Alright let's get back into it...
It's Day 6, and I've just had my MIND BLOWN driving through Big Sur. Little did I know there was more to come!
I had read there were plentiful options for hiking near Monterey and decided on Point Lobos State Park because the reviews I read raved about the incredible coastal landscapes. Point Lobos is located just south of Monterey, right off Highway 1, so it made for an easy stop on my way up. I got there around 2pm (I think?) and paid $10 to enter the reserve. The park is fairly large and there are many different trails and adjacent parking lots. My main interest was China Cove, known for it's crystal blue waters and bathing sea lions. Unfortunately, the steps to the actual beach area of China Cove are currently closed due to erosion and mating sea lions (!) but you can still see it from above while hiking.
The views in the park DID NOT DISAPPOINT! They were at least on par with Big Sur and honestly may have rivaled them for me. All this in the same day. It was almost too much to wrap my head around, and I kept thinking I was living in a dream. But it was all real.
The 'hiking' around the park is pretty easy. Mostly flat, well-worn paths, with just a few climbs here and there depending on where you are. Almost all of the trails hug the coast so you are constantly bombarded with views like this. Enjoy:
I could have stayed in the park all day taking it in. It was a sunny, clear day and I felt completely absorbed and content. But alas, there were a few more things I wanted to see and also, hunger started to get the best of me. Thank God I had a [melted] Larabar in the car!
I drove out of the park with a bit of sadness. Point Lobos had instantly become one of my favorite places on earth. I continued on to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a town I'd heard was quite picturesque, and it's right up the road from Point Lobos. I found my way to the scenic drive by Carmel Beach and stepped out to look at yet another gorgeous CA beach:
And then drove into the town itself to park and walk down the main street a bit. It was lined with lots of cute little shops and some high end stores too. I had no interest in shopping, but it was a cute place to walk through!
Finally, I decided to finish the drive to Monterey and check into my Airbnb house. It was lovely!
One of the owners greeted me as I arrived and sat down and chatted with me for a few mins. He also got out a map and traces routes to a few places to explore and recommendations on where to eat! The house had a resident outdoor cat, as well as the teeniest tiniest cutest little Yorkie ever. After dropping my bags in my room, I decided to head down to the waterfront area for dinner. I was momentarily delayed by said cat sleeping on my car!! SO CUTE. CA obviously wants me to stay forever :)
Once I made it down to Cannery Row I headed to Hulu's for dinner, which was one of the places my host had recommended. He described it as Hawaiian fusion and that just sounded delightful. I got a cozy table for one, and ordered a mai tai and 2 appetizers: ceviche and crunchy coconut shrimp rolls which were both incredible. This may have been my favorite meal of the trip.
I walked around Cannery Row for a little bit after dinner and then headed back to crash. And so concludes Day 6. I think I've already covered half the state of CA!
Day 7: I started the day with breakfast at the house with 4 other guests and the owner. We had some good convo including, 'Is Donald Trump really running for President?!'. (This was the only place that provided breakfast, and it was great!) Then I packed my bags and gave the dog and cat some goodbye snuggles and was on my way to Pebble Beach just down the road. I wanted to go through 17 Mile Drive before heading up to SF.
On the way I stopped at Lover's Point in Pacific Cove which my host also recommended as a site to see. It was indeed beautiful and I found it incredibly ironic I was there alone, given the name. HAHAHA I thought perhaps I might find my lover there, but I had no such luck. So I continued on.
As you can see this was the first cloudy day I had the whole trip! I knew this would probably be the case the further north I drove (it was also much chillier), but I took it in stride.
I navigated to 17 Mile Drive, which is a part of Pebble Beach Golf Club that is open to the public (after you pay the $10 admittance fee). The drive is named for 17 stop-off points (somewhat akin to the turnoffs up Hwy 1) of beautiful coastal scenery within Pebble Beach. Again, it was cloudy most of the morning here but it doesn't diminish the grandeur of the views. My favorite part was seeing the infamous 'Lone Cypress' in person. Behold:
I stopped at the clubhouse area to walk around the grounds and take some pictures for my grandfather who is an avid golfer. I posed in front of the infamous course's 18th hole at the urging of the 18th Hole Greeter, Ester. Yes, that is an actual job. And she was a jovial little lady. I had to oblige her! By this time the sun had come out. I decided to have lunch there since I was famished and was about to embark on a 2 hour drive north. I had a smoothie and a giant salad which were both scrumptious.
And then I was off to San Jose, where I was going to stay with a friend I hadn't seen in 10 years!! This was certainly the trip of long-lost reunions. The last time I had seen my friend, she was working in Finance with me in Baltimore. She and her husband were born-and-bred West Coasters, but they decided to move East for just 2 years while her husband attended grad school to see what it was all about. 2 years was all they lasted! They were happy to get back to San Fran after that and never looked back. Hence, why I had not seen her in so long.
I got to her house around 4:30 and met her 3 beautiful children for the first time! Then, we hurried off to her son's soccer practice. Later she cooked a lovely meal, and we stayed up talking for hours after the kids were in bed until we finally went to sleep around midnight. End scene/Day 7.
Day 8: ie. the day we did San Fran! After my friend's two older children were off to school, she drove us into the city with her 23 month old babe. She gave me a little driving tour, showing me the trains I'd need to get back to her house that night, Fishermans' Wharf, and the cable car stop. We then drove up the BIGGEST hill I'd ever seen inside in a metropolitan city and she somehow parked the car on that thing. I dk how you San Franciscans even drive and park on those streets!? They are like legit straight up. Anyway, after making sure the parking brake was fully engaged, she strapped her little baby to her back and we made our way to Lombard Street, that crazy zig-zag number that attracts all the tourists. We walked down and took a cute pic and then walked back up. She's a rock star for carting a baby up that thing!
We hopped back in the car and she drove me to one of her favorite neighborhoods, North Beach/Little Italy and then sadly it was time for her to head back to San Jose to pick up her daughter from preschool. She dropped me at this beautiful church, which of course I had to stop in:
Then I wandered down the block and stopped for lunch at a place she had recommended to me - Calzone's - where I ate an entire loaf of bread with olive oil, a tray of various cured meats and some bacon wrapped scallops!
My friend had said that she had always wanted to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and had never done so, but thought this might be the perfect activity for my day. She couldn't have been more right. There were lots of bike rental spots along the water in Fisherman's Wharf, but I was up further in North Beach. Well it just so happened on my walk down, I came across a bike rental shop! I tell ya, things just seemed to show up at the perfect time this whole trip.
I requested a child-sized bike, checked out the map, and began my ride to the Bridge! In hindsight, if I had known I would be biking that day, I would not have donned skin-tight jeans. HA Live and learn Bean. It was the clearest, bluest day in SF that day with not a trace of fog or clouds. I couldn't have been more lucky. I have 0 idea how many miles it was to the bridge, across the bridge and back but I was TIRED by the time I got all the way back to the shop later that evening. However, this was my favorite way to see the city and I so thoroughly enjoyed my ride. How many people can say they've biked across the Golden Gate Bridge?! Feast upon these entirely un-edited images:
Does it get any better than that?!?!?! Incredible I tell you.
Now here's a funny little ditty for you.
I had made it nearly all the way back on ride, but nearing the end I became a bit woozy and was sweating bullets with my sweatshirt and skin-tight jeans, so I finally took off my sweatshirt and laid it somewhat haphazardly across my front handlebars. As I crested down a hill just a few miles away from the bike shop, my sweatshirt flew off the handlebars and became tangled in, around and under the bike's tires. I promptly stopped and retrieved said sweatshirt which was now a bit shredded and covered in bicycle grease. Please note this was my one and ONLY sweatshirt I had packed for the trip! Clearly I had packed mostly for southern California weather.
Anywho, when I made it back to the bike shop I asked the owner/hippie if he had anything that might remove bicycle grease and held up my mangled piece of clothing. To my delight he did indeed and he even proceeded to scrub my sweatshirt in his sink until it was spotless! Californians are RAD dude. He was awesome. There was just one caveat, sunset was approaching, which meant the temps in SF were about to drop and all I had was a soaking wet sweatshirt. Have no fear, the gentleman told me! There was a Laundromat down the street. And that is how I ended up in a Laundromat on my one and only day in SF! Hahaha I kept inserting quarters into the dryer, but after 20 mins of standing around waiting, I still had a pretty damp sweatshirt. I decided to play the odds and leave because I still wanted to ride the trolley before heading back to San Jose on the train.
I walked back down to the Wharf area and bought a ticket for a line that now circled block. The sign at the ticket booth said the wait was approximately 45 minutes so before purchasing said ticket I asked the kindly man inside the booth if that estimate was accurate. He stepped out of the booth, eyed the line, and told me that yes, it would indeed be JUST 45 mins. I got in line. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. While the sun set and I began to freeze, draping my wet sweatshirt around me. It took 1 hour and 15 mins! The ticket booth man obviously does not get paid to be accurate. Regardless, I enjoyed the ride which lasted all of 15 mins when I hopped off in Union Square.
I had waited so long for the trolley that I didn't have any time to walk around Union Square. I had to find my way to the Metro to take back down to the Caltrain, which is exactly the direction I had just come from! However, the moment I stepped off the trolley, I FROZE! The sun had set and the temps had dropped and I was shivering under a wet sweatshirt. Suddenly, the heavens opened up and shone down upon a beacon of retail hope: H&M!!!!!!!! I had a little more than an hour until the Caltrain departed (back down in Fishermans' Wharf) so I ran into H&M like a chicken with its head cut off in search of a hoodie. Any hoodie. I came out 10 mins later with a striking hot pink one. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
By this time I had to pee so badly. But every Starbucks and restaurant I ran into in Union Square said they had no public restrooms! What the heck is up with that?! I was quite literally about to tell them fine, I'll just go on your floor, when I looked at my watch and realized I had to find the Metro NOW or I'd miss the connecting train to SJ. I asked the first person I saw where to go and ran several blocks to the station. Then I asked the ticket booth lady underground which train connected to the Caltrain and bought my ticket. I made it back to the Caltrain station with 20 mins to spare and spotted a Panera across the street! Oh happy happy day. It had been at least 7 hours since lunch but more importantly I prayed to God they had a bathroom inside. After placing my order I asked ever so politely if they had a restroom and they did. But it was currently being cleaned! %&$#!!! I pretended I didn't hear and just went back anyway. I told the woman cleaning the bathroom it was an emergency and she let me in. There has never been a better feeling in all the world!
I got on the Caltrain relieved, tired and hungry and enjoyed my salad and sandwich on the ride back. My friend picked me up at the station and we stayed up chatting and watching Catfish (?!) and crashing after midnight. It was an epic (and hilarious) day in SF!
Day 9: I hung out with my friend and two of her kids in the morning for a few hours before I had to be off to SFO to pick up my sister and our friend who were just arriving for the destination wedding!
I'll post a bit about the wedding in Sea Ranch and my feelings about the trip in a separate post(s).
This concludes my solo portion of the journey, and the rest seems almost like a completely separate trip. By this point I had driven over 500 miles through California!
I hope these posts gave you an idea of the kind of traveler I am (adventurous, a bit haphazard, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, and incredibly comical). This trip was about seeing places I had never seen and only dreamed about, and the only thing I spent money on was food, gas, lodging and a couple magnets to memorialize each city I visited. Oh yeah, and that essential hoodie from H&M!
Part 4: Sea Ranch, CA....To Be Continued
Have you ever been to Monterey?
Ever done a bike tour around a city you were vacationing in?
Ever visit a Laundromat in a city you were vacationing in?!?!