Big Sur!! Yes Sir!!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, February 19, 2006

After seeing Citizen Kane I have longed to see Hearst Castle, and regardless of whether or not you have seen the movie inspired by William Randolph Hearst, the home he built above the sea at San Simeon is remarkable. Aside from housing a collection worthy of several museums, the home itself is stunning, especially when viewed with 43 non English speakers who insist on talking over the guide! Wild zebra still roam the grounds, but we didn't see any...only remnants of their kind decorating the floors. After seeing one of the largest residences in the US, we did what anyone else would do...sought out the largest seals in the northern hemisphere, the dreaded elephant seal, known to attack small children and devour them in less than a second (not true). We found them honking like they were in rush hour traffic and, they appeared quite perturbed by our presence (see photo). The males can weigh up to 2500 pounds and when found in large groups can be quite stinky as we discovered. Imagine musk, but much, much worse. The dramatic coastline is just beautiful, and we headed up to Big Sur amongst ominous clouds. The sunny shores of So Cal were retreating in our rearview mirror when the first rains we had seen in over a month began to fall. Gray Whales, on their migration to Baja, spouted offshore as we drove the Pacific Coast Highway through redwood groves and rolling hills. Per ZoŽ's parents' instructions, we stopped at Nepenthe (the home Orson Wells bought for Rita Hayworth in 1944, now a restaurant) for lunch and spectacular views (see photo). We saw a couple of red tail hawks, a golden eagle (we think), sea otters, sea lions, and harbor seals. After a quick drive through Carmel by the Sea, we spent the night in Monterey. ZoŽ has decided this is where she would like to live...somewhere between Carmel, Monterey and Santa Cruz so if anyone knows someone who needs house-sitting in this area, please call us. We decided to spend the next morning on a whale watching tour and chose a company that boasted a 98% success rate. After three freezing hours on the choppy seas accompanied by equally pleasant rainstorms, we now know what it feels like to be in the two percent that is not successful!! However, before the rains hit, two beautiful rainbows were visible (see photo). We followed up our successful whale tour by heading to the wintering grounds for a group of monarch butterflies in nearby Pacific Grove. Apparently, they appear by the thousands in October and depart in late February. The docent we found in the woods where they winter told us they all left two days earlier. Butterflies and whales: 1, ZoŽ and Stephen 0. The deluge really began as we entered San Francisco where we currently are staying with ZoŽ's godparents in Mill Valley. They have a hot tub overlooking the city that we may never leave as well as a Tibetan Terrier who may rival Sophie in the cuddling department.

Please keep the recommendations coming!

Upcoming stops: San Francisco, Point Reyes State Park, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, Napa and Sonoma

Travel notes:
Miles traveled: 7000
Number of tickets: 0
Number of coffee shops within one block on Mill Valley: 3
Number of Starbucks: 0
Number of whales seen on whale watching boat tour: 0
Number of butterflies seen in butterfly preserve: 0
Number of passengers we know became ill on whale tour: 4
Number of minutes on boat before ZoŽ could no longer feel her toes: 26
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