San Francisco & Monterey Peninsula
San Francisco - Monterey Peninsula
Thursday,12/19- Buffalo, N.Y.
At 3 P.M., an airport cab drove us to the American Terminal of Buffalo's International Airport. Itwas cold, icy and the temperature was in the 20's. A Lake effect snow storm was heading in just behind us. At gate #19, American flight # 1157, to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, was delayed for an hour. That meant a guessing game for the next seven hours,of "is our luggage going to make the connection?"
At 5 P.M., we off-lifted from Buffalo and had a bumpy ride, into O'Hare Airport.The temperature there was a frosty 12 degrees.AAer we deplaned, we ran through the terminal hoping to make our connection. Luckily for us, the whole system was backed up. We had an hour and one half wait, so we had some coffee in Starbucks( and watched the weather howl around us. By 8 P.M., as we sat at the boarding gate, we began to wonder if this was one of those marathon flights to nowhere.The plane was being de-iced for the second time to prevent freezing of the control surfaces, on the wings, in this frigid weather. Finally, we lifted off and had a surprisingly uneventful 4 hr and 15 minute flight into San Francisco International Airport. On the way in, we crossed over the Bay City of Oakland and then ran down the entire bay to S.F. Airport. Everything was brightly lit, in the clear night air.You could see the lighted string of pearls, that was the Oakland Bay Bridge, spanning the water.
It was 10: 15 P.M., Pacific Time, and we were wearing down. The baggage carousel was a pleasant surprise. The bags had made it! Temperatures were in the 50's and pleasant. We hailed a cab and set off for the Fisherman's Wharf area, where we had reservations at a Travel Lodge for a reasonable $79 per night(except for Sat.). The cab ride was expensive ($35), but at that time of the night, they could have asked for and gotten twice the amount from us without complaint. There is a shuttle bus service for only $20, if you can manage to get a reservation.
The ride in was interesting. I had never pictured San Francisco to be this hilly. It looks like all of the scenes I have watched depicting Hong Kong and the New Territories. We passed along the Embarcadero and under the massive, double decked, eight lane, Oakland Bay Bridge, that we had just seen from the air. Finally, we checked into the'Hotel and unpacked. It was almost 3 A.M. EST time, but we were still keyed up. We settled in to read for a while. "A case of Need" by Michael Crichton. Morpheus soon claimed us.
Friday, 12/20-San Francisco,Cal.
We arose early and had coffee in our room . It was foggy and in the 40's out. T.V. traffic reports showed a massive tie up on the Oakland Bay Bridge. Getting into downtown SanFrancisco is like commuting to midtown Manhattan.We walked along the wharf before breakfast,enjoying the different sights and sounds. In the front of the Hotel, along the wharf area, is a 1940's style cafe called "Johnny Rockets." We stopped in and had a great breakfast there as we looked out over the ocean and wharf area.
At 8:20, the bus picked us up, to transport us to the terminal where we would begin our tour of the city. At the terminal, we purchased tickets for the #1 Gray Line tour of San Francisco.
The double decker bus with its colorful driver"Victor", wound its way through the hills and winding streets of the City. Our first stop was Mission Dolores, one of the historic old Spanish Missions. It had been refurbished in the 1920's and looked somewhat out of place in its surroundings. The "mission" and "tenderloin" areas are poor and rundown. The homeless seemed to drift aimlessly by, wherever you turn. Drugs, prostitution and other vices appear to be the principal industry of the area.
Next, the bus climbed the 950 foot winding heights of the "Twin Peaks" section. On a clear day, the view must be inspiring. Today, it was fogged in and our visibility was limited. What we did see however was densely packed housing. San Francisco has a population of over 750,00 people in an area of 49 square miles. The Bay Area, with all of its suburbs, consists of over 7 & 1/2 million souls. They pack them in here like sardines. Housing prices are in the stratosphere. Small 3-story "Pacific Heights" domiciles, with a garage on the first floor and the demi-octagonal second story front, start at $ ,;50,000. The style reminds me of the "shotgun houses" in New Orleans, so named because you could fire a shotgun through the front door and have it pass out the rear without striking anything. Several other sections of the City showed much restoration of the housing stock. It is attractive archictecture. The area around the old Castro Theatre that is the "Gay & Lesbian district" is particularly well restored and of good appearance.
Next, we drove through Golden Gate Park, 1 150 acres of Redwoods, Eucalyptus and Sycamores. John McClaren, long time past Park Superintendant, had spent much of his life fending off developers and planting flora amidst the rolling sea side dunes. There is an art museum, music appreciation area, an exotic looking Japanese Garden and an authentic Dutch Windmill at the Queen Wilhelmena Gardens.The park is restful and serene amidst the urban sprawl of the city.
Just North of the Park, we cruised along the serene beach front area that passes by Seal Rock and Cliff side House. The view is idyllic and restful here. We continued on along the Northwest shore of the City, through the Presidio military complex, once the home of the U.S. 6th Army. We could see, in the distance, the fog shrouded suspension cables of the "Golden Gate" Bridge that spans the neck of the bay and leads into Marin County to the North. Finally, Victor let us off at Pier #39, on the Fisherman's Wharf.The tour was long but interesting.
Pier # 39 is an actual Pier, on pilings, that supports a two story shopping complex, filled with trendy boutiques and upscale restaurants. It is usually awash in tourists. Today was no different. Street performers and vendors give it a carnival flavor. We walked along the Pier, looking into the many shops, and then watched the scores of sea lions that lay wallowing on wooden platforms, just off the pier. The seals barked in a continues chorus of grunts. We soon became accustomed to this "Seal Sonata" and it always brought a smile to us, whenever we heard it. Their sorrowful, whiskered faces, with bulging eyes layered in massive coats of blubber, always appeared comic and clown like, as they barked mornfully.The younger cubs splashed and played about them like toddlers everywhere. Crowds of people watched them at play.
The "Alcatraz Cafe" sits on the pier, near the seals and facing out onto the water. It is in view of the distinctive ship-like shape of Alcatraz Island, that seems so close to shore. I had pictured it much farther out in the bay. We sat down for a local favorite, New England Clam Chowder in a scooped out bowl, made of sourdough bread. Lunch was delicious.The cafe' is lined with pictures and artifacts depicting the History of Alcatraz Prison. It is a worthy stop to rest and look out on Alcatraz Island.Tours of the island and prison are available nearby.
After Lunch, we walked along the Wharf. There are many large seafood restaurants like "Aliotto's" that draw diners in by the hundreds. We walked by the Cannery Shopping complex and into Victorian Park, the terminus of the fabled cable cars. There, we purchased a three day "Muni pass" for $10 each. It would allow us unlimited use of the cable cars, buses, and BART system for three days. It is a good deal for tourists.
We waited in line for our chance to ride these world famous conveyances, plastered with their Rice-aroni signs and Christmas decorations. The front 1/3 of the car is open sided. It has two benches back to back for passengers. Facing the seats, is a small foot ledge where passengers can hang precariously onto straps. The motorman's station is between the benches. The remainder of the car is two long benches facing each other inside, with straps for standees. It is constructed of white pine and glass and restored perfectly to its original condition. Lastly, the rear open platform holds the conductor and a few standing passengers. The effect, as a whole, is an overcrowded lifeboat surging forward with people hanging off of it from all angles.
When our turn came, we hopped aboard for the ride up and down the famous hills. The Powell/Hyde Street car took us up past expensive Nob Hill and Russian Hill , skirting the Grant St. area of China Town and then on past the gilt edged "Sir Francis Drake" Hotel and into its terminus at Union Square downtown. The area was awash with holiday shoppers and looked like mid town Manhattan. The enormous bulk of the San Francisco Center shopping Mall, with its flagship tenant"Nordstrom's", dominates the square. We walked through the area briefly and decided it best to get in line for the return trip on the cable car.
When a car reached Union Square, the two motonnen pushed it onto a metal turntable and then by hand, like shoving a car, they spun the car around and pushed it back onto the tracks. It was colorful and interesting. We rode the Powell/Mason line over to Union Street in the North Beach Section. There, we jumped off and walked through the city's Italian section. St. Peter & Paul Church, with its twin Byzantine spires, dominates the area. Behind , floating on the cityscape in the distance, sits the impressive pyramidal spiral of the Trans-america building.
We saw a sign for the "Coit Tower" and headed up Filbert Street. The "Filberts Steps" go up and up and up to Coit Tower. Whew, it is a hike! From the Tower, you can see most of the waterfront area.Inside of the Tower, is a continuous mural inspired and partly painted by muralist Diego Garcia. It depicts scenery from the many walks of life that made San Francisco. Farmers, miners, sailors, merchants and the military, it is a History rich in color and adventure. The Tower is a good stop and worth a visit. Include a stop for Dinner at nearby "Capp's".(described later).
We walked down Jackson Street and onto Pier #39. The tourist crowd was building and we were tiring. It was 55 degree ' s, cloudy and cool. We walked back to our room for a much need nap-
At 8 P.M., we walked back over to Pier #39. A mild drizzle had chased most of the crowds inside. We found safe harbor in the "Swiss Louis" Restaurant. We had a wonderful pasta and seafood dinner, with wine. The place is a little pricey, but the food is very good and it commands an excellent view of the harbor and cityscape at night.
As we walked along the Pier, the San Francisco Cityscape was clear and beautiful in the night sky. Many of the building were outlined in lights and it has a fairy tale appearance that is striking.
The Fisherman's Wharf area was teeming with activity. Shoppers, diners and strollers jostled each other as they walked along past the various curio shops and attractions. We walked on over to Ghirardelli Square. It was an old school that then became the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory. Now, it is three stories of trendy shops surrounding an open court yard.
It was getting late and we were tiring. We walked back along the crowded wharf and turned in for the night, tired from a long day.
Saturday, 12/21- San Francisco, Calif.
We arose late, tired from our previous two days of activities. We had purchased wonderful blueberry scones on the Wharf the day before, and now had them for breakfast with the in room brewed coffee provided. The skies had opened and all of Northern California was being drenched. We lazed, showered and thought about where we would wander today. We had had the foresight to bring umbrellas and no Western New Yorker, worthy of the name,would ever be deterred by weather from doing anything.
Pedestrian traffic, on the rain slicked wharf, was minimal. We walked along its length to the Cannery shops. They are a restored three story gallery of shops and small museums that surround a heavily shrubbed courtyard. We had some flavored coffee and wandered through the shops.Ghirardelli chocolates were everywhere. We sampled a few. On the upper floor was a small museum of the City of San Francisco, with artifacts from earthquakes and fires. What a legacy.
Next, we walked a few blocks over, across the way from Victoria Park. Here sits the restored, three-story red-brick shopping plaza that formerly housed the Ghirardelli chocolate factory. The name Ghirardelli is hung, in huge neon letters, across the top of the building and is impressive at night. We browsed the pricey shops and wandered through the chocolate outlet store. They will ship anywhere in the world. Even in the rain it was fun to wander about the square and window shop. And this, from someone(me) who prefers hemorrhoid surgery to shopping!
Outside the square, we hopped aboard the Polk Street bus and rode it over to Geary Street, using our Muni passes.One block over Geary, we connected with the Geary Street bus, for the long ride across the City to 33rd St. It is an interesting mini tour of the sites and sounds of the city. At 33rd, we caught the #18 bus that would take us, for the short ride through Lincoln Park, to the Place of The Legion of Honor, one of the finest Art Museums on the West Coast.
The museum sits high atop a terrace in Lincoln park. Its doric columned, Grecian facade surrounds an interior court, in whose middle sits a casting of Rodin's masterpiece, "Le Penseur." (The Thinker) Behind it is a small pyramidal skylight that replicates, in miniature, I.M. Pei's fabled entrance to the Louvre in Paris. It is quite an ambitious entrance for a museum. Inside, for a $7 entrance fee, we were served up a much fuller menu. The first floor of the building is laid out in a demi-decagon affay. Five wide galleries fan out in a 180 degree arc and are connected midway with a series of smaller showing rooms. The massive "Three Shades" sculpture, by Rodin, dominates one entire room. Lesser works by Rodin and a bevy of other fine sculptors, like Paul Manship, studded the interior rooms.
Several large paintings, by Boucher, were my favorite exhibits and we saw someone new to us, a 17th century Dutch painter named Vanloo. He painted adult faces on child bodies engaged in serious deliberations and had the same wonderful effect that a Norman Rockwell work would produce. We saw several Renoirs and others of the Impressionist School. A few delightful works by Polish and Russian painters were a new treat for us. There is an entire collection of Religious Icons and paintings dating back to the 14th century. An impressive set of 17th century carved French desks caught our attention For good measure, there are some Egyptian artifacts on the ground floor. It was a pleasant few hours spent wandering this beautiful museum.In the ground floor cafeteria, we had some wonderful potato leak soup and sour dough bread for lunch. Outside the window sits a casting of another fine Rodin sculpture, "The Burghers of Calais. "This is a great plac@ to come and spend the afternoon on a rainy day. We were glad that we had come.
Outside the Museum, we retraced our route, using the #18 bus to Geary St. There we rode the bus all the way across the City and into Union Square. Downtown was loaded with shoppers in spite of the rain. Lots of homeless people wandered the area as well.
We walked over and into the New San Francisco Place Mall.It is impressive. Great winding escalators carry shoppers up and down in a central spiral that dominates the airy foyer of the building. Around the periphery, on every floor, are upscale shops and boutiques. There were throngs of people flowing in a moving river of holiday shoppers. We took a breather, in a small Patisserie, and had coffee and croissants.
From the Center, we walked across Union Square and -caught the Powell/Mason cable car for the ride up to its Wharf terminus. It was standing room only all the way, with a sea of umbrellas bobbing all around us, on the rain slicked streets. At Victoria Park, we hiked back over to the Hotel. By now it was raining heavily and time for an afternoon breather. Ozzie Nelson had virtually created the afternoon nap and been my hero ever since. It was 52 degrees and mild out.
Apre' nap, around 7 P.M., we walked over the wharf towards the Cannery, where we had noted an interesting little Italian Restaurant. It had checked table cloths and lobsters were being grilled outside in front. "Pompei's Grotto" is absolutely charming, and it was packed to the rafters. We settled in for a carafe of Burgundy, some wonderful stuffed calamari & linguini for me, crab cakes for precious, and ice cream and coffee for desert. It was wonderful. During dinner, several carolers in Victorian era costumes entered the restaurant and sang Christmas carols. It was fun and we hope to return here soon.
Outside, the rain had lessened and we walked back along the wharf to Pier #39. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco Cityscape were all lit up and shining brightly on the night horizon. It is a good memory and a fine mental snapshot of the city to take with us.
It was getting late and we were tiring from the days adventures.We walked back to the hotel and settled in to read and retire. It was in the 40's and mild out. Sleep came quickly.
Sunday,12/22- San Francisco,Califomia
We arose early, at 6 A.M.. It was rainy, cool and in the 40's. We read for a while, showered, had coffee and prepped for our tour of the wine country in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
At 8:20, we were again picked up outside the hotel by a shuttle to the central terminal.There, we boarded our bus for the #6 Greyline tour of the
Heading out of San Francisco, we crossed on the lower deck of the 7& 1/2 mile long, double-decked, 8 lane Bay Bridge. It touches only Treasure Island in its span across San Francisco Bay and is an impressive engineering feat. Once across, we picked up Rte. #29N for the I hour and 20 minute ride up into the Napa Valley.
Our first stop,predictably, was at a wine store and visitors center. We sampled some good cabernet and a fine chardonnay. This, at 10 O'clock in the morning, Oy Vey! From there, we drove up the valley to the Charles Krug Winery. This is an older vineyard from the 1890's that C.K. Mondavi purchased and developed. His son, Robert Mondavi, is now the "King of the Valley." We viewed dutifully the large oaken vats that give the deep reds their "vanilla flavor" and received a history of the winery. In the tasting room, we sampled some very dry Chenin Blanc, a fruitier Chardonnay and a full bodied Cabernet. All lived up to the Mondavi reputation. The guide instructed us in viewing the wine for color and then "volitalizing the esters"(swirling it around in the glass). This agitation releases the esters(aroma causing agents) in the wine and,provides the aromatic and distinctive bouquet that your nose enjoys before you taste the nectar. It was all fun and we got into the spirit of it with every one else. Bring along some cheese and crackers to "cleanse the palette" between sips of different wines. It sounds snooty, but it actually does enhance thetasting process.We had a mild buzz on by 1 1:00 AM. on a Sunday morning. Every bar rummy I ever knew would have been proud of us.
It was windy , with intermittent rain outside. But, when the clouds parted and the sun shone down on the vineyards, it revealed a slice of rural beauty perhaps unmatched anywhere. Rows of pruned vines nestled in the long valley under the shadow of the occasional electric windmill. These devices were used to scatter the frost and protect the vines. The other great fear was the Philoxera fungus that eats away the roots of the vines.Some growers plant rows of the more vulnerable rose bushes along their vineyards. If the roses start to die, they know that they have a big problem.
The green hills and colorful chateaux along Rte.#29 bespoke of a verdant setting in the far Pyhranees in France or the lush and rolling Apennines of Italy. The area is every bit as magical as the Cinematography portrays it in the movie "A walk in the clouds", some of which was filmed at the Krug Winery.
We continued up Rte.#29 to the quaint little Spa Town of Calistoga. There, we had an hour for lunch. We took the driver's recommendations and settled into a small Mexican Restaurant by the name of "Checkers."We had a pretty good soup and sandwich.
Afterwards, we walked through the small town and browsed the book stores and shops. It was cooler up here in the hills and warmer clothes should be brought along if you chill easily. We stopped for coffee at the colorful San Marco coffee bar and paused to reflect on where we were. We could easily have been in the hills north of Denver or to the East of San Diego. You begin to appreciate the cliche"If it is Tuesday, It must be Belgium."
The tour bus collected its cargo(us) and we traversed some colorful, rural country lanes to find the "Villa Encinal." It is a small, quaint, family vineyar,d,with terra cotta tiled roofs and out-buildings that look like they belong in the California of the 1920's. We sampled some Red Zinfandels that were surprisingly good and some decently dry Chenin Blancs and Chardonnays. All of the places offered to ship their product anywhere in the U.S..
Next, we followed Rte.# 12-S to the small "Mont Ste. John" Winery.In the tasting room, we sampled some Chardonnay, Chenin blanc and an excellent cabernet. Then a really fine, full-bodied Pinot Noir that was the best of the lot. The owner was convivial and helpful. He would have poured as long as you could stand. By now, you would think that we would be singing "ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall", but everybody seem to be pretty careful about getting a snootful.
Further along 12-S we came to the picturesque little Town of Sonoma. We parked near t4c historic Mission San Francisco, one of the last of the chain of 21 that stretched from San Diego. Each was supposedly a day's ride from the other. This one was built in 1823.
Mary & I strolled through the town and browsed, before settling in for cappuccino, at a coffee bar owned by one of the Sebastianni family. The day was starting to get a little long and the weather was worsening.
We reboarded the tourship and headed 12-s to Rte.#121 to 37-W to the ma or thoroughfare, Rte.#IOI South. Along the way, we passed through the rolling green hills of Sonoma Valley and then into Marin County. Upscale Towns like San Rafael and Sausolito looked interesting, if densely packed with housing. At Sausolito, we followed a bayside road through the village and came to a vantage point just under the Golden Gate Bridge. There, we stopped for a last photo opportunity and view of the spectacular San Francisco skyline.
Finally,we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and rolled across the top of the city and on into Fisherman's Wharf, where the driver let us off at around 7:OOP.M. It had been a long, yet interesting day. We were glad that we had taken the tour and vowed to spend more time up there when next we return to that magical valley.
We were a little tired from the day, but undaunted in our quest to see and sample the entire area in three days. The rain had stopped and the night was mild. We walked ten blocks up Powell St. into the North Beach section. On the corner of Green street, we found "Capp's Comer" restaurant. The inside was early 1930's gin mill and the place was packed with neighborhood diners.Great sports pictures of Joe DiMaggio, and other local heroes lined the walls. Joe and O.J. Simpson had both attended a nearby high school. O.J. didn't make the wall.
A large bowl of fresh Minestrone soup started the meal.It was delicious. Next, a huge salad bowl and fresh Italian bread were provided. Then, Calamari ala Mafiosa(clams, squid and shrimp over Linguini) completed a great meal.We sipped a rough red wine and then had some Italian Ice Cream for dessert. This spectacular feed had been reasonable. 1 recommend it highly. The place isn't much on decor, just'great Italian food in an authentically ethnic restaurant. It has lots of character.
We walked down Powell St. in the mild evening air and realized that reluctantly, we were leaving the city tomorrow morning. Morpheus beckoned after the long day. We read some and wearily surrendered to the sandman. It had been an eventful and interesting stay in this picturesque "City by the Bay." We hope to return often.
Monday, 12/23- San Francisco, Califomia
We arose early, at 6 A.M., showered, packed and watched the traffic and weather reports for our trip South. At 8 O'clock, we went over to "Johnny Rockets" for breakfast and then took a last stroll onto Pier #39, to say good-bye to the sea lions. It was 59 degrees and cloudy. We checked out of the Hotel($400) and got a shuttle to the airport for $20. The shuttle stopped at a few downtown hotels before depositing us at the Airport. There, we got on a Hertz bus and delivered to the rental facility, picked up our dark green Toyota Corolla rental( $170 week).
Good directions and a AAA map took us South, on Rte#101, to Rte. 92-West. This winding highway cut West over the mountains and deposited us near Half Moon Bay, on the Pacific Coast Highway. From here South to Santa Cruz is a 40 mile stretch of unspoiled and deserted coastline. The rolling green hills run down to the ocean in an idyllic tableau that is both restful and inspiring. Thereis nothing but sea and sky and wind. Make sure you take this route, even though it adds an hour to your trip.
At Santa Cruz, the highway returns jarringly to civilization. We stopped for coffee here and then picked up the 4 lane expanse of Rte.#101 that would take us on to the Monterey Peninsula. You have to remember stretches of empty highway like the one we had just traversed. They disappear quickly in a mind blink that almost makes you think you had imagined them, rather that been there in person.
On the Monterey Peninsula, we got off at the Del Ray exit and turned left. Five lights up Del Ray, we turned right onto busy Fremont St. A few blocks over, we found the Lone Oak Motel. We had a room, with kitchen, for the inexpensive off-season rate of $340 per week. We unpacked and settled into Room # 46. It was clean and comfortable, if a little noisy from its proximity to Fremont Street. It was sunny, 58 degree and a beautiful day out. We were glad to be here.
After settling in, we saddled up and drove over Fremont street and on into the Fisherman's Wharf area of Monterey. The sun was shining and the ocean was a deep turquoise. We walked through the Yachting basin and admired the many sloops at anchor. To our left were the historic remains of the old Monterey Customs House, dating from when the city had been the capital of Mexican California. We proceeded on to the assemblage of buildings gathered along both sides of the elongated wooden wharf. Some small boutiques competed for space with fish markets and several larger seafood restaurants. The area was aswirl in people and had a carnival atmosphere. We walked along the pier enjoying the diversity of sights and sounds and aromas. Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl was the popular attraction, like hot dogs in central park. We sampled some chowder offered to us by h@wkers and then ventured into "Gilbert's Red Snapper Restaurant." The floor to ceiling windows of the restaurant looked out onto the yacht basin and we watched ungainly Pelicans swoop down to the water looking for fish. A few tourists were paddling small kayaks down the narrow channel. A good-sized, sailing ketch was getting ready to cast off. We ordered the house special, clam chowder and a crab sandwich on sourdough bread, with ice tea. It proved to be delicious.
After Lunch, we followed the paved path along the waterfronts metal casting of St.Lucia, looking out to sea, stands alone along the walkway. It reminded us that the area had long been the home of a sardine fishing fleet. Men had weathered the ocean here to carve out a life on the rugged California Coast. Further along the path, we sat and enjoyed the moving sea and the many boats and people who swirled around her. The path continued on for some distance and eventually connects up with the Cannery Row shopping area and Monterey Aquarium. We were tiring however and turned back towards the Wharf area.
Near where we had parked our car ran several hundred yards of a beautiful beach. The tide was rolling out and we decided to stroll the beach looking for shells. The sky was a cerulean blue, the waves were crashing rhythmically, the gulls circled high above and the Monterey Cypress lined the shore, framing a portrait of natural beauty that was restful and idyllic. It was a pleasant place to be, two aging honeymooners walking the beach.
The light was fading as we headed back over Fremont. In California, the natives rise and retire with the sun. We stopped at a Safeway Store and bought some provisions and a few bottles of Glen Ellen Merlot for our room. We settled in for some wine, cheese and fruit to cap a wonderful day. I think we might like it here. Read some and retired early. "One Way Out"- John Clarkson.
Tuesday, 12/24 Monterey, Califomia
We arose early at 6 A.M. and had coffee, oj. and bagels in our room.Then we set out along Rte. #1 and exited on Ocean Ave., in Carmel by the Sea. It was early enough so that there was little pedestrian or vehicular traffic. We drove the length of Ocean Blvd. and parked near the ocean.We walked the powdery sand for a mile or so enjoying the stiff breeze and the crashing surf. Surfers were out waiting for the perpetual wave. Joggers and dog walkers paced the beach with us. We enjoyed walking by the many sea-side villas, enjoying their eclectic style and trying to guess at their worth. It was a pleasant morning.
From the beach, we walked back up Ocean Ave. into the village and stopped at the Carmel Bakery for coffee. The town was awakening. For the next two hours we browsed the many clothing and jewelry shops along San Carlos, Dolores and Ocean Avenues. They were upscale and appealing. A two story shopping complex, surrounding a central courtyard, at the top of Ocean Ave. was festooned with holiday decorations. Many small restaurants and gourmet shops caught our attention. This town is charming and pleasant to stroll through in the early morning before the tourist crush in the afternoon and evening. Come early and enjoy it leisurely.
We bought some post cards for friends and then some appetizing scones from the bakery. Then, we began looking for the place that didn't want to be found. Clint Eastwood's "Hog's Breath Inn." It wasn't listed in any of the town directories or tourist information brochures. I guess they were trying to fend off hordes of the curious. We had the foresight to look up the address in the Fodor's Guide and found the place on San Carlos, near Fifth. A small sign outside of the wooden Eastwood Building said "Hog's Breath Inn." A Western Wear shop with cowboy hats and boots occupied most of the, front of the building. At the rear, and down a flight of stairs is a small courtyard with tables and a mesqui te g'rill.To one side is a small restaurant. The cracklinging fireplace was inviting. The other side is apparently a small pub for drinkers. We settled in by the fire and had a wonderful lunch of catfish for me and turkey for Mary. The place is nice and you absolutely have to stop here and no, we didn't see Clint Eastwood.
After lunch, we walked back to the car and drove along the seaside lanes past the many million dollar villas, admiring them. We found the back way into the old Carmel Mission and stopped to admire this piece of Spanish History. Father Junipeffa Serra had created a typical, single story, adobe mission with tiled roof and large interior courtyard. Part of the old mission now served as an elementary school for local kids. For a two dollar donation, we wandered through the old refectory, chapel and rooms admiring the many artifacts and religious works. In the interior courtyard, the aloe and primroses were beginning to bloom. The central fountain dominated the courtyard and was surrounded by flora of desert beauty. The Main chapel is very large and in good repair. The central altar area and pulpit are of carved wood and the tiled floor was polished and smooth. It was peaceful and interesting.
From the Mission, we drove back over to Monterey and parked again near the Fisherman's Wharf. We had decided to try a Whale Watching Cruise. It was a little brisk out, but decidedly warmer than Buffalo. At the rear of the Wharf, we found the Monterey Fishing Company. It and several other charter boats provided Whale Watching tours. For $15 each we signed on for a two hour cruise.
The wind had kicked up the sea, so we surged across the rollers in a bounding motion that left you hanging on to the rails for,support. Over the course of the next two hours, we saw many spouts blowing around us and several sightings of the elusive grey whales, as the leviathan dived in to the depths. The mighty flukes of the enormous tail were the signature of her dive. These giant mammals can grow to a length of 50 feet, weighing over 38 tons. They migrate yearly the 12,000 distance between the Aleutian Islands off Alaska and the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.It seemed sort of silly to chase them like this, but I guess this is what tourists do, and they were majestic animals to see in the wild.
The day was waning and we were chilled from our tour, so we headed back to our room where some Merlot and pasta warmed us. We read for a while and then retired early, dreaming of reindeer hoofs on the Motel roof. Christmas always seems incongruous in warm and sunny places.
Wed, 12/25-Christmas Day-Monterey, California
We arose early and exchanged Christmas gifts and cards. Santa hadn't forgotten us. It was cool out and a fog had rolled in off the ocean. We showered and got ready to head over to the Carmel Mission for the 9:30 A.M. Christmas Mass. We arrived early and wandered through the courtyards admiring once again the flowering aloes and primroses. The church filled up quickly witft a diverse array of residents and tourists.
The Mass was cheery and song filled. A delightful Irish cleric, one Father Murphy the pastor of the congregation, gave the sermon. It was upbeat and positive. We enjoyed the service.After Mass, we drove along the local streets and admired again the many villas lining the coast. We stopped in Carmel and had coffee at the Carmel Bakery. The Town was uncrowded and charming in the early morning.
Next, we found the "Carmel gate" to the " 17 mile drive" and paid our $7 entrance fee. The drive circles an area of the 5,000 acre Del Monte Forest that covers a chunk of the Monterey Peninsula and contains the three golf courses of the world famous Pebble Beach Complex. Scattered through the forested drive are scores of mega-million dollar estates that even the Japanese must think expensive. These places are worthy of Beverly Hills. And then, there is the ocean portion of the drive. A craggy rock-lined coast, interspersed with small beach areas and studded with towering Cypress Trees offers itself for a visual feast. The "Lone Cypress", "Bird" & "Seal" Rocks, "Point Joe" all vie for photo of the month honors. It is a beautiful stretch of coast and a must see. Come early before the conga lines of tourists jam the roads.
Near the end of the loop, we came upon one of the holy meccas of American Golf, Pebble Beach. We walked through the clothing shops, bought our souveniers, and visited the pro shops, enjoying the fact that we were here. The "Lodge" or main building housed three Restaurants. Wings of hotel rooms branch off of the main building and face the 18th hole, overlooking the ocean.
We had reservations for "Club XIX". It was glass walled, open to the air, had a roaring fire blazing in the hearth and overlooks the 18th hole and the wide vista of ocean-view that surrounds the last few holes on the course. It doesn't get any better than this. Breakfast was a wonderful crab omelet, chocolate mousse desert and coffee. It was very nice to sit here and watch the turquoise ocean and the blue sky shining above. Who says money can't buy happiness?
After Brunch, we walked along the cart path, of the 18th hole, and watched the many golf foursomes play through. It was costing these people $400 a head to play here. I hope they enjoyed the round. It is only $275 a round for guests of the Lodge. Sigh, maybe someday. We watched a few groups hit onto the par three seventeenth green and then retreated up the fairway to the Lodge. It will be fun to watch the next Crosby Pro-Am on Television and know that we had been there.
From the Lodge, we decided to traverse the 17 mile loop one more time. It wasn't a particularly good idea. The scenery was still awe inspiring but the crowds of knuckle-headed tourists were less than pleasant. Make this drive early and it will be infinitely more enjoyable.
We exited the Drive and motored on over Rte # 68 topacific Grove. The Ocean Drive here is idyllic. A wide sweeping view of Monterey Bay is available as you drive past the modest homes of the area. The "House of the Seven Gables" and The "Green Gables Inn" are two of the more famous B&B's that face the Bay. They get about $150 a night for guests. A walkway follows the road and is worth a few hours stroll. Rows of flowering Aloe Plants line some sections of the Bay here. It is visually appealing to watch the frothy surf crash upon the craggy shore, the sound of gulls shrieking overheadand seals barking on the rocks. We could get used to this.
We continued along the ocean and soon passed the Monterey Bay Aquarium and The Cannery Row, shopping areas. We were tiring from the day, so we headed back to the room for an Ozzie Nelson conference.
Later that day, we returned to Cannery Row and walked around the many shops. Most were closed, but we enjoyed the relative peace of the area.We paused for pictures by the bust of John Steinbeck who had immortalized the area with his book of that name. We looked into the "Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory" Restaurant. It was patterned after the movie "Forest Gump". There were a bevy of other restaurants in the area that looked interesting.
We returned to our room and settled in with some Merlot, cheese and fruit. It had been a lovely way to spend Christmas Day. We read for a while and retired early.
Thursday, 12/26, Monterey, California
We were up early, had scones and coffee and watched the weather reports.It was raining and 51 degrees out. We set out early, anticipating the crowds, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium , in Monterey. For $13.75 each, we were admitted to this spacious and airy educational museum. It sits on the ocean, in a three building multi-level complex. There are two huge salt water tanks that hold hundreds of thousands of gallons of sea water. We saw sharks, otters, huge jellyfish, squids and a panoply of marine life that replicated the under water ecosystem of Monterey Bay.
Even at this early hour, the crowds were building. The Place has many interactive exhibits for children and is set up more as an educational facility than an entertainment center. We had coffee in the cafeteria and wandered about for two hours. That is long enough if you arrive early.
From the Aquarium, we walked across the street to the two story outlet mall an browsed the shops. When you are traveling, you have to think flat and thin. After the Mall, we wandered a blockbver to Cannery Row. On the water is an attractive restaurant called"Fish hopper's". We stopped in and had some delicious clam chowder and crab meat sandwiches on sourdough bread. It was very good.
After Lunch, we walked through the complex of shops and restaurants that is called Cannery Row. Some were of high quality, like the Pebble Beach Store, others were souvenir and notions stores. O'Kane's Irish pub was tempting, but it was too early in the day. The crowds were starting to build here too. So much for the "off season."
We returned to our car and then drove along the coast in the Pacific Grove section. The Hotel Monterey, The Old Bath House Restaurant, the B&B's all looked out on a beautiful section of the coast. The rows of flowering Aloe plants still were a curiosity to us. Through Pacific Grove, we picked up Rte # 68 and drove 17 miles through the Hills to Salinas. The town sits in the midst of an enormous agricultural district. The flat, cultivated fields stretched out for miles in length and were hemmed in by the mountains on either side of the valley. Asparagus, iceberg lettuce, broccoli,and garlic grow here in industrial quantities. Many cattle mingle amidst the fields and a few vineyards at the top end of the valley complete this portrait of American agriculture. The whole valley is something of a different world compared to the tourist laden towns so close by. We were looking for the John Steinbeck home but drew a blank.
A light rain had started and we decided to head back to the room for a brief R & R. It wascold out, 64 degrees and overcast.
As the evening dawned, we drove over to Cannery Row and settled upon the "El Torrito" restaurant for dinner. Even in the rain , the place was crowded. We had Dos Equis beer, salsa and chips in the bar before being seated. Then I had the sea bass Fajita and Mary the Chicken Fajita. Both were of excellent quality.
After dinner, with umbrellas up, we walked around the complex of shops for a while. The rain was getting heavier and the night longer. We packed it in and headed for the room, where we read for a while and then surrendered to the sandman.
Friday, 12/27- Monterey, California
We got going a little later today. There was a small coffee shop nearby and we walked over and had coffee and muffins. After saddling up, we followed Rte.#l along the coast for 36 miles into the Big Sur Area. The winding coastal road here is cantilevered off of the rolling coastal mountains several hundred feet above the rocky and barren shore. The fluffy clouds hung like slate gray garlands ringing the tops of the hills. The sun was shining on the turquoise blue of the vast pacific and the wet emerald of the mountain sides completed a Tolkienesque visage that you have to see to believe. I don't know that I will ever see a more beautiful combination of mountain, sea and sunshine in my life. Whatever you have to do to get here, it will be worth the effort.
The State Park area and several small motels and coffee shops give it the feel of a far Northern Mountain Forest. As we headed South, near the Esalen Institute, the road was closed because of rock and mud slides the night before. We were somewhat disappointed, but it gave us another opportunity to ride back across those wonder roads that hung out over the surf far below. We took our share of pictures, at the vantage points provided, and again admired the natural beauty of the coastal pacific.
The 36 miles back to Carmel went quickly. The suspicion that what we had just seen around Big Sur was some kind of surreal mirage naturally comes to mind when you cant see it any longer. It is truly that beautiful.
At Pacific Grove, we parked in the quaint sea side park and walked several miles along the ocean side path. We watched the seals and sea otters
at play among the rocks and the frothy white surf crash upon the craggy shore. It is a moving natural tableau that you could watch forever.
After our walk, we drove back to Fisherman's Wharf, in Monterey, and made our way onto the crowded pier. It was wall to wall people. We found "Gilbert's Red Snapper" restaurant again and had more clam chowder and crab meat sandwiches on sourdough bread. Yes, they are good enough to have several times in a week!
We elbowed our way off of the Pier and walked through the nearby downtown Monterey. It is interesting and had some nice shops, coffee houses and a small theatre. We browsed for a while and then sat on the waterfront and watched the eclectic mob of tourists flow by. They were from all over and as usual, were fascinating to watch.
A light shower chased us away and we headed back to our room to read and relax("Choke"-Stuart Woods)
The weather forecasters were doing their chicken little imitations and predicting 10" of rain tke next day. We didn't see anybody building an ark, so we assumed they were full of bologna like ours at home. We were asleep early.
Saturday, 12/28- Monterey, Califomia
We arose early and saw that the place hadn't been washed away. We showered, had coffee and headed out at 7:30 A.M. We were driving to that American Xanadu of William Randolph Hearst's, "San Simeon." We drove the 17 miles over Rte.#68 to Salinas, where we picked up Rte. #101 for the 100 mile ride south through the Salinas Valley. The flat expanse of the perfectly tilled fields nestled between the lunar hills was interesting.Toward the Southern head of the Valley, as the land rose, there were more vineyards and herds of dairy cattle.
At the 6,00 person metropolis of Paso Robles, we picked up Rte.# 46 for a 20 mile trip across the coastal mountains. At the top of the hills, you can see across the rolling coastal pastures, the sparkling Pacific. Herds of cattle spotted the steep pastures along the way, their legs unevenly balanced on the steep hills. This was a "walk in the clouds" type of scenery also. You quickly run out of superlatives along this coast. We saw a gate and sign for the "Santa Rosa Ranch" high in the hills. Twenty five minutes later and several miles up the coast, we saw the same sign. That must be some place.
As we descended to the coastal Hwy #I, the rolling Pacific stretched before us. About 12 miles up the road we came to the small art community of Cambria. We stopped for gas. It has lots of shops, motels and restaurants. We continued on for another 6 miles and finally turned into the visitor center for the Hearst Castle. It sits across the highway from the Hearst State Park along the beach. The first thing we noticed was the rather extensive parking area all neatly hemmed in by trees and shrubbery. They must draw some pretty big crowds here. The center itself housed ticket booths, a gift shop, a take-out restaurant and a small museum of the castle and its construction. Bus tours left from three separate loading gates.
The tour options are #I- The main casa grande, #2 one wing of the guest rooms and pools, #3, the other guest wing and pools and #4, the entire grounds and buildings of the estate. In summer, there is an additional evening tour that shows the castle illuminated against the night sky. Tickets are reasonable.
With no reservation(which are advisable and a must in Summer) we were lucky to get seats on the bus for the #3 tour. I think in the future I would spend the night nearby. This would allow you to take the #1 tour and evening tour , stay overnight and see the # 2 or #3 tours the following day. There is that much to see, honest!
At 10:20 A.M., gate #3, we boarded the bus for the 10 minute ride up the winding swichback of road, to the castle far above. The estate, purchased by Hearst's Father George, had once comprised 240,000 acres .
As the bus neared the castle, we saw first the twin Byzantine towers of the Casa Grande or main section of the castle. It appears fairy tale like on the top of the range of hills. The design of the castle is Mediterranean, with tiled roofs and broad sweeping stairways. We first stopped at the "Neptune Pool".It is an enormous blue tiled swimming pool surrounded by Grecian columns and a Roman stone frieze that is an art work of antiquity. Then the guide took us through one of the three guest houses on the premises. Two beautifully furnished bedrooms with a lovely sitting room in the middle. Some of the lamps were made from priceless Chinese vases. Next, we wandered through the bedrooms and sitting areas of one of the castle wings. The carved Spanish ceilings and 17th century carved beds and armoires were impressive. Priceless tapestries hung casually on the walls of several rooms. A Gainsborough portrait decorated one of the guest rooms. All had separate tiled baths and showers. No wonder Hearst's guests stayed for a few weeks at a time. Lastly, we viewed the beauty of the indoor pool. The walls of the natatorium were all tiled in blue and the huge pool was like a Sapphire grotto. Superlatives leave you very quickly here as well. We saw the main building and some of the grounds and flowered courts as we walked through the estate. I can see how you would want to do several of the tours to see the entire estate. It is impressive on a Baronial Scale.
The tour lasted I hour and twenty minutes and then we had lunch at the visitor's center. We were glad that we had come to view this place. It is uniquely Californian in style and a portrait of America's "gilded age."
At 1:00 P.M., we set out for Monterey. We retraced our route over the Hills and through the Salinas Valley for the 150 miles back to our room. We enjoyed again the varied and interesting scenery and got an appreciation for the rugged and agricultural character of California. It isn't all Hollywood and beach bunnies.
Back at the ranch, we settled in for a glass of wine and a talk with Ozzie Nelson. It had been a long drive.
As evening approached, we drove over to Carmel and walked through the streets admiring the many art galleries. Sculpture works, like those of the McDonald Gallery and paintings, like the wonderful "Paris Suite" of Thomas Pradzynski started at $10,000 for the casual collector and went upward. They must have thought we were serious because we weren't wearing sneakers. .
We got scones at the bakery and some newspapers, before a light rain chased us indoors. We found a wonderful Italian Trattoria named "Mondo's" on Dolores St. It was very crowded. We had a pitcher of Chianti and Linguini ala Mafiosa(squid, scallops & shrimp). It was excellent! We would return there again when next we come here.
The day was getting long and we were tiring. We returned to the room to read and relax. It had been a long day in Eden.
Sunday, 12/29- Monterey, Califomia
We arose late on our last day in California. It had rained hard the night before and the wind was kicking up pretty good.Still, it was mild out and we had places to see and things to do.
We drove by the Pacific Grove section for one last time. The surf was up and we watched, fascinated, as the deepening swells crashed upon the rocky shore. The frothy surf luminescent in its spray. From Pacific Grove we crossed over to Hwy. #1 and then picked up local rte. #616. It would take us up through the Carmel Valley. Quail Hollow Golf Resort, one of the areas most posh, passed by in a blur of dampened emerald green.The trees were swaying in the wind and we felt the anomaly of riding in our two thousand pound metal bubble as the elements swirled around us. We continued on up through the hills and to the "village" in the carinel valley.1 didn't want to temp fate too much. I wondered at the inanity of constructing large scale valley housing tracts like these in the steep declivity that had obviously been carved out by raging torrents from the hills above. Where else ts the water going to go? There were riding stables and dairy farms along the road that bespoke of prosperity and elegance. It was an interesting out of the way ride.
We drove back over Rte.#616 along Rio Rd. and stopped at the Crossroads Plaza where it joined with Rte. #I. There is a charming little plaza of shops and restaurants here that we browsed through amidst the rain drops. We noticed and enter a neat Mexican theme restaurant called"Chevy's", where we had some pretty good shrimp Tacos.
After Lunch, we drove over Rte.#l and got off at Munross Ave. There is a pretty good sized Shopping Plaza here. We wandered the shops for a while and then saw "One Fine Day" at the movies. It is a pretty good George Clooney-Michele Pfeifer picture.
We were pretty close to downtown Monterey, so we parked near the Wharf and had coffee in a little shop. The clouds were darkening, but we had our umbrellas, so we walked one last time along Fisherynan's wharf to savor this colorful venue one more time.
The vacation and the day were getting long. We returned to the room to read and pack for our return journey. ("Horse Whisperer"Nicholas Evans) We had a light supper and a glass of wine as the raindrops played about the roof. I had visions of rowing back to the airport in a kayak. It had been an interesting and exciting trip to one of America's most scenic coastlines and we were glad that we had come. We settled up with the hotel clerk and packed for the trip home.
I thought that the anxiety of the long trip home might keep us up, but we were out like a light in no time.
Monday, 12/30- Monterey, Califomia
We were up very early, finished packing, loaded up the car and set out at 7A.M.. We followed Rte. #1 up through Santa Cruz, where Rte.#156 hooked us up with the main North-South Arterial, Rte.101. The rain was intermittent but didn't pose a problem for us. We drove up through San Jose, passing through Silicone Valley and were amazed at the size of the place. Greater San Jose has over 750,000 people living there. The signs were pretty clear, so even the rush hour traffic didn't bother us too much. We stopped for gas, near the airport, and finally surrendered the rental car at the Hertz lot. A bus took us to the Airport and we checked in at the American Counter for the flight to Chicago. We were happy that we weren't flying United. United Aiirlines services Seattle and Portland and the weather had all of their planes backed up or canceled. The line for their ticket counter went on forever. We wandered the terminal and read some papers before boarding our flight to O'Hare, in Chicago. It left a little late and was SRO.
As we sailed through the Winter sky, I could see the far outline of the Great Salt Lake, in Utah, and the deep snow pack high in the Rocky Mountains. We were in another metal bubble high above the earth hurtling through the night sky at ridiculous speeds. How would you explain this to your great grandparents? They would think you had taken leave of your sense.
Chicago proved to be anti-climactic. We made our connection and flew onto Buffalo arriving at 11:30 P.M, bleary eyed and tired. We picked up our luggage and hailed a cab for home. It was cold out and we were very tired, yet glad to be home.