Saturday, February 11, 2017

California - Part 3 - Monterey to Santa Rosa

We stayed at a slightly peculiar place in Pacific Grove - older style sort-of motel units which had mixed reviews; everyone agreed it was outdated but then opinion was divided as to whether it was wonderfully salt-of-the-earth-solid or terribly seen-better-days-sad. We stayed two nights and the first night was the latter and the second was the former because we shifted to an upstairs room and could no longer hear the person above us flushing, or opening a drawer. Problem solved! I love Tripadvisor and read all the reviews and write them too - there is no hiding from the wrath of the pissed off customer. Hah.

At least the accommodation was walking distance from Asilomar Beach. Which even from our very high antipodean standard of beaches was absolutely gorgeous ... and looked incredibly dangerous. Lots of warning signs including one about mountain lions! It said "do not let your children wander unattended after dark". Good god.

In the morning we drove into Monterey; my husband went to the aquarium which he enjoyed very much although it was Martin Luther King Day and the schools were closed, so it was full of screaming kiddies. He took lots of gorgeous photos of backlit jellyfish! Stunning in a still photo; he said it was incredible when they were moving.

I'm not a great fan of aquariums (too enclosed, too many people, and really, fish, meh) so I did the self-guided Monterey Historical Walk which was great. A little pamphlet to tell me what I was looking at and three inch dots inset into the pavement to tell me that I was going in the right direction! Love it. This is a whalebone pavement from back in the whaling days. I am from whaling parts of the world but I have never seen a whalebone pavement. I got chatting with a nice older lady who could tell I was a tourist and pointed things out to me which was very nice ... and she just loved Australia and had been there four times - Tasmania, Northern Territory, Uluru, Great Barrier Reef. All places that I have NEVER BEEN so didn't I feel like an idiot travelling to California without doing some Australian things first. There's a lesson there, but I think it might be don't talk to random people in the street.

Then we went around to Carmel-by-the-Sea, which started life as an artists colony (subsidised land if you built your own house and supported each others exhibitions) and is now a tiny little town of 4000 extremely rich people who refuse to have street lights, gutters, house numbers or riff raff. The shops were very posh and the beach was absolutely gorgeous. Middle of January and people were sitting in shirt sleeves on the sand having a lovely time. That is Pebble Beach golf course on the headland. They charge you money just to have a look. We didn't.

We liked it a lot but is clearly crazy town. They love dogs and everyone just takes them into the shops. We stopped at a shopping centre on our way out and I was reaching into a bottom shelf at the pharmacy and came eye-to-eye with a Jack Russell. We walked past a coffee shop / wine tasting place and a guy was tasting wines with his standard poodle. Dogs in the bookshop! Strange, very strange.

At sunset we went down to the John Denver memorial where his plane crashed in the sea. Not that we are great John Denver fans but we were going past and so we stopped to look at the plaque and admire the wonderful sunset. As an east coast person I think the sun comes up over the sea, not goes down. It seemed odd.

The next day we threw culture and history out the window and drove ourselves to Gilroy Premium Outlets for some serious shopping. It was awesome - all the nice shops and just so goddam cheap! We tried not to go crazy, but it was hard. We both got good hiking shoes, which we needed ... and heaps of other stuff, that maybe weren't essential. And we had In-n-Out burger for lunch!!! I had heard of it, so we had to have it, and it was yummy.

The only bad part was leaving Gilroy at 3.30 to go to Santa Rosa, on the other side of San Francisco, through the 7.5 million people who apparently live in the greater Bay area, and who had all decided to leave work early that day. Scary scary stuff. We were able to use the car pool lane for quite a lot of it because we had two people in the car, but it still took over three hours to go 130 miles. And I hadn't realised the Richmond bridge was quite so high - I am normally OK with bridges but it was a bit petrifying. We had carefully googled the toll roads to see how to pay ... they really really want you to get an electronic pass and the entire website is what you can do with your e-pass and what you can't do without one to the point where we were utterly confused and really quite worried ... so of course when we get there we drive up, no queues, give $5 to the nice lady and continue on our way like every other damn toll road in the world. Talk about overthinking.

Eventually we got to our hotel in Santa Rosa - the Lonely Planet sniffily described it as "comfortable, but business class generic" which made Brad and I instantly book it. And we didn't get in the car again, drinks in the bar and dinner in the restaurant. Not an intrepid traveller evening.


  1. It all looks like such an amazing adventure, a real mix of every sort of experience (except the sporting one, no surprise there :-)). I can't imagine driving through San Francisco, you are legends! And I'm really disappointed that we don't have any whalebone pavements, I guess none of our ports had enough people at that stage to make it worth the effort.

  2. Pity you didn't see Pebble Beach GC. Last day of the tournament there tomorrow so check it out and wallow in nostalgia. And what's this aversion to fish? Incidentally, there are no nice ladies in toll booths here. Pay electronically or nothing, so its forget when you get home and a $15 electronic fine in the mail next week.

  3. Again, sounds great. One of my first and best bloggy friends was Paul, who was 80 when we started corresponding (which we did, by email, at great length) and 92 when he sadly died. He lived in Carmel, having married in their old age a very rich widow of a very successful artist. I can't quite take in that he's gone and miss him a lot - though we never met. It's interesting to hear about Carmel from an outsider's point of view.