Saturday, June 22, 2013

California Adventure – Part 4: San Francisco & the Coast

This June, AJ and I had the opportunity to take our first trip together since before Kai was born so we decided to go big and do 2 weeks in California! We planned a jam-packed trip that would let us see nearly everything Cali has to offer - the road trip of a lifetime. If you missed it, you can check out Part 3: Yosemite National Park here.


We woke up at our Yosemite hostel early and quite sore after that big hike, but it was time to move on. It was San Francisco day! On our way west, we had planned to meet up for breakfast with an old friend of mine who now lives in Merced. Wouldn't you know, the GPS took us to the wrong restaurant location and we ended up being almost an hour late to breakfast by the time we found the right one. But it was great to sit and chat with Tim and his family and we left still on track to make the ferry to Alcatraz on time.

San Francisco traffic had another idea. The Bay Bridge crossing was brutal and we ended up missing our ferry by about 10 minutes. I was pretty upset because I know they always sell out and the tickets aren't cheap. When we asked the girl at the counter what she could do for us, she didn't even flinch and put us on standby for the next ferry. I guess missing your boat isn't an unusual occurrence because there were 10 other people in line and all of us were able to get on the next Ferry. Phew!

Alcatraz Island
It was AJ's first time on The Rock, but my second. We got the audio tour and walked around and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. (It was 9 years ago after all) They also had a guided tour you could do for free, but only at certain times, but we opted not to wait the extra 45 minutes. I kind of wish we had - those people got to go up to the second level and work the contraption that opens and closes the cell doors. Maybe next time.

No taking prisoners off the island, ok?


The view back to San Fran
Our ferry ride back to shore was VERY choppy, unusually so according to one of the crew members. A bunch of pre-teen girls were up at the bow taking photos and giggling and the boat hit a huge wave and totally soaked them. This may have amused us more than it should have.

We had dinner at Neptune's seafood restaurant at Pier 39 which we had a gift certificate for. Great views of the water and sea lions. The food was just ok. We did a bit of souvenir shopping at the pier and then found our way to Creme Bruce, a little food stand that just serves crème brulée. Yum!

Lazy sea lions
San Fran (well, technically Berkeley) was one of two couchsurfing stops we made. If you've never heard of it, it's a traveler's site where people offer up their homes for travellers to stay in for free.  Sometime they have a bed in a separate room, sometimes a couch or air mattress. We chose these people specifically because they had a bed in a separate room and they even offered to make us waffles for breakfast.

They weren't home when we arrived around 8pm. I texted her and she said they were in San Fran and wouldn't be home until 11. We were pretty tired so we said we'd see them in the morning. We got up early and got ready so we could spend some time with our hosts before we had to go. By 8am there was no sign of movement from their room, 9am, nothing. Finally at 9:20, we decided we couldn't just wait around, we had lots planned and had no idea when they might get up. So we left them a thank you note and a host gift (maple syrup and Twinkies from Canada of course) and left. That's not really the point of couchsurfing, we did want to meet them, but it just didn't work out for us.

It was time to head down the coast. We drove through San Jose and up a bit to Palo Alto and then Santa Cruz. If you read my other blog posts, you may remember a girl I mentioned who we met at the Phoenix airport who suggested we go to a climbing tree (Tree 9) at UC Santa Cruz. So we drove to the campus and followed some online instruction to find the tree. They weren't very clear and I ended up using my Geocaching app to lead us there. (I figured there would probably be a geocache at a landmark like that on a university campus) We found the tree! But...

Tree 9 – UC Santa Cruz
Apparently in 2010 the University's arborists cut the branches off up to 25 feet so people wouldn't climb it and the tree would live longer. Disappointing. But you can see that it would be really easy to climb had the branches been there.

We also did the Santa Cruz boardwalk while we were there. It was overcast and cold so we didn't say long. We continued south to our only hotel of the trip in Monterey. We used our Petro Points to splurge on this one. It was more of a boutique hotel, but the room was nice - King size bed, jacuzzi tub, fireplace, even a bidet! (I did not try out that feature) We had a complimentary glass of wine and walked down to their pier for some dinner on the water. I had a very yummy coconut crusted tilapia and AJ tried a local fish, sandabs.

Santa Cruz boardwalk – one of the largest in America
Our hotel room – tub right in the bedroom and a chandellier
The next day was our second big drive of the trip, all the way down the coast, back to Mission Viejo and our friends' house. We kicked the day off with the 17-mile drive in Carmel, home of the famous Lone Cypress. The drive was ok, but it was pretty overcast so it wasn't at its best. The Lone Cypress was a little less impressive than I expected, I mean, there are literally hundreds of other Cypress trees all along the drive, this one just happens to be anti-social. But some of the views were beautiful and we got to see the famous Pebble Beach golf course.

Waves on the rocks
The Lone Cypress
Ghost tree (not quite as white as advertised)
The coast would not disappoint though. We continued the drive and the sun came out we really got to see what all the hype about the Pacific Coast Highway is all about. There are turnoffs about every half mile for ocean oglers and we probably stopped at the third of them. Every turn was a new breathtaking sight. Despite the length of the drive, I highly recommend it.

We stopped for dinner in Santa Barbara and got "home" late that evening. A long day, but totally worth it.

Next, we wrap up the trip with surfing and San Diego.


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