Today will mostly be remembered for being the day we nearly crashed and died when we inadvertently got between an American and a restaurant. One minute we were driving down the highway, the next, a car coming the other way pulled straight across in front of us with no warning. Daughter No 1 managed to simultaneously scream, slam on the brakes and swerve off the highway and we survived unscathed! We were in the process of driving 180 miles of Route 1, from Palo Alto to San Simeon. On my previous Californian road trip, Route 1 was closed just south of Monterey due to a landslide, so we hade to continue inland. This was a great disappointment as I really wanted to drive across Bixby Bride, so, today I get to visit another bucket list destination.
As I slept at daughter No 2’s flat and she has to work, and daughter No 1 (who slept at a motel in town) wants a lie in, I will be deposited at the pool at 8.30 and picked up 11 am – it’s a bit like care in the community! After a leftover breakfast of French toast with salted caramel sauce, I set forth for a morning of swimming/relaxing in the hot tub.
Then I am picked up and we set off on our mini Route 1 road trip, heading to Monterey for lunch.
We park up and take a wander along the sea front and the piers. Daughter No 1 is determined to spot a sea otter. At the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, we are out of luck; we spot sea lions and some super aggressive seagulls, but no otters. So we try the Municipal Wharf instead. Here we spot an enormous school of thousands up thousands of fish (possibly sardines – I’m not a fish expert).
On the edge of this school, happily floating on its back having had a tasty lunch is an otter. Mission accomplished! Unfortunately, I am not so lucky on the tasty lunch front. We go to Subway and I order the ‘Veggie Deluxe’, thinking that this will be a deluxe sandwich suitable for vegetarians. It turns out, it’s just bread and salad. How this can claim to be ‘deluxe’ in any way is beyond me…
After a wander round Monterey, we continue along Route 1 to Bixby Bridge. This was one of the highlights of my trip and it doesn’t disappoint. The main parking area is closed due to road works, but we find a spot on the other side of the road. So we get to see this iconic 1930s bridge, which connects the rugged Californian coastline with its Art Deco concrete grace (not sure Art Deco concrete is actually a thing) with an ocean backdrop.
Our next destination is Big Sur State Park. However, we’ve stopped so much en route that time is becoming an issue, so we opt to stop only briefly. In fact, as the only parking available is limited to 15 minutes, time is even more of an issue – just sufficient to pop to the toilet and take a quick walk along the redwood trail.
Our last stop is at Elephant Seal Vista. We were hoping to see some elephant seals, and we are certainly not disappointed; there are hundreds of them all along the beach. The adult males have departed, leaving the females and juveniles to chill in the Californian sunshine.
Onwards to tonight’s destination; San Simeon. We arrive at 6 pm and check into The Morgan Hotel. We have reserved the cheapest rooms; standard roadside, but the receptionist explains that as one of the rooms is required by someone who can’t manage stairs, the booking will be upgraded to deluxe. He hands us the keys and daughter No 1 immediately goes for the upgraded room key. I say I would have given her it anyway and we head off for our rooms. Just as I’m opening the door to my standard roadside room, the receptionist appears and says he wishes to reward me for my kindness in relinquishing the better room. He has up-upgraded me to a deluxe room with ocean view!
After checking in, the others go for a walk along the beach. I decline to join them – I can see the ocean from my bed, so why move? At least until it’s time for dinner and we pop to the Mexican restaurant, El Chorlito, next door. Daughter No 1 is so embarrassed about the upgrade incident, that we have to leave and enter the hotel via the fire exit, rather than the front door, past the judgemental receptionist.
The restaurant has an ocean view, so we order dinner and a pitcher of margaritas and dine while watching the sun set over the Pacific.
When offering us an upgrade, the receptionist was keen to point out that the deluxe rooms have a fireplace. To be honest, with the temperature hitting 31 degrees, a fireplace wasn’t that high on my wish list. I go to bed, but the light from the fire makes sleeping difficult – it’s so bright and the flickering is reflecting off the ceiling. So I call reception to be told that the pilot light is supposed to stay on permanently, but if it bothers me, I can blow it out. Not convinced I won’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning or some such, I blow out the light and open the window.
A few hours later, I wake up, still alive but thirsty. The tap water from the bathroom is warm and tastes of chlorine, so I decide to go to the vending machine and purchase a cold drink. I put my credit card in the slot, then realise that the slot is for dollar bills and my card is wedged in. I go looking for the receptionist and find him asleep on a sofa in the foyer. He finds some tweezers and after some considerable effort, manages to retrieve my credit card.