California · Monterey · roadtrip · Travel · usa

USA Sept 2010 – Leaving our hearts in San Francisco…and finding them in Monterey

We’re only almost ready to leave San Francisco behind; there are still two things that we have to do.  We pack everything into the Fletchemobile – raring to go after a 2 day rest – and check out of the Hotel Del Sol at 8:30am. First thing: Driving down Lombard Street – the crooked bit.

At 8:45am on a Monday morning, there are no queues, and it seems like we’re the only crazy ones driving it! The Fletchemobile teeters at the crest of the hill…. And then slowly, slowly we make our way down….  I video the whole thing on my camera; it takes 1 minute and 15 seconds from top to bottom. It certainly seems a lot more twisty when you’re driving down it…

Driving down Lombard St

Second thing: Golden Gate Bridge. Despite seeing it from afar and passing by the Vista Point on the bus back from Golden Gate Park, we want to get a closer view. We haven’t had a chance to cross it this trip… yet another item on the mental “When I come back to San Francisco I will…” list.  We content ourselves by parking at the Vista Point and taking lots and lots of photos. We promise ourselves that next time we will DEFINITELY see what’s on the other side of that iconic bridge!

Golden Gate Bridge

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Before we know it, we’re heading out of San Francisco, and the Fletchemobile gets to see the ocean for the very first time. We’re well ahead of schedule for today – think I must have factored in our first lie-in for this morning, yet we were still up at 8am. Subsequently, our plan to stop at Half Moon Bay for lunch is scuppered – a waste of a restaurant.com voucher, but I don’t fancy eating $25 worth of seafood at 10:30am on a Monday morning. We make a quick stop at Pescadero State Beach, and then onto Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Mr Fletche is a fan of lighthouses and we agree that this would certainly be a magnificent place to be a lighthouse keeper…it beats Portland Bill anyway!

Half Moon Bay

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Expecting cooler temperatures on the coast, we – Mr Fletche in particular – are dressed for travelling in an air-conditioned Fletchemobile, and not for sunworshipping. So we are not particularly suitably dressed for the mid-90 degrees temperature which hits us when we park up at Santa Cruz. However, we take a stroll along the famous Boardwalk – most of which is closed off for a Private Party.

Santa Cruz

We stop for a bite to eat at Beach Street Café – which looks a little grotty from the outside, but inside is extremely cosy and welcoming, with tons of original prints adorning the walls – and a great view of the beach and the ocean. We order a Roast Beef Sandwich for me and a Grilled Ham & Cheese sandwich for Mr Fletche. Both are served quickly and the food is excellent.

Our next stop is Moss Landing Wildlife Area – we are lured by the photographic opportunities provided by Moss Landing Power Plant as much as the wildlife! Why are power plants not this pretty back home? We spy lots of birds which we don’t recognise (we’re not ornithologists – can’t you tell?) and sealions and sea otters – which we do recognise. A two-minute walk over the sand dunes and there is the most breathtaking isolated beach. Mr Fletche and I agree that it is one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen, and we could easily stay here for hours just watching the sunbeams reflect off the sea and the waves crash against the sand.  We reluctantly leave the beach behind; vowing to return some day for a romantic sunset with a picnic and a bottle of wine or two…

Moss Landing

Chris at Moss Beach

We arrive in Monterey at 3:30 and find Hotel Pacific easily. We loved, loved, loved this hotel and we soon found ourselves falling in love with Monterey itself. After a couple of hours rest (truth being that I love our hotel room so much that I don’t want to leave…), we head down to Fisherman’s Wharf, a mere five-minute walk from our hotel.

Like its San Francisco namesake, this is a touristy area full of gift shops and restaurants, but this one is somewhat more charming than it’s more northerly neighbour. We spend some time watching the seals and sea lions balancing on the pilings and on the moored boats in the bay; and we check out the location of Monterey Bay Whale Watch for tomorrow morning’s trip.

Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey

It would be rude not to have seafood here; there is plenty of choice, but we opt for Abolonetti’s. We are seated in the rear with wonderful harbour views, and the waiter is attentive and efficient. I decide that the Mai Tai is my cocktail of choice this holiday, and this one is possibly tastier than the one at Cioppinio’s in San Francisco…

We decide to push the boat out (ho ho, a harbour related pun) and order a small appetizer each; Mr Fletche has clam chowder, whilst I have a mixed green salad. We both have the fresh fish & chips.  The food was superb, and I’ve been surprised since I’ve returned home to find quite a few negative reviews of this restaurant.

We have a wander around the Wharf for a while, dipping in and out of gift shops and buying two of the most humungous chocolate apples from Carousel Candies. Of course, we’re far too stuffed to eat them now, but figure we’ll save them until tomorrow… We also watch the racoons for a while – I can’t believe we hardly saw any wildlife in Yosemite, yet here we are watching a huge family of raccoons here on the coast!

We drop off our Chocolate Apples and gift shop purchases back in our hotel room, and then have a wander downtown. Being Brits abroad, it seemed only fair that we should pop into one of the three “British” pubs in Monterey for a quick drink – “The Crown & Anchor” was our pub of choice tonight.

The décor is certainly authentic, with a nautical theme and the type of ornamentation that would proudly grace any tavern back home… And much like the pubs back home, most of the clientele can be found smoking out back in the outdoor patio area – although the temperature is considerably warmer. Two beers and rum and cokes later and it’s back to the Hotel Pacific for our first nights sleep in that huge comfy bed…

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