I guess it’s a sign of a good holiday when you don’t have time to write a blog post, so sorry if this one is a little longer than usual but we have quite a lot to catch up on!
After breakfast and a few hours of sight-seeing in San Francisco we began our journey south down the Californian coastline, except that the sat nav clearly wanted us to take a quicker route which didn’t hug the sea-shore. Which meant a rather frantic first hour trying to cross the city centre, avoiding numerous road closures, other drivers and me having to say out loud “Drive on the right, drive on the right” at every junction.
Finally made it to Carmel after just another two hours, hotel set high up on a cliff top over-looking the ocean below. However the journey up there had been rather fraught with endless “is this where we go?” conversations between me, Jeremy and the sat nav to the point where we decided not to venture back out that evening but order room service, watch a DVD and put the complimentary bottle of champagne and box of chocolates to good use!
The next day we went into Carmel – after discovering a very simple and easy route back down off the cliff top. I have to say that Carmel is absolutely beautiful and it would be my dream place to retire – gorgeous little shops and cafes, a beautiful beach and a really lovely, relaxed atmosphere to the town.
Now I think at this point I should mention the driving issue of this holiday. Before we left the UK we agreed to split the driving – we both enjoy it, although I’ve driven several times before in the States and Jeremy has never driven here. So on our first full day, when we drove from Death Valley to Yosemite, I did the first two hours and then he took over for the next two. Now I’m not going to disclose private conversations that happen within a marriage but the outcome was that afterwards he was promoted to the much more important role of Chief Navigator, whilst I would remain the driver for the rest of the holiday.
And he’s been very good at it, even though the sat nav worked brilliantly. He has been really great – often identifying a different route than that shown on the display screen, suggesting it to me and then helpfully pointing out the road that I should have gone down – as we pass it. Or telling me that I should turn before the display tells me to. Or shouting at me to stop when actually we’re still several yards from the actual stop sign.
Over the days I began to notice that a particular phrase was being used between us on a regular basis whenever we were discussing travelling directions. For the sake of decency I’ll abbreviate it here to “FFS” but it would either prefix or suffix a communication between us , such as “FFS you need to be in the left hand lane!” or “Can you please tell me which exit I’m supposed to take, FFS!”. So for the last two days we’ve tried to introduce another word at the end – ‘darling’. Somehow, screaming “FFS the sat nav is telling me to turn right NOW! – darling” seems a little kinder on the ears and it has certainly helped defuse a few tense moments. Not quite sure it’ll last once we get home though :)
Anyway, back to the holiday itself! After a second night in Carmel we headed off the next morning down to the beautiful coast of Big Sur and then on to Hearst Castle, which unfortunately had a two and a half hour wait for the next tour so we pressed on, past Cambria where we had planned to stop and had lunch at Morro Bay. One of those times when we were grateful for the internet as we could then book a hotel 40 miles further south at Pismo Beach and spend the night there.
On Friday we began the long journey to LA, which I was dreading. Mainly because I had worked myself up into a state of anxiety about the huge freeways that cross the city. We arrived in Santa Monica area first, on the advice of our youngest daughter who said we had to go to Venice Beach. Never take holiday advice from a 17-year-old. The beach is stunning but full of young, tanned, tattooed and trendy people. Enough to make you feel very old and past it!
We tried to find somewhere to park and were directed to a small parking lot being run by a couple of young guys who were charging $15 a day as it was right next to the beach. Shattered from quite a few hours of driving already and not wanting to try to find somewhere a few dollars cheaper, we agreed. Now valet parking is very common here and it’s quite the done thing to hand your car keys over to someone, but it was only after we’d paid, got a receipt and started walking to the beach that we realised we had left them not only with our car and keys but also all our luggage too! So a quick sprint back to say sorry, being very British but we want to lock the car and take the keys with us. They were actually fine with it and we had a lovely lunch catching up with a couple we became friends with whilst in Yosemite.
Then it was time to face my fear and drive into LA, thankfully Beverley Hills is in the north side of the city so it was quite easy to get to the hotel. Not quite sure what to make of the comment from one of the hotel guys though – he quite happily offered to help bring our suitcases up to the room and we did give him what we thought was a suitable tip, but as he left he gave me his brightest Hollywood smile and most sincere Californian tone of voice and said “Hey, congratulations on the baby – great news!”. Not sure if he got me confused with another guest or is implying that I seriously need to lose some weight – in which case, b*stard!
The hotel was in a great location, just a 10 minute walk to Rodeo Drive and some good restaurants. The next day (Saturday) we took a tour bus to see all the sights, the city is so big you really can’t walk it so it was good to be transported around and benefit from the knowledge of the guide, who could point out all the interesting places that we might have missed if we’d gone ourselves.
So today was my last day of driving and I’d asked Jeremy to take us out of LA along the coastal road to avoid the large freeways. About a mile into the journey the sat nav was giving a different route than the one Jeremy was following on his map, but I decided to take the computer generated one. Which led me directly onto an eight lane freeway. For over 50 miles. And here, there is no slow lane or fast lane – you can overtake on either side, so for most of that stretch of the journey I was in the middle of the road from hell with cars, lorries and motorbikes whizzing past in either side whilst I just gripped the steering wheel and prayed for a different route to appear!
Finally we took a toll road, which was much quieter and after another couple of hours we arrived in sunny San Diego. Dropped the suitcases off at the hotel, took Mustang Sally to the car rental returns depot near the airport, taxi back to the hotel and we were by the pool within an hour.
Here now until Thursday morning, 1504 driving miles under our belt and nearly two weeks of great holiday in our memories. It’s been wonderful to see so much of this gorgeous state and enjoy the scenery as well as the local cultures.
But I’ll finish with a brief story from yesterday’s tour of LA. We’re on the bus and we collect some young girls from another hotel. Apparently they were from Dallas – not sure if this explains the conversation but anyway. The driver was pointing out various sights and we go past a large building with Ceders-Sinai Medical Centre written very largely on the side. And the conversation goes like this:
Driver: Hey ladies, see that building? In there, went Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davies Junior and Frank Sinatra.
Girl behind me: OMG no way! Are they still in there? (Frantically gets camera out of her bag)
Silence on the bus.
Driver: No, they all died there. But it’s actually a great hospital and some of the people do live after being treated there.
God Bless America.