Friday, October 24, 2014

Fri 24 Oct - San Francisco, CA

An organised tour? Yes, that's what we were doing today.

When we bought the airline tickets to the U.S., they threw in $150 worth of land credits for free, which we used for a full day bus tour to Monterey / Carmel after adding $14 for both of us.

Early start for us as the bus was picking us up at 8.15am at the Westin St. Francis which is just around the corner from our hostel. By the way, let's start with a few pictures from our hostel.

This is the corridor outside our room.

We had reserved a private double room which shared facilities, but we didn't expect this bed arrangement.

It is a bunk bed, a "double" at the bottom and a single at the top. Both beds are very short and the bottom "double" would struggle to contain two people side by side.

Yes, something more suitable for kids sharing a bedroom and we couldn't change as the hostel is fully booked. Di ended up sleeping upstairs so Hans could sleep diagonally downstairs. Not very romantic...

The bus tour company needs to get its technology and processes up to scratch. This is how it worked here...

  1. One bus was picking up punters from their hotels who were doing the bus company's various tours
  2. The bus took us to a central point at Fishermans Wharf
  3. There we had to get off the bus and queue to get a boarding pass as the "voucher" they emailed us was no good and by the way, we should have printed it and given it to them
  4. The boarding pass that Di holds up was then quickly taken by the bus driver as we boarded so we held it for maybe a total of 5 minutes then it was gone.
Perhaps they could replicate airlines and bus companies like Skybus in Melbourne, the bus driver using a simple scanner which works for both online and for paper. Fast, efficient, transparent...

At 9.15 we were finally on... It took some time for the bus to get out of downtown San Francisco but we were soon on our way south along the coast.

A few coastal pics after some 1 1/2 hours on the bus. Where? No idea, but it was beautiful and the weather was cool and pleasant.

Di was checking out the signboards.

Our tour bus, with our driver in the red shirt - Ken (what Hans heard) or Kent (what Di heard).

Ken / Kent was quite a character wearing an Aussie cap as you can see. He couldn't recall where he picked it up from. He certainly knew his facts and was very entertaining with anecdotes and stories throughout the drive.

First pit stop was at a small settlement called Davenport where we quickly found a spot along the Pacific for a morning cuppa.

And could you believe it? This very well taken care of Volvo Amazon was parked outside a hotel there. Hans got a flashback to 1976 and his very first road trip from Stockholm across the water to Warsaw, Poland in an orange Volvo Amazon. Enough to bring a tear to his eye...

The bus took off as Di was looking for her prescription sunglasses. They were nowhere to be found. She yelled out and asked Ken / Kent to turn around the bus as she must have forgotten them inside the roadhouse where we used its facilities. We had only gone a mile down the road so he kindly obliged.

And yes, she had indeed forgotten them inside the ladies... Doesn't she look both relieved and a bit embarrassed here...?

Fast forward down the California coast to Monterey where we had a 2 hour stop for lunch and sightseeing. This is Cannery Row.

Most of the famous Cannery Row is now a wall of buildings including the aquarium against the water, but you could walk through in places. Like here.

A fish / seafood lunch seemed very appropriate and where else to have it than at Bubba Gump. Is that really Forrest Gump?

Bubba Gump's outdoor deck was most pleasant and popular.

We ordered their "most popular" dish, various deep fried fish and seafood served in cones with dipping sauces and a coleslaw. We threw in an extra salad for balance,

The "man of the town" is not the guy to the right in this picture below but the man depicted by the bust. John Steinbeck wrote a lot about Monterey of yesteryear including the book "Cannery Row."

Ken/Kent had explained that at the time the book was not well received here, same with "Grapes of Wrath" as the locals thought it portrayed them badly.

Perhaps a bit too close to the truth? But now of course Steinbeck is the local hero.

Most of the old buildings from the cannery era are gone, but parts of the strip still looked good.

Other buildings had been abandoned in a dericlict state, but still looked interesting.

We wandered along Cannery Row and its extension away from Monterey Aquarium and the tourist shops until we found a marina with a breakwater we could walk out on. It did smell very fishy there and the "fences" along the edge of the jetties may provide a clue.

Yes, we were in seal and sea lion territory. This single guy we saw first...

...before we got to the end of the breakwater / pier surrounded by barking and a very bad fish smell. There must have been almost a thousand seals and sea lions there...

...resting and sun tanning like a Northern European in spring.

You get the drift...?

And this is why the seals and sea lions looked so comfortable. As a human, you could get here but no further.

We took lots of seal photos because they are just sooo cute (according to Di) and watched their antics and laughed. Plenty of push and shove and sun baking. Sort of like a crowded Italian beach.

We have seen this sign in several places and we love its "stating the bleeding obvious" message. How fast can we run is the question?

On the way back to where the tour bus dropped us off, we wandered along a rail trail parallel to Cannery Row and the shoreline. A little piece of rail history was still there to be seen.

Some beautiful artwork along the rail trail, with an excerpt from John Steinbeck's book Cannery Row to the left.

Back on the bus we were taken along the famous 17 Mile Drive and to the very famous Pebble Beach. Yes, there was a fee involved as this large tract of land is owned by a private corporation.

We stopped for some beautiful coastal scenery along the way. Look behind us, please.

This rock was full of more seals and sea lions but since had seen them so up close and personal already, it didn't interest us that much.

An adjacent signboard however provided a good overview of the local wildlife.

The coast along the 17 Mile Drive though is very beautiful.

We heard that there were 5 different golf courses in this area. You can see parts from one of them, Spyglass Hill, in the distance here.

The lone cypress on that windswept and exposed rock has been there for 250 years according to the signboard. It is no longer possible to walk across there, but you could admire it from a distance.

The lone cypress is also the logo for the Pebble Beach community.

A selfie with the lone cypress.

We drove past many large and famous houses ranging in price from $3m to $32m with lots of famous owners, like Kim Novak and the cartoonist of Dennis the Menace, Hank Ketcham. Of course others like Jack Nicholson and the our main man Clint have also lived here at times.

Then we did a stop at the most famous place along the 17 Mile Drive, THE Pebble Beach golf course and its clubhouse.

Doesn't Hans just look like he belongs here... Not?

And this is how it looks at the back of the clubhouse.

Inside where you can relax after another competitive round of golf.

Sunday brunch is an absolute steal at $66 + tax and service charge....again, not.

And finally for the golf tragics...the very very famous 18th hole of Pebble Beach, just in front of the clubhouse.

Of course, a very snazzy practice putting green goes without saying.

And if you'd like to do some light shopping, this ring (lower centre) of yellow emerald and diamonds is on special for an absolute rock bottom price of US$88,500.

RRP, if that's the description they use in these circles, is $122,500.

Don't forget the added sales tax...

Next stop was Carmel-by-the-Sea for an hour.

We had a coffee and pastry there before we went for a stroll around town. Very pretty, the place oozes money.

And very green Carmel was too. Taking any interesting photos though was difficult as it all looked the same...

...until we got to this building. What does that mean, Eastwood Building?

Oh yes, it is Clint Eastwood's old restaurant Hogs Breath Inn.

Clint hasn't owned the restaurant for a long time, but his legacy features strongly among the menu items. A few Dirty Harry items there.

Clint, of course, was the Mayor of Carmel for a while and there are many peculiarities there. Like how street names are depicted and the fact that houses are not numbered.

Sealed sidewalks was also a no-no, but most parts of central Carmel now have them.

We then returned to the cute plaza were we had our coffee break as we waited for the bus to depart.

Dark settled as we drove north through Silicon Valley where famous technology names appeared on the signboards. Palo Alto, Mountain View, Silicon Valley Boulevard.
It was a long drive back and we did not return to our hostel until 9.15pm, not 7.15pm as advised. That of course didn't matter except that we had planned to make our own dinner in our hostel kitchen, which closes at 10pm.
Not to worry. Di can whip up a meal in no time. And nobody else around in the kitchen.

Yes, at Hans' request we were having Di's world famous sludge. Today's sludge was spicy red rice and beans with okra, corn and tomato and sausage. Didn't it just taste absolutely wonderful...

After such a long day on the road, we decided on a lazy morning to follow. For now though, good night.

No comments:

Post a Comment