was truly awe inspiring. Wikipedia tells me that ‘it is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there. One of only a few surviving structures from the Exposition, it is still situated on its original site. It was rebuilt in 1965, and renovation of the lagoon, walkways, and a seismic retrofit were completed in early 2009.’ Seismic retrofits are bit in San Francisco. There is currently one underway on the Golden Gate bridge as well.
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We thoroughly enjoyed the cycling across the bridge and down into Sausalito (on the side of a slow winding road).  Then on the ferry with a zillion other cyclists to return to Fisherman’s Wharf.  They are well set up for it and have the drill down pat.  Lean the bikes against each other, no locks, no kick stands!  It works well!.Bikes on Sausalito ferry

Then it was time for another vintage street car ride back into the city with a final stop at Converse to check out the custom shoes.  Might have to revisit there tomorrow.  Loved the sculpture though!
Converse sculptureConverse sculpture

Final task of the day was to cook dinner and try to empty our fridge! Wah!

19 000 steps today thanks to attaching my FitBit to my shoe during the bike ride…  A tough ride though!


Day 27 San Francisco! Alcatraz!

View to Alcatraz

Well, washing my top (as recommended by the cleaner) did not remove the green paint stain.  So one of today’s tasks is to return to the restaurant for compensation…

This morning we used the very useful Muni trip planner and found a great bus (28) which went from a street below us down to Fisherman’s Wharf and then a bit of a walk to Pier 33 to catch the ferry to Alcatraz!

It was a beautiful blue sky day and it was lovely to be outside, around the wharf and then on the water.  It was a fairly short trip (about 20 minutes) to the ‘Rock’.  We got our mandatory briefing and then headed off to collect our headsets.  The audio tour of the cell block was fantastic.  Lots of stories including those about the escape attempts.
View to Alcatraz
DSC_0937Alcatraz CellsAlcatraz CellsAlcatraz cellAlcatraz cell

One of the fake heads created from concrete by during the Escape From Alcatraz attempt.
Alcatraz dummy head

The isolation cells did not look pleasant.  They could be kept in darkness.

Showering did not look like a pleasant experience.
Alcatraz ShowersAlcatraz showers

A view back to San Francisco form one of the small windows in the corridor.  It is said that on still nights the sounds of laughter and music could be heard from across the bay in San Francisco.  A further taunt to the prisoners.
Alcatraz view to San FranciscoAlcatraz

The Warden’s house has gone to ruin but the garden growing in it is gorgeous.
Alcatraz Warden's House garden

More gardens growing where the employees used to live.
Garden on AlcatrazGarden on Alcatraz

These cute ducks were in the exercise yard and were trying to head out of the enclosure through the gate.  As they neared it, the big duck honked and looked around the corner.  Unfortunately there were people coming up the stairs outside and there was a stand off for quite a while as tourists came up behind them as well and then spent lots of time photographing them…

Views from the ferry back to San Francisco.
View to San Francisco

The steep streets of yesterday were easily visible and seemed to sparkle with the sun reflecting off the vehicles driving up and down.
View to San FranciscoView to Golden Gate

The currents look like enough to deter any escape attempts…Currents

It is like the American (and more modern) version of Port Arthur.  It only became the Federal penitentiary in 1934 after serving as an army barracks.

Back on dry land, we headed into areas of Fisherman’s Wharf that we hadn’t covered yesterday.  First stop was the Hawaiin Pearl Company where for $14.99US I could select an oyster, have it opened in front of me and keep the pearl.

We called by the restaurant responsible for the paint dropping onto my top yesterday and they paid up the $75 US in cash.  Whoo hoo! More shopping!

Caught the train to Union Square and found Anthropologie (my favourite shop because all of the fabrics are so beautiful and soft).  Bought some jeans.  There goes that $75 plus dollars…

We went out for Mexican in a bar with ice hockey, baseball and Lacrosse playing on the TVs.  I do not normally like sport on TV but I’m becoming addicted to the bars and American sport.  Completely unheard of!
Mexican bar food Mexican bar food Mexican bar food Mexican bar food


Day 26 San Francisco! Fisherman’s Wharf and public transport!

Hidden Garden Stairs

The day did not start well when Poppy pulled his shirt from the washing machine with bleach stains all over it…  Then I realised that we had been using bleach rather than laundry powder and that yesterday’s machine load had not started so the bleach had dripped onto several items of clothing including 3 pairs on my Country Road pants…

Time to return the car!  Boo hoo! It had become our second home.  We were up earlyish as it had to be returned by 10am.  We navigated our way to Hertz in Mason Street with a detour to see the Painted Ladies on the way.  Probably not the best time of day to see them as the sun was rising behind them. “Painted ladies” is a term in American architecture used for Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings painted in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details (thank you Wikipedia).Painted Ladies Painted Ladies Painted Ladies Painted Ladies Painted Ladies

Then it was on to Hertz and a quick goodbye to the car.

Next stop was the trolley car in Market Street heading to Fisherman’s Wharf.  The queue was moderate when we got there and the trolley cars were frequent.  Then the queue grew hugely as the trolley cars slowed to a trickle.  I think the frequency went from 5 minutes to 20 minutes with maximum half a dozen people getting on at a time.  Very tedious.  Then we had to sit inside the trolley car so saw nothing.  Hubby and I opted to buy the Muni 7 day visitor pass for $40 which included the trolley car that is normally $7 per trip.  However, the others had to pay the $7.  Luckily hubby and I can try as many time as we like to get an outside standing position where we can actually see what is going on. I think that will be cool.  The streets are incredible steep.  We passed Lombard Street which is renowned for its steepness and crookedness.
Trolley Cars Trolley Cars Trolley Cars Trolley CarLombard StreetLombard Street

We finally got off and walked to Fisherman’s Wharf which was humming on a Saturday.  It had a great vibe.  Our favourite place was Musee Mechanique.  Full of retro arcade games that mostly only cost a quarter to play!  Heaps of fun.
Musee Mechanique Musee Mechanique

Musee Mechanique Musee Mechanique

As I was walking past  restaurant, something flicked onto my arm and initially I thought it was bird pooh.  Then I realised that it was paint from the painter who was painting the overhead balcony.  Then I realised that it had got onto my cream Cue top as well…  We had to call in and talk to the manager who assured us that he would compensate me if it didn’t wash out… Not a good clothing day…

We had lunch at Joanie’s Happy Day’s Diner which was less than happy with a cranky manageress and also less tan nice with the food…

After we had exhausted ourselves at Fisherman’s  Wharf we decided to head for home. Easier said than done.  We walked a found a bus vaguely heading towards Downtown.  We eventually ended up near Union Square where we had dropped the car.  The bus had been horrendously crowded as we trawled slowly through the Chinese area.

After much debate, the 17 year old eventually found us a tram that dropped us a block from our apartment.  San Francisco public transport and streets leave a lot to be desired…

Hubby and I decided to hop off the tram early and check our dry cleaners (advice was that we try to wash it in detergent at home) and then took on the hike up the stairs opposite our apartment to the lookout above.  Nearly 200 stairs, followed by another 110 stairs..  A great view though.
San Francisco lookout view San Francisco lookout view San Francisco lookout view San Francisco lookout view

We came back via the Hidden Garden Stairs (also opposite our apartment) and they were a special and spectacular find!  A community project that has resulted in a couple of hundred stairs with mosaic on the riders that joins together to make wonderful garden mosaics.  Absolutely gorgeous and very clever.
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Finished the day with some congratulatory champers…

17 000 steps and 73 floors.


Day 25 San Francisco! Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve!

We set off this morning for Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve to see the magnificent Redwoods.  It was a 1.5 hour drive north through gorgeous countryside.  Our first landmark was the Golden Gate bridge.  It was quite thrilling to drive over it after all those years of hearing about it and seeing it in movies.
Golden Gate BridgeGolden Gate Bridge

We entered into Sonoma County with its abundance of wineries!  The scenery was beautiful with vineyards lapping up to the edge of forests.
Sonoma County

We had set our friend the SatNav to find Armstrong Reserve and as usual it did its best to shave seconds off the time and we found ourselves driving through little groves of houses on winding roads barely wide enough to accommodate the Town and Country…  We popped out the other end to find ourselves on the last 100m of a main road…

Armstrong Reserve was free if you can find a roadside carpark before the kiosk gate.  Then it is an easy stroll through the forest.  The Redwoods are stunning.  Aged up to 1400 years (Armstrong tree)!  We learnt about burrs and fairy rings (where the seedlings grow around the original tree which may eventually be destroyed by fire or natural causes, leaving a ring of trees where it once was.
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The Redwoods are awesome but hard to capture in photos due to their size.  I tried anyway…

We returned home to do some supermarket shopping at Trader Joe’s while we still had the car to carry things.  Then after yet another 4pm lunch, we set off on a walk to Ocean Beach at the end of our road.  Unfortunately that was 30 blocks away and the afternoon winds were raging… We saw some cute houses on the way.San Francisco Houses San Francisco Houses San Francisco Houses

Very popular trees out the front of houses.

I was determined to see the sea after battling our way down to the bay against the wind, so we crossed the road and struggled through the swirling wind and sand over the sand dune to view it.  We had sand blowing into our faces, ears and gritting between our teeth.  We took a few quick snaps and forced our way back over the sand dune to trudge home.  Not our best walk… But the beach did look stunning!

San Francisco Ocean Beach San Francisco Ocean Beach

24 000 steps!

Day 26 San Francisco! Fisherman’s Wharf and public transport!

Day 24 Goodbye Pacific Highway! Hello San Francisco!


Our brekkie was nowhere near as nice as yesterday’s but neither was the accommodation so we didn’t linger.  We packed and set off to wander the utterly gorgeous streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Clint Eastwood was once the mayor and it has strong historical connections to art which is apparently reflected in the building of most of the houses.  It is all incredibly picturesque!  Full of art galleries, restaurants and boutique shops.  We saw some interesting shops including Burns Cowboy!  Another one had an incredible selection of ladies boots!
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We walked down to the beach which was full of very fine white sand and very long.  Gorgeous as all beaches have been.
Carmel-by-the-Sea Carmel-by-the-Sea Carmel-by-the-Sea

Next stop was Monterey.  We headed straight for Fisherman’s Wharf and had a good walk around.  There were seals everywhere.  They were floating asleep in the water, perched on rocks and buoys and one even stranded by the tide high up on a shelf in the wharf.
MontereyMontereyMontereyMonterey Monterey Monterey   Monterey Monterey Monterey

We walked down the adjoining beach area on the left of the wharf which was fairly rocky and there were more seals perched precariously on rocks.  We were so busy admiring them that the lapping waves drenched most of our feet…

We moved on and one of the best stops was Pigeon Light House.  It is also a youth hostel which is a fabulous location.Pigeon Light HousePigeon Light HousePigeon Light HousePigeon Light HousePigeon Light House   Pigeon Light House Pigeon Light House Pigeon Light House

On we drove and eventually arrived in San Francisco!  One of our best scenery shots of the coast was 30 minutes outside of San Francisco.  A very useful tip for those who don’t want to drive the whole California 1.

Pacific Highway





19 000 steps! Pacific Highway



Day 23 Pacific Highway! Carmel-by-the-Sea!

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is beautiful.  I think that it seemed even better because we loved our accommodation, the Cottage Inn by the Sea.  It was at the far end of the beach so had a view down to the pier.  We had 2 king size beds in our very large room and and a gas fire which was delightful as it had got quite cool last night.  We really enjoyed it and it was so comfortable.

I went for a beach walk before breakfast which we ate at the hotel.  It included some very yummy waffles that you could make yourself.  They were light and fluffy and covered in golden syrup.

After breakfast we all headed down the stairs to the beach and through rocks to wander along the beach towards the pier.  The beach was very flat with smallish waves although some surfers were giving it a go.  We walked all the way to the pier and the 12 year old and I had a lovely time fossicking for shells.  We were stopped by a local who told us that the thick ones were Pismo clams and the flat ones that looked almost fossilised were called Sand Dollars.  We collected a few to take home.
Pismo Beach Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach  Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach Pismo Beach

The most amazing thing was that even on the cliff outside our hotel, there was no wind last night or this morning. While it was cool last night, the temperature was perfect this morning.  It was fantastic to stand on the cliff and look at whales shooting their spouts.

We visited the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets and bought Hamish some Nike running shoes and myself some undies!  Very exciting.

We headed off with Monterey as the target.  We soon turned inland into green hilly territory.  San Luis Obispo was only about 10 miles away.  Exciting for me as it is another Kinsey Millhone town.  The town itself is closely surrounded by green hills and has a closed in, cluttered feel to it.  It is another mission town and we visited the mission which had a little museum full of memorabilia from the mission settlement.
San Louis Obispo
San Louis Obispo

Also of note was Bubblegum Alley.  An alleyway between the shops with two walls covered in bubblegum that has come to form a sort of artwork over time.  There was a faint whiff of bubble gum but that might have been from the shop that sold it next door.
San Louis Obispo Bubblegum AlleySan Louis Obispo Bubblegum AlleySan Louis Obispo Bubblegum Alley

I noticed a M on a surrounding hill and then a P as we left San Luis Obispo which led me to Google it.  The result was a whole list of letters found on hills in California.  Also known as mountain monograms.
San Louis Obispo

On our way out of San Luis Obispo, we pulled up next to a Sheriff.  It was the first one that we had seen so we had to sneak a photo.
San Louis Obispo Sheriff

Shortly after that we passed the California Men’s Colony which I remembered from a Kinsey Millhone book.

At Morro Bay we found our way back to the coastline again but not looking as nice as Pismo Beach.

Next stop was the cute little town of Cambria for lunch.  It was full of quaint shops and restaurants and we ended up in a Mexican cafe which looked promising as the Mexican workers were also eating there.  It was very nice for a quick lunch

We bypassed Hearst Castle just outside of San Simeon.  It was heaving with tourist coaches and the weather was misty and closing in on us.

We then stopped to look at the elephant seals and there were heaps of them.  They are pretty disgusting to look at.  Piles of blubber and they were lounging all over the beach.  Littering the beach would be a better description… They only seem to rouse themselves for a bit of a fight.
San Simeon Sea ElephantsSan Simeon sea elephantsSan Simeon Sea Elephants

After that the drive hit the spectacular heights.  Often we were high above the water and heading over arched bridges.  It seemed quite elevated and alpine at some points and was certainly cold and windy when we got out of the car multiple times to take photos.
Pacific Highway


We were all getting quite tired by the time we reached Big Sur which turned out to be mainly national park camping but had some spectacular views.
Pacific Highway Big SurPacific Highway Big SurPacific Highway Big SurPacific Highway Big Sur Pacific Highway Big Sur Pacific Highway Big Sur

We pushed on into Carmel-by-the-Sea and as I had been without internet most of the day, we pulled over and I searched for accommodation online.  The internet was still unreliable and it was frustrating but eventually I came up with something affordable that could accommodate us all comfortably – Carmel Inn and Suites.  It seemed to be decorated in a French style…

Amongst all of my internet issues I managed to get confirmation of the booking by text but still had some internet results on the laptop.  We plugged in the address and were delighted when it was just around the corner.  Well almost, we drove into the street but found that a fence separated us from getting to it.  We had to circle back around several blocks and the highway to find a separate part of the road.  We went into reception and while the manager was trying to appease some Chinese customers who wanted cooking equipment in their room, I looked at the confirmation texts and again and realised that they included an address which was not the one that we were at…  We set off again and several blocks away found our nicer accommodation.

The manager was young and new and informed us that despite me booking the last two King suites online, he only had one available…  But eventually he figured out that there was a similar room available at their sister property across the road.  We trotted over to look but by the time we got there the female manager of the property was on the phone to him and sorting him out.  They had found a room available for us back at the original property.  Back we trotted…  Eventually we were settled in our sizeable, French historical themed rooms.  Interesting…

We got some warm clothes on as it was quite cool by now and headed out to walk the incredibly cutes of Carmel to find somewhere to eat.  Hubby wanted a bar so I did some Googling and we came up with Brophy’s which wasn’t that busy and had some locals watching the basketball and ice hockey games on 4 TVs.  We seated ourselves in the booth seats and had some yummy chardonnay, beautiful salad, coleslaw, fish and chips (all scrumptious) and the 12 year old had tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwich (also yummy).  Poppy had a fantastic Cobb salad.  All very happy.  I even got into the basketball game.  Maybe I am a closet American sport fan…

22 000 steps!

Day 22 Goodbye Santa Monica! Hello Pacific Highway!

Santa Barbara

Wah! I don’t want to go.  It helps slightly that the weather has taken a bit of a downturn with the wind coming up last night.  Beautiful this morning though.

Packing wasn’t too bad with leisurely time to do it an we were away by about 8.30am.  Headed for Malibu.  The elusive suburb that we never really found the centre of last time.  I’m not sure where all of the movie stars live.  Most of the houses back onto the Pacific Highway.  There are some in the hills but not many.  Also there is very little beachfront in most places. The waves almost lap the footings of the houses.  A decent storm would take them away.  It never ceases to amaze me how desert like the hills that tightly hug the right side of the highway look.  Although having driven from Las Vegas through the desert I now realise that it probably is desert on the other side of the hills!

Just out of Santa Monica, in fact it was just around the corner from where we were staying, I saw the Getty Villa on the right and we detoured to try to look at it.  It is supposed to be magnificent.  Sadly, it is not open on a Tuesday!  Unlucky!

It was all very familiar as I drove this way last time.  We stopped at the same shopping complex.  This time I was in search of immunity pills to protect me from the cold that hubby developed a few days ago and that Poppy is complaining of today.  Astralagus.  The shopping complex at Malibu has quite a good range of little shops, including a Vitamin Barn. Maybe Jennifer Aniston has bought her vitamins in that very shop…  We got a coffee to go from Starbucks.  Who know who has also used that same Starbucks…

We drove on up the road, following the coast on the Pacific Highway (1) and eventually found the more movie star worthy part of Malibu.  It was around Point Dume on Cliffside Drive and I don’t think we got that far last time.  Very exclusive and massive properties!

We were going to stop in Paradise Cove as my brother told me that it was a lovely spot.  However, we would have had to pay for parking and that seemed ridiculous when we had parked 2 blocks from the centre of Hollywood Boulevard for free and in fact hardly paid for parking at all in Santa Monica.  It looked tiny anyway and we didn’t have a lot of time.

The beaches were not that great and it was all very dry looking.  At one point the traffic was stopped completely in both directions as a portable life guard shelter was moved across the road.  It must have taken at least 30 minutes…

We head on into Oxnard and Ventura.  I directed hubby into any little seaside coves, hoping for the spectacular scenery that was promised on this route.  By the time we reached Santa Barbara at lunch time I finally realised that we had been wasting our time.  The more beautiful scenery must be from Santa Barbara onwards.

We pushed on into Santa Barbara which was gorgeous!  We started at Stearn’s Wharf with fish and chips (not great).  When completed In 1872, it became the longest deep-water Wharf between San Pedro and San Francisco. Named for its builder, local lumberman John P. Stearns, the wharf served the passenger and freight shipping needs of California’s South Coast for over a quarter century.  He had built it privately out of a sense of frustration at the inadequate wharf that was originally in Santa Barbara.  It then greatly boosted the economy.
Stearn WharfStearn Wharf  Santa Barbara

Then we walked up State Street which was full of cute shops.  We bought some pop at Rocket Fizz.  State Street was quiet long and lined with restaurants, boutique shops and also major department stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom’s – heaven!  It was so picturesque!
Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Rocket Fizz Santa Barbara Rocket Fizz Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Santa Barbara

At the end of our State Street walk we veered right to find the County Court House which was recommended on Tripadvisor as being gorgeous architecture with great views.  It didn’t disappoint.  The mosaics were great.  The mural room was beautiful and the views were wonderful.  From the top of the viewing tower I looked down over the office of county records.  It reminded me of my favourite book character, Kinsey Millhone (by Sue Grafton).  She was always going to the office of country records to look up various records.

We walked back down State Street to find that while we had been walking, half of the streets had been closed off and a farmers’ market set up that looked remarkably like the Santa Monica one.  We couldn’t believe how quickly they had done it.

We headed north again and our highway veered inland at Gaviota into the hills which were very green by now.  It is so fertile in this area and full of wineries.  We had also noticed the crops beginning before we got to Santa Barbara.

Our 16 year old wanted to see the Vandenberg military airbase and it was pretty much on our way so we veered left into Lompoc.  By now I realised that we were definitely in Kinsey Millhone territory.  Her parents had been from Lompoc and were killed in an automobile accident there.  This led me to Googling the fictional town of Santa Theresa that she lived in and I found that it had been modelled on Santa Barbara which is where Sue Grafton lives!  I wish I had known that when I was there.  I thought that I had read that it wasn’t modelled on any particular town.  I had walked the very State Street that she wrote about.  The office of county records would have been the one that she wrote about!

Lompoc was nothing of note.  We headed on through to Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Nothing to be seen there.  It is a secure base with a Visitors Office (i.e. pass office) and you need to be accompanied by a member of staff.

We drove on through Santa Maria.  Fairly nondescript as we passed through on the Main Road and accommodation looked not as nice and more expensive than Pismo Beach which was only 20 minutes away.  I looked up accommodation online and booked Cottage Inn by the Sea.

Day 21 Santa Monica! Universal Studios!

Harry Potter World

An early start today in order to attempt to get to Universal Studios by 8am as we can gain access an hour earlier than general access due to buying tickets online.

We have generally found that the time estimated by Google Maps and our SatNav extends by about 25% as the trip goes on so with an estimate of 30 mins, we wanted to allow at least 45 mins which I think is what it took.  However, we were a bit late starting…  Light traffic though and made good time.  In fact, we actually wondered if we were on the right road…Travelling to Universal Studios


Our beloved SatNav needs to have its settings looked at.  It likes to take us on tours through suburbs.  Today we wound through back streets on the way to Universal Studios.  The Chrysler Town and Country is not built for winding back streets…

Car parking was easy as we were so early and access was easy generally.  First sights:
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Then straight into Harry Potter World.  It was cool. Hubby and 12 year old wanted to go on the ride and Poppy and I declined. After they came back they assured us that it was great fun. All very safe… We would be fine… Despite knowing my very limited tolerance for theme park rides…

So Poppy and I believed them and trotted off to join the queue. We moved through a long walkway of talking portraits and scenes from Harry Potter. All very safe so far. Then I saw someone sitting in a seat and pulling something down over their head. I thought that it must have been something from the movie. 6 steps further and we were faced with sets of 4 of these seats and someone herding us towards them. I knew it didn’t bode well when they pulled the bar over our heads and said things to me that I couldn’t hear or understand… I just made sure that bar was pushed down as tight as I could. Hamish to my right and Poppy to his right. Then I realised I had my phone in my hand. Should I do something with that? Hamish nodded. I shoved it in my pocket and we were off. Hurtling through 3D space. Through spider, ghosts, goblins, ghoulish things, hurtling on broomsticks down dark tunnels, lurching backwards and forwards, legs in the air… Not happy Jan… How was Poppy doing?? Who would know… There was no escaping, except by closing my eyes and hoping for the best. On and on it went. It came to a grinding halt, maybe planned, maybe not. We were suspended in the air… Then it started again. Ditto, ditto, ditto, not enjoying it. Eventually it ended! NOT HAPPY!!!

Harry Potter WorldHarry Potter WorldHarry Potter WorldHarry Potter WorldHarry Potter WorldHarry Potter WorldHarry Potter World Chocolate FrogsHarry Potter World golden snitchesHarry Potter WorldHarry Potter World

The escalators to the lower lot took 7 minutes! They were very steep.
Universal Studios

We saw a couple of shows.  Water world.  All very exciting.  A sea plane landed in front of us and there was lots of gun fire and fire.
Universal Studios

Special effects.  We saw practical effects, model effects, sound effect etc.  Then they set someone on fire.  Impressive.
Universal Studios

Before we left, Hamish and I had a chat with Donkey from Shrek!  Hilarious.  He never stopped talking.  After our chats he was braying ‘Hamish, Hamish, Haaamish’ as we walked up the road.

A rather tiring day.  Lots of time spent waiting while the boys went on rides.  Hope they remember this when I want to shop for more than an hour…

Home and then a last walk to Montana Avenue.  Have I mentioned that I love that place??

17 000 steps.