It was a treat to leave our hotel room, walk across Highway 1, and right down to the beach to take in the sunrise. Another lovely day for travel in the making.
We couldn't leave early because the Hearst Castle tour we wanted didn't start until 10:10 (they offer five different tours, though the grounds/garden one doesn't run in the winter). It was fun to take the extremely winding bus ride up the mountainside by daylight this time, and savor the tremendous vistas. I was tempted to pretend I wasn't related to my mom ;) as she was always lagging at the back of the tour because she had to take photos of everything! (And this time she kept the flash off). I didn't know what I liked best--the landscaping of the grounds, the tremendous views from any window, or all the lavish rooms stuffed with art, including paintings, ceilings from cathedrals, priests' vestments, greek drinking horns from millennia ago, great big tapestries or the 'modern' design when purchased ceilings didn't fit the rooms quite right. Hearst had his own private movie theater that seated a couple hundred, an above-ground Neptune Pool and the incredible below-ground Neptune Pool, that took a pair of craftsmen a couple years to lay in the millions of tiny mosaic glass tiles, many inlaid with gold. You simply have to see it for yourself! Hearst also had the world's largest private zoo at the time, though little remains now but the bear pens and the zebras still wandering around his mountain. The kitchen was huge and surprisingly advanced for the 1930's. There were even elevators! Of course what we got to see between the two tours was dwarfed by the many places we didn't see. So...much...ART! *keels over*
Once the tour was over and we plundered the gift shop ;) we headed north with all speed. Made a brief stop right away at a particular spot on the coast where the elephant seals come ashore in the winter to mate and bear young. They weren't very active during our short stay.
From there, north along Highway 1 into the Big Sur region. Whereupon I quit driving 55 mph for quite some time as it was nothing but curves and hairpins for dozens of miles. We stopped at a few pull-outs to take in the views. (And yes, I'm addicted to snow-capped peaks.)
A blessing after we passed Big Sur itself, which was like a slice of Northern California, thick with pines and even redwoods, amid the scrubby barrenness of the surrounding land. That was that a wildfire broke out, and we got to see a helicopter scooping up ocean water and pass a lot of fire trucks coming down from northern towns--but they must have succeeded despite the wind in that area, because I couldn't find a peep about it on the news anywhere. Thank God!
Couldn't help but be amused because we'd been so caught up by the smoke and the activity that we didn't even know we'd parked by a herd of shaggy winter cattle until we walked back to the car. Talk about unobservant!
Due to the extreme windiness of Highway 1, it was pretty late already when we got into Monterey, our destination for a late 'lunch.' (Early dinner, more like.) True to form, did a bit of driving in circles, though I'd still be there if it weren't for the AAA guidebook map. Then it took a while to decide on a restaurant. Our last lovely ocean-view eating for a long time (and I now have a new addiction for fettuccine pesto). By the time we were leaving Monterey, it was sunset, which meant the remaining 200 miles/320 km was driven in the dark, and I was tired already.
Most of the rest of the trip doesn't fit the theme of a 'gush' journal--just mention the town of Watsonville to me and I'll probably growl! But I can say that I was very grateful to not have to drive an inch the following day. After the strain of highway 152 with headlights glaring in the rear-view mirror, headlights glaring from approaching cars, and the endless swoops, turns, and hairpins in the road--my eyes were beat on Sunday, and the rest of me was little better. And I'm glad that cold didn't hit until after this whole San Diego vacation was in the past. =)
Whew, that's done. I can finally mark it off my 'to do' list!