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Santa Barbara to Monterey

UNITED KINGDOM | Sunday, 25 October 2015 | Views [194]

After breakfast we drove back through the town to find the Santa Barbara Mission, built in 1786 by the Spanish and on continuous use ever since, despite various earthquake damages. The Mission sits on a hill above the town and very picturesque, but for all the tour buses it attracts! Anyway it was a lovely hot day, so we took our photos and drove on. Back through the town to find Samy's a camera shop to see if I could get my lens sorted; no luck.

We really liked Santa Barbara, it had a very relaxed air, lovely buildings, plenty of trees and plants along the streets. Not too many people. It is the sort of town we could easily move to and stay.

Not this week; so now we headed north, back on California State Route One / Pacific Coast Highway, inland at first then it hugged the coast to Gaviota State Park where the highway swung inland through the Santa Ynez Mountains into yet another very dry, brown hilly area. It is still cattle country, but the grazing looked almost non existent. We diverted to Los Olivos, a pretty little town now taken over by the wineries of the region, all offering tastings - at a price! Well as we were there it seemed rude not to try the wines. The whites were very disappointing and even the reds were lacking, so we didn't buy any.

Another diversion; to San Luis Point and Avila Beach. San Luis had a lovely old jetty, still used for the fishing fleet and, as we discovered, the lower deck take over by California Sealions, basking in the hot sun and looking very contented. Pelicans and gulls perched on the roof. We had our lunch overlooking the bay, it was a glorious day and peaceful, all was right with the world. Ruth spotted a raccoon peeking out from the rocks before disappearing below. Across to Avila Beach we decided we needed ice cream, and very welcome it was too.

On now to San Luis Obispo where Route One became the famous scenic route to the Big Sur and Monterey beyond. We realised it was very likely we would arrive in Monterey in the dark so we needed to get a move on. So, no stopping at Hearst Castle, even though it had been recommended to us by friends who had been there. Further down the road, near San Simeon we found Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery; the beach was covered in seals, all stretched out in the sun. A few bulls were going through the motions, seals came and went from the bit of roaring and raspberry noises, and the smell.......

The Santa Lucia Mountains closed in on the road as we entered the Los Padres National Forest and the most spectacular part of the drive. We stopped along the way either at beaches or overlooks, just to enjoy the view. The road climbed and clung to the cliff edge, it was a long way down but the views...... On and the sun was setting over the ocean, absolutely beautiful as we climbed and twisted and turned along the mountain road. All too soon the light failed and we were unable to enjoy the views but Carmel then Monterey arrived, and eventually we found our lodgings, a small apartment attached to the owners house.

Ruth found a restaurant on the internet, the Monterey Fish House, a bit of a drive but well worth it. The atmosphere was great, really fabulous food; I had the seafood linguine which had lots of large scallops, delicious, while Ruth had the Alaska halibut with a wonderful bottle of Sauvignon Blanc produced in Carmel, all followed by a shared, most delicious cannoli we had ever tasted.


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