California Dreaming – San Francisco

I left my heart in San Francisco.

I left my heart in San Francisco

I left my heart in San Francisco

San Francisco was the first place I visited on the Round the World trip with my husband in 2011. We just fell in love and didn’t want to leave.

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We loved the trams.

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We loved the cars. The San Remo Hotel had its own special car that it sometimes uses to meet people from the airport.

Then there is Lombard Street.

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The quirky San Francisco.

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The darker side of Alcatraz. I would recommend you go as early as possible to avoid the crowds.

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And the food, oh the food.

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The Golden Gate. Yes the weather is that changeable. Hot and sunny one day and cold and misty the next. And they say Melbourne has four seasons in one day.

The food did I mention the food.

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And naan and curry to make us feel at home. San Francisco. I love you.

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California Dreaming – sunshine, seals and death in Santa Cruz

IMG_1677We were searching for the motel we had booked in Santa Cruz and were totally lost. It was called The Bay Front InnIMG_1623which ought to have been clue but we couldn’t find the bay. We were in the middle of residential housing, no map, no Sat Nav just a name of the motel. That is how we pretty much planned our road trip in California.

Then I saw this.

If you are lost ask an librarian

If you are lost ask a librarian

Ask a librarian!

What a lovely guy, not only did he give me directions to the motel, being a friendly Californian (is there any other type?) he also recommended somewhere to eat too.

Santa Cruz pier

Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf

The restaurant he had told us about Oliatas was on the wharf and the food was amazing.

There were lots of birdsIMG_1605and a great vantage point to view Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz boardwalk

Santa Cruz boardwalk

We noticed people staring down under the pier and, being curious, went to see what they all found so fascinating.

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A dorm for seals.

The next day, we took a walk along the cliffs where there were some pretty amazing houses, including this one. I am not quite sure if having a replica of your house, in your house, isn’t a bit spooky though.

Then we saw this.

I have written about meeting the guy who drives around Santa Cruz before in Life Begins after Normal. I wished we could have stuck around longer and got to know him better, as he was a fascinating person. But other events took over the day.

While we were chatting to campervan man a woman ran over and screamed at us to help her. She had returned from her run to find her partner slumped in the drivers seat and apparently unconscious. Campervan man was the calmest there, made the phone call to the emergency services, organised people to get the man out of the car while another guy did CPR. We were helpless except to comfort the poor lady. Of course he was dead, I think we all knew that.

I am sure and hope it was quick and painless. And this was the last thing he saw.IMG_1662

Once the emergency services arrived we went around the surf museum and we spoke with another couple who had also been involved there and had been the last to see him alive. We were all a bit shocked about everything we had seen. To say that we were subdued is a understatement and I don’t really remember much about the museum except that it was in a lighthouse. IMG_1658

Before we left Santa Cruz we went down to a beach side cafe for lunch, reflected on what had happened and realised how lucky we were, and that life is indeed short. Which is why we were making this trip.

Campervan man drove past and honked his horn and we waved.

He says he wants to be president one day. I would love to see that! Mind you right now, I reckon he needs to come over to the UK and take over our government. Life may be a bit more fun then!

Have you been to Santa Cruz and have you met the campervan man?

California Dreaming – Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach, another great town we discovered driving to LA.

Sums up the laid back Pismo Beach vibe for me

Sums up the laid back Pismo Beach vibe for me

Again somewhere I had never heard of. Yet it seems to be mentioned in quite a lot in Hollywood films.

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According to this article

The city has received a substantial number of mentions in popular culture, including the films The Big Lebowski and Clueless and the animated series FuturamaRobot Chicken, and The Critic.

In Ali Baba BunnyBugs Bunny and his traveling companion Daffy Duck emerge from a burrow, believing they have arrived at Pismo Beach “and all the clams we can eat”.

In the 1969 TV movie Dragnet 1966, Bill Gannon retires to Pismo Beach due to poor health. After eight months and three weeks of eating Pismo Beach clam chowder, Bill’s health returns, his teeth stop falling out and he is able to be reinstated with the LAPD. Explaining to Joe Friday the reason for his restored health he states, “The clams, Joe. The clams.”

Bugs Bunny also loves the clams and longs to get to Pismo Beach in the film Ali Baba Bunny. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSzTDK5TAfY

Cute Houses

Handed down generation to generation these houses are so tiny

While we were taking photos of the cutest houses we got chatting to a lovely lady who lived there (the Californians love chatting to any one with an English accent). She recommended us to have lunch at the famous Splash Cafe. Apparently the stars flock there. We didn’t see any though. Like Bugs Bunny I want to go there again, and taste the clam chowder again.

Always a queue at Splash Cafe

Always a queue at Splash Cafe

California Dreaming – Morro Bay

Wished we had been able to spend longer in Morro Bay. It was a quirky little town that I had never heard of, yet guessing from the number of motels this is a buzzing place in the summer.

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From our room we had a view of Morro Rock. The bay is home to so much wild life and there are so many cool vintage cars here. And the people seemd so very friendly too.

Yes, like many places on the route from San Francisco, I wish we had lingered longer.

California Dreaming – Santa Barbara

Note left by a cop on a windscreen in Santa Barbara

Note on a windscreen from a cop to the driver – what do you think it says?

A Santa Barbara pub

London Pub in Santa Barbara At home?

Love the Spanish influence in Santa Barbara

Dress and personality code Dress and personality code

Another Occupy protest

Another Occupy protest

Delivered to our Santa Barbara motel

this was food delivered to our motel room

In the garden of our Santa Barbara motel

Proper Mexican food

Proper Mexican food

Sunset

a proper camper

a proper camper

and what the Americans call a camper

and what the Americans call a camper

SunsetThe pick up Santa Barbara style

California Dreaming – Hearst Castle

How much do you want to dive into this?

How much do you want to dive into this?

the billiard room
the billiard room

the dining room

the dining room

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

the indoor pool

the indoor pool

inspiration for a mosaic in  my own home

inspiration for a mosaic in my own home

the garden was full of these butterflies

the garden was full of these butterflies

The garden

The garden

California Dreaming – The Big Sur

Harley rider and dog

Harley rider and dog

The bus cafe
The bus cafe

Stunning views every inch of the way

Stunning views every inch of the way

Did I mention the view?

Did I mention the view?

Vintage camper

Vintage camper

On the road

On the road

Go travelling. While you can.

DSCF2609I have been putting off writing this for days, weeks even as every time  I think about it I find myself getting tearful. Yet I need to do it. While I can.

Last year I made a major decision to go travelling. I have wanted to visit New Zealand for longer than I can remember. I had an old uni friend in Melbourne who I wanted to visit and wanted to see some kangaroos and koalas and Sydney Harbour.  My husband has always wanted to visit California and drive the Big Sur and slowly we built  a bucket list  round the world itinerary.

And we knew we had to do it sooner than later as we both had 79 year old moms who had had a few health scares. It was agreed that our children would update their grandmothers on our progress as we intended only to keep in touch on line. No phone calls. No post cards.

Despite having failing eyesight my mom was at the time relatively digitally engaged. She was on Facebook and used email regularly to keep in touch with friends she had made around the world on her own travels. So that she could still use her computer she had invested in all sorts of gadgets and software.

The mom in law, on the other hand thinks computers are the work of the devil. She also thought going off round the world at our age was a teeny bit selfish. It wasn’t. It was very selfish of us. That was the point. After 30 years of doing jobs that sometimes we loved, often hated, a combination of at least 7 redundancies between us (we stopped counting) living below the line when on benefits and bringing up two children, we decided that it was time to do something just for us. While we can.

So here’s the thing. If we had put off travelling when we did, because of all the excuses we had made for the past 26 years we may never have gone. So many travel bloggers say don’t put it off, because you have kids, you have a house, you have a good job, you don’t have a job, you are scared, you have a boy or girl friend who doesn’t want you to go, it’s not the right time, and they are right, none of these are good enough reasons not to go.

In July 2011 I was offered another 6 to 9 months contract in my job. If I had accepted I would have been unhappier than I could imagine, doing a job I no longer loved. I had achieved everything I had set out to do and needed a new challenge. I begged to be made redundant. I told my stunned boss that there was a plane ticket with my name on it and now was the time to use it.

The day I accepted my severance package everything else fell into place. The Melbourne visit became a house sit for 6 weeks, we found perfect tenants for the house, and the airfares were exactly the same amount as the enhanced part of my redundancy pay. So we booked our flights and did it, while we could.

Mom was delighted when I told her we were going. And actually she is the only person who, on our return, was genuinely interested in where we had been and what we had done.

In the past 3 months my mom has become more or less housebound as she has to have oxygen 24/7, can barely walk across a room without becoming breathless, has to have  a carer come in to get her out of bed and wash her and has had a stair lift installed. I could not go off on a 5 month round the world trip now as I want to be near to my mom. Having a mom who is blind and wheelchair bound, is a reason not to go. Mom doesn’t want to be a virtual prisoner in her home she wants to be boarding a plane to go somewhere warm to escape the cold and rain in England. She wants to be in Luxor or Bangkok or Singapore or… well anywhere but home.  But that is unlikely to happen. So what she talks of now is a short stay in Switzerland.

So do it while you can.

This is my mom. As I know her. Not the frail woman I hardly recognise. Thank you mom for giving me the travel bug.

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Happy Hollywood Halloween

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West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval

Welcome to the Hotel California

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We are actually in the Coral Sands Motel just off Hollywood and Western. Been here longer than planned due to a little issue with QANTAS.

We have checked out twice, but as the song Hotel California goes, you can never leave.

I booked this motel because it was cheap and got reasonable ratings on Trip Advisor. I suspect that it once rented rooms by the hour, based on strategically placed mirrors and information issued about charging for additional guests but the clientele now are travellers, couples, friends, of all ages, from all over the world. We have a jacuzzi and a pool. It’s clean and comfortable.

We booked for 3 nights, will be here for 6 nights in total. We could have moved to a better motel as QANTAS will pick up expenses for the additional nights. We have stayed because every member of staff have been so caring and helpful. Bon, who checked us in on the first night, a Filipino who has been in LA of 18 years, is so lovely and kind. Brian offered to drive to the airport to meet Phil who had to return the hire car on the 29th. He has even suggested places to visit on our extended stay. Griffith Observatory

He gave me tissues and water when it all got too much. Checked the status of the QANTAS dispute, provided details of a taxi firm, all beyond the call of duty.

To sum up our experience here, we have had Five Star treatment form a two star motel. It’s a bit tatty, the walk to the main part of Hollywood Boulevard isn’t brilliant, but now we are used to the area, have realised that the metro is clean, safe and cheap, we have a great supermarket on our doorstep, a Starbucks, loads of very cheap Thai restaurants, but best of all great diner across the street. More on that and other great breakfasts in America, to come!

I really would rather be in my camper in NZ right now, however now I know I’m on a flight there soon, I’m going to make to most of the extended stay in the USA, by checking out what is supposed to be the most spectacular Halloween parade in West Hollywood. Watch this space.