San Simeon - Big Sur, Eleph. seals & Hearst Castle

Trip Start Sep 14, 2007
Trip End Sep 23, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, September 17, 2007

We left San Francisco on the morning of September 17th with big expecatations.  Today's drive would be the longest of our three trips - about 230 miles.  Unfortunately it was also the route that had so many awesome attractions along the way. 

We hurried and picked up our rental car at Fox Rent a car:  A white Ford Mustang Convertible.  Oh yeah baby!   Well then again every other car we saw on our trip was a Ford Mustang Convertible - with a prettier color.  We loved our white convertible anyway and I think we got a sweet deal.  The price was supposed to be about $500.- for a three day rental and to be returned at a location different from where we picked it up.  In addition I ordered the total damage insurance (you never know and this way no matter what I do to the car - it's covered,  except utter stupidity).  Back from our trip I found out the total charge on my CC was "only" $450.- (including extra insurance) - awesome!

But back to our spectacular road trip. I'm probably getting on your nerves right now when I'm telling you that everything was so beautiful, spectacular and totally awesome, but it really was!  Is I mean.  The landscape we saw this day was absolutely gorgeous - no kidding - just look at our pictures and you'll see!

We left San Francisco to drive North in order to get to the beginning of Highway 1.  We wanted to drive it top to bottom.  It was nice to drive alongside the pacific ocean, a very relaxing feeling.  Two attractions were coming up really soon - too bad that I forgot the addresses in my last minute scramble:

The Winchester Mystery house
After the deaths of her daughter and husband Sarah Winchester was sure that her mansion was haunted.  In order to stay alive she needed to never stop building.  If she stopped, she would die. 

So Sarah Winchester kept building for almost 40 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.  The house is massive and has many odd features:  Stairs leading to the ceiling, doors that open to walls or a lawn below, skylight upon skylight, double back hallways and trap doors.  Anything to make sure she could continue building.

This would have been so cool to see, but no I had to forget the address... The mystery house is located in San Jose, CA.

Balls roll uphill, people are unable to stand upright or shrink when they change place.  The Mysteryspot claims to be a gravitational anomaly and questions the laws of physics and gravity.  There are many different theories as to why people experience what they do, but.  my favorite is that you can't see the horizon from anywhere within the fenced in mystery spot.  Houses are built crockedly, but without a horizon reference your eye is tricked..  I would love to see this place.  You can find the mystery spot in Santa Cruz, CA.

Big Sur is a little scary, but sooo beautiful.  Just make sure the driver is watching the road and not the landscape.  There are plenty of overlooks where you can drive off the road to switch drivers, stop and take pictures.

We only stopped once (pic oppurtunities not included) for lunch and (unvoluntarily, thanks to me) skipped San Jose and Santa Cruz, because wanted to get in time to our MUST SEE location for today.  Still we arrived at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park late in the day.  Why a must see?  This park may very well be:  The perfect beach. 

A serene cove with turquoise waves gently rolling in, the incredibly scenic McWay falls dropping 80 feet right onto the sandy beach.  Just imagine, laying on the beach, listening to the waves rolling in and when you need to cool off , just head over to the waterfall, or be practical and position yourself under the waterfall from the beginning.  There's even a cave for adventurers.  So here's quite possibly the best beach I can imagine in the whole wide world...

...and then there's the catch.  No beach access and dare you attempt to access it you'll be fined heavily.  The only visitors are sea otters and elephant seals.  Who's looking stupid now?  There is one exception for divers.  Divers can explore the underwater park, but I think they are still not allowed on the beach. 

Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to stop anywhere else, but if you stay overnight in the Big Sur area Pfeiffer Burns State Park looks very promising.  It has plenty of hiking trails, waterfalls AND beach access.  Here's a great site for more information about the area.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton filmed a scene of the "Sandpiper" on Pfeiffer Beach.

At dusk it seemed as Big Sur was coming to an end.  The windy roads turned into wider roads and straightened out.  We were only 10 miles from our final destination San Simeon, when we saw the Point Piedras Blancas and Light Station.  We decided to spend the last few moments of daylight on this beautiful lookout point.  It was quite chilly and at first we didn't notice the movement on the beach, but then we saw them:  Elephant seals.  Only two of them, but they were cute playing together in the water.  I probably shot a whole role of film right there.  Then I decided to walk to the other side of the parking lot where I found a gate.  You can enter the gate to access the beach, which is fenced off to provide privacy for the elephant seals.  What I found was a big surprise:  At least 20 or thirty seals sleeping, playing, moaning & groaning.  I can't believe we didn't hear them from the other end of the parking lot.  I felt quite stupid for having shot a whole roll of film on those two seals playing far away in the water, when over here there's at least twenty seals in plain eye-sight.  By the way this held true for any other seal sightings on our trip.  You might just see two, but there usually are more.  If you look carefully you'll discover a whole group.  Watch the clip we filmed the next morning at Point Piedras Blancas Light Station.

We had a hard time parting with the seals, but we needed to get to hotel for our late check in.  When we got to San Simeon at about 07:45 pm there was no hotel.  We had a slight panic attack, it was completely dark now and as far as we knew we were in the middle of nowhere.  But one call put us back on our way, we had found our way into the "old" San Simeon - three old & beautiful houses - but not hotel :)  Just a mile or so further we finally arrived at The Orchid Inn. 

The place receives mixed reviews. It's a small hotel, the main part renovated - those rooms are pricy.  The cheaper rates on the website are for the sister hotel, which looks nowhere near as beautiful as the Orchid Inn.  This leads to a lot of confusion and bad reviews for the Orchid Inn.  Anyway I've done my research and had reserved a nice and quiet room with fireplace and jacuzzi tub.  It looked just like the pictures and we were very very happy with our choice. 

The manager at check-in told us that restaurants in San Simeon close early around 09:00 pm, so we went straight for dinner to the cute & romantic Manta Rey restaurant.  It's very cozy and intimate, plus you can share plates which you'll come to appreciate after eating out every single day.  We ordered a bottle of wine, had some with our dinner and then corked it up and took it back with us to our room.  I enjoyed a relaxing bath in our jacuzzi tub, a glass of wine and then went for a great night of sleep in a very comfortable bed. 

We had travelled a long road with amazing views today.  It could not have been any better!

PS:  I could imagine spending the night in Morro Bay, I would love to see the sun set over this magnificent rock! 

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