Last stop San Fransisco

Trip Start Jul 11, 2010
Trip End Apr 22, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, March 2, 2011

After the bright lights of New York, we boarded the plane back to LA for our road trip to San Fransisco, this would be the last stop on our trip so we really wanted to make the most of it.  Due to strong head winds, the journey that took four and a half hours on the way there took us eight hours on the way back, with a re-fuel at Texas thrown in for good measure!  We got back to LA feeling quite tired but excited and made our way over to Dollar to pick up our hire car, it is true what they say that everyone has a car in LA.  We had decided to make our drive down the Pacific Coast Highway 1 in style and had hired a luxury Chrysler 300 touring car, we definitely fit in in LA, it was big, white, looked mean and had California on the number plate!  We spent the night back at the hotel we had stayed at for our visit to LA on Hollywood Blvd and had a good sleep ready to hit the road known as one of the most beautiful drives in the USA in the morning.  

Refreshed and ready to get on our way, we packed up the car and tackled our way out of LA through the rush hour traffic, I say rush hour but it sometimes seemed in LA that every hour was rush hour and this was just their way of life.  We took the 101 South and looked out for signs for Pacific Highway 1 that would take us all the way to San Fransisco, the GPS was determined to take us the quick way so I eagerly kept my eyes open to get us on track.  Eventually, we followed the signs and found ourselves driving along the beautiful coast of Malibu looking out across the Pacific ocean, the sun was shining making the still water shimmer and we knew that we would be in for a real treat.  We had a few hours driving to do that day to make it to our half way point of San Simeon, as we carried on along the picturesque route, we stopped to take photo's here and there where ever we needed to absorb the breathtaking scenery a little bit more deeply so as not to forget.  We stopped for a late lunch at a small place called Santa Olivos Grocery in the heart of Santa Ynez wine country, it may have been small but it could hold it's own against any trendy city deli with the quality and selection of food that they offered, a little hidden gem that we stumbled across in the middle of no where.  We carried on along the beautiful route seeing everything from sun drenched beaches to snowy mountains, we had know that this was a beautiful coastal route but didn't have a clue that the Californian coast would be so vast and so breathtaking.  When we eventually reached San Simeon, it had been a long day, we had stopped to watch the sunsetting a few miles away before making it to the hotel and arrived in the dark. With our bellies still full from our delicious lunch we took the evening to relax and being the only people staying in the secluded hotel and after joking to each other about 'Bates Motel' and 'mother' we felt happier staying in!

The next morning, we packed up again and got back on the road, the previous day we had nipped on and off Highway 1 as it stopped and started but today it would take us all the way to San Fransisco.  After driving for about twenty miles, we saw signs for 'Elephant seal viewing point', we were used to seeing the brown 'attraction' signs and sometimes being wowed, sometimes disappointed but when they were to see wildlife, mostly disappointed as they were never there.  Nevertheless, we stopped to take a quick look with all the other hopeful tourists, as we got out of the car, I looked down the rocky beach, taking a photo of it before we walked down to where everyone seemed to be congregating. As Rob joined me, he asked me if I'd seen any seals yet and I told him no, he then pointed out to me that the huge rocks I had been snapping were the seals and I looked again and there they were, covering the beach, all 300 or so of them.  We were amazed by the sight in front of our eyes, the huge male seals with the small elephant like trunks, smaller females, even smaller babies all lying together along the whole of the beach, flicking sand, sleeping, calling out, communicating with each other in all sorts of ways, we were absolutely stunned.  After eventually managing to peel ourselves away from viewing the seals, we got back on the road, the road today was far from the busy freeway and all we could see to the left was the sea and to the right the green mountains.  The road steadily climbed up the side of the huge mountain winding back and forth, we could see ahead of us our route and it took us far into the distance along this beautiful coastal magnificence.  It's then that we started to think back to the beauty of New Zealand but like with most things the USA was doing it bigger and better.  As the road rose further up, we stopped with the other cars at the stopping points and viewing vistas to take in the views, it was a stark contrast to the busy beaches and glitz and glam of LA and not something that we would have ever associated with California in our ignorance.  As we had stopped so many times, we had hardly made forty miles in two or three hours so stopped for lunch half way up the cliff side at Lucia Lodge, we later found out that this historic building located in Big Sur was build in the 1930's by the Harlan family and is now still being run as a guest house and restaurant 5 generations on. The restaurant also boasted the 3rd best fish and chips in America, we didn't try them on the way to San Fransisco but Rob couldn't resist on the way back, we did however enjoy a delicious lunch high up on a balcony looking out across the Pacific ocean, now, we had seen a lot of breathtaking views on our travels but this might have just topped the lot. After our lunch, we had a good few hours of driving before the seascape turned into cityscape and we made it to San Fransisco 'The City by the Bay', we rushed along with the rest of the traffic making our way to our hotel. We had found a hotel to stay in the 'Nob Hill' area of SF, now you may laugh but apparently it is actually a trendy and affluent area, often being referred to as 'Snob Hill' but for us it was a great base to explore and a really reasonable price. When we got settled in to our room, it was already evening, we did venture out though but not for anything exciting, a bagel, diet coke and a few hours in the laundromat so we had something to wear for the next few days, how glamorous was that hey!

The next morning we were ready to explore San Fransisco, we wandered around our area for some breakfast and a coffee and popped into a local gallery to check out some local art. We chatted to the gallery owner his partner being from England so we we talked about familiar places and some of the local artist that he was exhibiting, we left a little bit poorer but with some great souvenirs to add to the many others we had collected along the way. We then jumped back into the car and drove to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, we approached the huge, red, suspension bridge and drove over it to the vista point on the other side. We were so excited to see one of the most photographed things in the world in the flesh and couldn't wait to walk over the busy bridge with the other tourists and cyclists we could see in the distance. After taking many 'I was there' photo's from the vista point, we made the walk over the huge metal structure, feeling it wobble under our feet, the view across the water of the San Fransisco city and Alcatraz island capturing our imaginations. We walked about half way across before the wind picked up and we made our way back, we had got into the habit of signaling to the truckers to honk their horn just for fun so couldn't help in unison to make the signal when a big truck drove past us on the bridge, with a big smile the trucker obliged and we fell all over in hysterics, who would think we were pushing 30! We then made our way to the popular Fisherman's Wharf and pier 39, the area was worth a visit for all the souvenir shops and attractions and was the home the Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump and other 'novelty' places to eat as well as places to pick up some of the famous San Fransisco crab. We also encountered some of the imaginative ways that the local homeless had tried to get a few of your pennies, the funniest being someone holding up two large branches in front of them, asthough they were a bush before jumping out from it to scare you and ultimately putting a smile on your face! We walked down to pier 22 and picked up tickets for the Alcatraz tour the next day before walking back to our car and for the first time seeing the old wooden trams coming down the steep SF hills, a little bit of history that still runs today and was brilliant to see. After promising each each other a trip on the tram tomorrow, we drove across SF to take pictures of the 'Painted Ladies', the most famous of the 14,000 Victorian homes in SF due to their contrast against the city backdrop. SF is full of beautiful, colorful, ornate wooden houses with character which are an attraction in itself, the Painted Ladies being the most famous with a few movie appearances under their belts. After that we went back to the hotel and took a walk around Nob Hill/Russian Hill to find somewhere for a nice bite to eat, we found a local restaurant/oyster bar and enjoyed a leisurely dinner, still having plenty to chat about after spending four months side by side. We had had a great day, great evening, great meal, great company and were looking forward to our trip to 'The Rock' the next day, we only hoped we would be able to escape from Alcatraz once we got there.

We had a ferry to Alcatraz to catch at 11.30 and decided to make our way down to the port on the old wooden tram/cable car. We walked up the hill to the nearest stop and waited until we could hear the whirring and clunking of the tram coming down the hill. We boarded the tram and 'ding,ding' we were off, making our way down the steep SF hill in and old wooded cable car, the drivers controlling the speed and breaks with a lot of effort and force. It was fantastic, the open tramtaking us down the steep streets evoking images of black and white movies and times gone by. They stopped the tram at the top of Lombard the 'crookedest' road in SF for photo if you wanted before taking us all the way down to Fisherman's Wharf, what a great way to get about the hills. We made our way to the port as the rain started, as we boarded the ferry, we could see Alcatraz island through the misty rain making it look even more sinister and desolate than it already seemed. The ferry didn't take long, 10 minutes only and we were there. Alcatraz island and the old prison is now under US National Park protection so they strive to upkeep it to enable it to be safe enough for people still to visit. We were given as long as we wanted to explore the island and the prison, we made our way up to the main prison that housed criminals such as Al Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz and picked up the audio tour to take us through the cold, creepy buildings. The buildings were cold, the cells small each housing a toilet, sink and bed, we were led around the prison accompanied by the voices of old wardens and inmates. We were taken through solitary and the 'Hole' where men may be locked up for 24 hours a day in the dark, we were told by one inmate how he would throw a button off his shirt on the floor and pick it up over and over again to occupy his mind. They told us how at New Year, the prisoners cold hear laughing and voices drifting over from the mainland making it seem so near but so out of reach and adding to their punishment. We were shown where the 'battle of Alcatraz' took place and talked through what happened the night that an escape attempt was made by three brothers from Florida and how the three inmates and two wardens were killed, we were led to lookat the floor where the shells from the Marines had hit in an attempt to stop the battle. We were led through the kitchen and shown how the knife rack was painted with the shapes of each knife so at a glance staff could see if a knife was missing, we were told about the day that six inmates were murdered in the canteen with one of the kitchen knives that had been taken despite them being locked away. We walked up and down the old, damp prison, going into cells and imagining what it would have been like when it was in operation, putting a chill down your spine about the monsters that it had once housed. We really enjoyed our visit to 'The Rock' and boarded the boat a few hours later looking back, glad to have been but glad that we were leaving it behind. After our long day sightseeing in the drizzle, we made our way to Boudin bakery on the Wharf for some of their hot soup and famous sourdough bread, something to warm the cockles after being chilled to the bone. We wandered back to the cable car stop to take a trip back up the hill to find that it was down so decided to walk up the big hill back to our hotel. We walked up the hill, the road getting steeper and steeper, almost vertical, the muscles in our legs burning and both breathing heavily, no wonder everyone else decided to wait for the free replacement bus! We made it back to the hotel and relaxed on our last night in San Fransisco, the end of our whole trip being so near now and each day creeping into our thoughts more and more. We wished that we had another day in the City by the Bay but in the morning once again it was time to pack up and make the way back up the coast to LA.

The next morning before leaving San Fransisco, we drove to the beach to take a long last look at the Golden Gate Bridge before setting off North on Highway 1 again. In stark contrast to the clear day we had on the way, the coast was cloudy, the clouds so heavy and low that they covered the sea like a huge white blanket. We couldn't see the sea at all, we drove through the clouds as they wrapped themselves around the mountains as if they were hugging them to keep them warm. We stopped at the small pockets where the cloud was less heavy and we could make out the sea and hear it crashing against the rocks. As the day drew on, we knew we wanted to stop at Lucia Lodge for a late lunch/early dinner, Rob had had the fish and chips on his mind and wasn't disappointed; fresh Rock Cod on top of a pile for chips, enough for two so I got plenty to try too. We finished the rest of the journey back to San Simeon in the dark, the clouds had slowed down our trip as Rob drove with caution, we weren't surprised though to find that once again we were the only ones staying at the hotel, I imagine in the summer it's full of people doing the same trip as us. The next morning we took the last leg of our trip back to Los Angeles, we were happy and contented as we drove back in the sun but we knew that it would soon be time to go home, back to the UK and back to reality. We got back to LA for what would be our last night of our four month trip around the world, we didn't want to go home but we knew that the experiences we had had would stay in our hearts and minds forever.

The next morning, we packed up our trusty backpacks for the last time, our flight was at 8.35pm so we decided to take ourselves back to Universal Studios for a few hours before making the way to LAX. We went on the Studio tour for the 3rd time and took our minds back to a fantasy world prolonging the return to reality for as long as we could.

A few hours later, as we waited at LAX to board the plane nibbling on our American snacks of Peppermint Patty's and Taffy we wished we could start all over again. I couldn't help but be in tears not wanting what we both know has been the best experience of our lives to end.

But, end it must.

After 11 more hours, no sleep and a big bout of travel sickness for me we landed at Heathrow, literally with a bump. After a night in a hotel at Heathrow, we took the tube and train back to Manningtree to be greeted by a massive hug from Rob's mum and that brings us to today.

We've unpacked, the backpacks are in the loft and already we speak to each other saying 'do you remember when we were.....'

We hope the momentum we have had for the past few months doesn't end, we hope that we can make the rest of our lives as much as an adventure as the past few months have been, we hope to see much much more but most of all we hope that you have enjoyed the adventure with us.

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Dad on

Dear Can & Rob, another great glimpse of your trip and thanks for sharing it with us all. Your sadness at it ending is obvious, but think ahead now and start planning your next trip (when you've got the wonga), a trip through India perhaps?? Welcome back to 'Perfidious Albion', at least it's nearly Spring!

Mom/Teresa on

What an adventure! I certainly enjoyed it with you! It was nice seeing pictures of places and things that you won't normally see in mainstream travel brochures, magazines and books. Well done and welcome back! Happy that you are back safely to reminisce and look back on what you've seen and done the last 4 months. See you soon. love mom xxxxx

Angela G on

I have had a fantastic time sharing all your moments on your travels. The writing has been wonderful and a joy to read. It is also sad for me that it has come to an end because I have looked forward to reading your next instalments to your adventure. I am so glad you and Rob have enjoyed your time together. Now you are back in the UK we must get together.
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