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The World Through My Eyes Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

Continuing up Route 101

USA | Saturday, 11 June 2016 | Views [245]

We finally arrived in Monterey, our hotel was on Cannery Row so we dropped the car there and went for a wander. We headed towards the pier which is lined with candy shops and restaurants selling clam chowder in bread bowls, there wasn't too much to see so we then took a walk along the harbour, almost getting knocked down by cyclists on bikes with the biggest tyres that surely didn't look like they should belong on a bike! On our second day in Monterey we got lucky with the weather, the sun decided to make an appearance so we hopped in the car and took the short drive down to Carmel. It's a lovely little place filled with boutique shops with a village feel to them and a picturesque beach with white sand. After we'd taken everything in we drove back to Monterey where we decided it was time for an In N Out burger. We drove out of our way to get one (even though we'd passed and missed many on our drive up from Vegas!) If you've not had a burger from there before they're pretty good for fast food and the drinks are huge! We also learnt an interesting fact from my friend Jesse, if you look closely on the wrappers and on the bottom of the cups you can see a small verse from the bible!

 En route to our long awaited burger I'd seen a boating lake with paddle boats and I said to Ben we should stop there on the way back, the sun was shining and it was a glorious day, in fact it was Mother's Day in America so there were lots of families out enjoying the weather. After I'd finished peddling us around the lake (Ben didn’t help at all) we spent the remainder of the day meandering and even found some time to have a game of pool. Hunger caught up with us again and we thought we’d almost exhausted most of our meal options until Ben suggested a place called Louie Linguine’s, I wasn't so keen so we ate elsewhere.

So that was Monterey! Next stop San Francisco!

The next morning, we left for the hilly city. The drive was reasonably short and we made it into San Fran before midday. Unfortunately for any drivers heading into the city, there's not many options for long stay parking! Two hours later, thanks to google we found one not far from where we were staying. Not understanding the rules of the road over there in addition to the city traffic can be a very stressful experience and that's just me saying that from a passenger’s point of view, poor Ben was behind the wheel. Luckily he's already bald otherwise I'm not sure he would have had any hair left after that ordeal! Once we'd freshened up, off we went to explore the city. We walked for a while without a map so ended up getting a bit lost but managed to flag a cab down with a driver who turned out to be a friendly old fella with lots of information and stories to tell. He was originally from Detroit but had moved to San Fran many years ago and had a wealth of knowledge on the city. He dropped us at Union Square and off we went into the throng of people. Without a map we were still no better off as to which direction to go in so I said to Ben I'll just ask in a hotel if they know where the tourist info is so we could get a map. My trick worked and they offered me one of theirs! We thought we'd head towards the mission district; we didn't end up getting there as even with a map we still managed to get lost! We'd arranged to catch up with my friend Jesse whilst we were in San Fran so after finding a Starbucks to grab some free Wi-Fi we headed towards the bar he'd suggested. Sadly, it wasn't open on Mondays but we went into another one opposite. It's always nice to catch up with friends you've met on your previous travels. We had a few drinks, discussed politics and shared our scary Vegas cab experience with him. He then went to watch the Warriors game and we went onto Mission for some Mexican food.

The next day we went out early, armed with a map and a book of San Fran, we were ready to take on the city. We stopped in one of the neighbourhood cafes for breakfast and a really bad cup of coffee and then off we went to give our legs a workout! I don't think I've ever seen roads as steep, they're a struggle to walk down...a good pair of shoes are definitely needed! We walked towards the bay admiring the houses as we went and also got our first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Eventually we reached Fisherman’s Wharf and went to see the residents of Pier 39-the seals. There were lots of them basking in the afternoon sunshine, they were quite smelly so we didn't hang around for too long! We did have to stay on the pier though, thanks to my sister we had booked ourselves onto a catamaran cruise of the bay with a voucher she gave us towards our trip. The cruise turned out to be even better than we expected. We sailed past Alcatraz which allowed amazing views of the city from the bay not to mention the Golden Gate Bridge looming ahead of us. As we gradually sailed closer towards it, the captain said there were a pod of whales under the bridge!! Everyone on board was so excited, a pod of whales in the San Francisco Bay...wow!! How lucky had we got! We couldn't believe our eyes, there right in front of us were humpback whales, we were all in awe of the giant mammals! They would break through the water and then suddenly disappear again but long enough for us to admire them. Just metres in front of us we saw sprays of water erupting into the air and then a huge tail would appear, forget the Golden Gate Bridge this was far better! Although this was a treat for us to unexpectedly see them it's actually quite a sad story for the whales. We were told that California has had a drought for the last five years which is drawing more whales into the bay as they're confusing the salty bay water with the ocean. Hopefully they won’t get injured by any boats. Once we passed underneath the bridge and got a few snaps of it we sailed back towards the pier. We were very fortunate this day, we had clear skies and sunshine, a perfect day to be out on the water.

We'd worked up quite a hunger by this point so headed for a pizzeria called Golden Boy. They sell pizzas by the slice and they were excellent. After we'd refuelled we set off on foot to see what else the city has to offer. We walked to Coit Tower but didn't go up as there was a huge queue but we were still able to check out the view from the top of the hill. We carried on wandering up and down the hills until we arrived at Lombard Street. Lots of tourists adorned the crooked road, some so eager to get the perfect picture they would stand in the road and almost get knocked down by passing cars! When you're in San Fran you can't miss an opportunity to take a ride on the iconic cable car. We found a stop and jumped on the Powell – Hyde one. We got a nice free ride downtown, unbeknown to us you're supposed to purchase a ticket before you board. We didn't realise this so we saved a ourselves couple of dollars!

On our final day in San Fran we took the boat out to Alcatraz. It's really interesting listening to all the stories on the audio, I even lost Ben at one point and found him with his eyes covered up in one of the cells. Apparently he was following the audio. Once we'd finished the tour we boarded the boat back (a little more windswept than the way out) and jumped in a cab to the San Francisco Giants stadium to pick up a mitt. Ben called it a glove to the sales assistant and got corrected, typical tourists I’m sure they were thinking! We didn't realise it was match day so not only were there hordes of people around, the roads close by to the stadium were all blocked so it made it quite difficult to get out of the area.

Later that afternoon we went to the Walt Disney museum in the presidio, if you're a fan of Disney like I am it's a great museum to visit. Starting from his early life, it showcases his sketches throughout his lifetime, the people he worked with, his studios and of course the Disney characters we're all so familiar with. I think Ben secretly enjoyed the museum more than he'll ever admit!

Our last day in California was spent in Napa Valley, you can't visit California without taking a trip there. We set off early in the morning, drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and within an hour and a half we'd arrived at our hotel in Calistoga ready to catch the local shuttle bus to the vineyard. The bus took ages to arrive but when it did it turned out the driver was an avid football fan and followed the Premier League games, once again Ben was engaged in a conversation about football, even though the driver did keep calling it 'The Spurs' I think Ben was back in his comfort zone! We'd booked to do some wine tasting at a vineyard called Vincent Arroyo, we'd read really good reviews on it, plus we saw that they had dogs so it was a no brainier, that was the one we picked! We arrived later than expected but they were really laid back and didn't mind so we cracked straight on with the tasting. We sampled some great wines, learnt how they were grown and how to get the best flavours from them by swirling the wine around the glass at a very fast speed in the glass (it was actually harder than it looked to not let it spill) we were also shown into the fermenting room which was freezing! He got us to try this amazing port they produce and told us how to spot a good cork from the bad ones. We loved it so much we bought a bottle back, along with a bottle of wine which went unscathed in our luggage.

We'd lived the American Dream and sadly it was coming to an end and it was time to go home but not without one last adventure, albeit a tad scary one. Leaving Napa, I decided I was finally ready to get behind the wheel so off we drove for my little debut. I'd told Ben I didn't want to go on the freeway because I didn't understand their road signs so instead we opted for another route. This alternative route saw us driving up a winding road into a mountain, with the steep drop on my side. Although it was fun to drive I wasn't overly happy the drop was on my side so skidded the car into a passing place and let Ben take over. Ben had already researched an In N Out drive through we could stop at en route to San Fran airport so we stopped there for one last meal and then got back on the road. So, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, didn't pay the toll and then missed the turning to the airport. This was really frustrating as it now meant we had to go through the city. Our petrol was running low so we pulled into a garage ready to fill up but then did our maths and realised we just had over a few miles more in the tank than what we needed to get to the airport. With this great money saving idea of about 10 dollars we headed into the traffic and onto the airport. We'd left enough time before our flight so were taking a leisurely drive to the airport, this was before we'd realised we missed the turning for the car rental drop off area in the airport. Now we started to panic a bit, the petrol was running low and we weren't sure how long it would be until the next turning. It was at this point we made the brilliant decision to pull into something in the middle of the freeway which looked like a lay by but wasn’t. With the fast overtaking lane to my right it suddenly dawned on us that we needed to cross four lanes in order to make it back into the lane we needed to be. By this point it was pretty tense in the car, with Ben behind the wheel ready to put his foot on the accelerator it was me who had the great job of trying to find a spot in the fast moving traffic which we could pull into! It didn't help that the cars were coming over a hill so was hard to judge what was behind it and what speed they were coming! Finally, we saw a break in the traffic and pulled out to the sound of an angry cab driver beeping his horn at us! With drops of petrol to spare we made it safely to the airport and dropped the car off and that my friends was the end of our two-week adventure!

 

Tags: carmel, moterey, napa valley, san franciso

 

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