The long drive south

Right after our spectacular day in San Francisco, we were forced to leave town to head towards Los Angeles.
We have been planning on doing so via the renowned Highway 1. This is said to be the most beautiful road in the entire United States.

It turned out to be the best road ever, albeit curvy, steep and really slow. For the 90 miles of Interstate, there’s about 200 miles Highway 1 and it takes you at least 6 hours to drive. Not because you have to drive very carefully, but because there is hardly and room to pass slower traffic, and you’re driving as slow as the first in the string of cars you happen to be in.

We started our day with driving to Año Nuevo State Park where we were told we could find Elephant Seals. These weird looking creatures can be found there for 3 periods per year, we happened to be in the period where there are only males present and they are there for 4 to 6 consecutive weeks to molt. They shed their old hair which comes off in small patches, after which they migrate back north to feed again. The seals are fasting during the time they are ashore and live entirely off of their blubber.

The State Park was well equipped, and with a 2.5 mile walk to the seals with two strategically placed volunteers to answer any questions, was a fun place to be. As the walk turned out to be pretty long due to steep sanddunes and a lot of wildlife to see, we were running out of time! While we still wanted to drive the 17 mile drive at Monterey and reach our hotel the same day, we started to get a move on. Luckily, it was still early in the day, so we hare time.

So we thought. When we arrived at Monterey, we were strongly discouraged from driving the famous and really scenic 17 Mile Drive as it alone took 2 hours, and as it already was 4 pm and with another 4 hours to drive to Santa Maria where the hotel was located, we decided to skip the d-tour and go straight for Santa Maria.

Right in the very last leg of our journey that day, we saw a big crowd at one of the Vista Points that were created alongside the Highway 1. So we stopped, and to our amazement found a whole lot more Elephant Seals! These were even closer than the ones we saw at Año Nuevo SP, so we stood there in awe for some time to gaze at the marvellous weirdness of the creatures.

When we arrived at the hotel, the Historic Santa Maria Inn, it was already half past 8 which meant that we could not fully enjoy the hotel itself. It is great! Built entirely in “ye olde” style, it offer a good view into the American hotels of the 40’s and before. Wonderful!

Doing time

Our only full day at San Francisco was planned full to the brim.
First, we started off with the Painted Ladies, 5 original imperial style houses painted in pastel colors sitting in a row next to a big park which made for a very scenic view. This featured a long drive by trolley bus and San Francisco’s most famous way of transport: the cable car. Riding is is a great adventure, and with cars built as late as 1993 the system is still pretty well maintained. It is not the fasted though, but will get you there faster than you can walk most of the time.

Returning to the Financial District, we made our way back to Union Square to snap the same shot as Mark & Christa did when they were in SF. It good fun guys!
We continued by riding the long cable cars down to the wharf where most tourists are.
This included a trip to San Francisco’s windiest street, Lombard Street. Really good fun.

We also paid a visit to the Aquarium of the Bay, which features not one but two 100 yard tunnels through 2 gigantic fish tanks. This aquarium was a pleasant surprise, as everything was way better maintained then expected.

Finally, and this must have been the mist impressive part so far, we went on a boat trip to Alcatraz. Awesome. I’m not going to say more about it: it’s just that great. We were both in awe for the rest of the day. What a trip!

After dining at the very posh restaurant in our hotel we tucked in early to prepare for the long drive tomorrow. We are heading for the Historic Santa Maria Inn, in Santa Maria. We’re planning to drive all the way on highway 1, which is not quite the same as the interstate…

Entering the Bay Area

After a night with a very loud air conditioning system, we got up and prepared for the trip to the best anticipated city of our trip: San Francisco.
Getting out of the Yosemite region is about as hard as getting into it, long and windy roads lead you eventually to an Interstate leading to SF.

Entering the Bay Area is probably one of the most impressing things we’ve done so far. After driving through the upper Bay Area with cities like Daly City with approximately 400.000 inhabitants and bigger, you arrive at a two bridge system called Bay Bridge. This is the Eastern entrance to San Francisco and almost as famous as the Golden Gate Bridge.

First thing we did in San Francisco wad to find a route called 49 Mile Scenic Drive. This road will lead you to most of the car accessible sites the city has to offer. As we couldn’t find the start of the tour, we started touring ourselves and found our way to the Golden Gate bridge. We first drove it Southbound and went to the tourist designated site there, especially made for all photographing tourists. The view from over there is great, but it is at about the same level ad the deck of the bridge itself. We heard from another tourist that driving to the other side of the highway and going up the hill would yield a better view.

So we went up there and got excellent views of the bridge and the city from across the bay. Wonderful. Albeit a bit windy. And cold.
With us getting comfy with temperatures high in the 30’s, the mere 21 in San Francisco was quite a switch. Stewed in shirts, shirts and jackets we stood there to take pictures while our pants were nearly blown off by the syringe gusts of wind up there.

Going back Northbound we had to pay toll; 6 dollars. Going over the Bay Bridge was cheaper at 4 dollars, but the Golden Gate is quite a bit bigger. After returning to the city, we drove to the hotel to find that the Hilton Financial District is located directly next to Chinatown. Hoe great is that!

Also, we had a grim reminder that the hotel was dead in the middle of the city: parking was a whopping 45 dollars per night. With 2 nights to spend, we have been parking cheaper…
After checking in at the very luxureus hotel, we made our way into the town to start sightseeing. We did Union Square and a whole lot of walking up and down steep hills, which is good fun as long as you’re going downhill. The other way around is really not ok!

To find dinner, we started searching for non dinghy looking places in Chinatown. Luckily, this was daily easy and we settled for some teriyaki at a restaurant called Floating Boats Sushi Restaurant. As you might suspect judging by the name, it features a carousel of chain linked boats (floating in real water!) with sushi dishes on the boats for the guests to pick and eat. It was really funny to look at. The food was great, and pretty cheap, so the day ended great.