After hundreds of kilometers of roads, hot deserts, hikes in deep forests, after an exciting but tiring roadtrip in the heart of West Usa, finally we reach the ocean… California dreaming. Another shade of stunning blue, with salty breeze and pale sand, a joy for the eyes and for our feet. We leave San Simeon and picture by picture we reach Carmel-by-the-sea, once capital of “Alta California”.
The Pacific Coast is a state of mind. An epic drive on the sunny Pacific Highway, stopping for sunbathing on the beaches and heading towards the bohemian vibes of San Francisco, is the freedom icon. Here we go for our last days, already thinking about our next roadtrip, maybe including Californian jewels like San Diego, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Hollywood…
Postcard 14: Carmel-by-the-sea
PICS. A little jewel on the Pacific Coast: that’s Carmel, a tiny village on the Pacific Coast famous for being the nest of many artists, like Mary Austin, Jack London and recently Clint Eastwood, who has been its mayor in 80s.
After a day on the beautiful sandy beach, where you can swim, surf, play volleyball and even build a beach fire (ok, not directly on the sand!), you can wander through the cozy streets of this fairy village. Here you can see beautiful cottages with flowery gardens, art galleries, shops, nice cafes attended by well-to-do – and sometimes eccentric! – citinzens walking with their dogs (Carmel is very dog-friendly).
TIPS. In Carmel you can visit the nice Spanish Mission, that in old times belonged to Camino Real, a path of Missions on the West Coast from San Diego to San Francisco. If you have time, you can also visit Point Lobos Natural Reserve and watch sea lions.
Postcard 15: Monterey
PICS. A delicate water jet, just on the ocean horizon line: it’s a blue whale, the biggest living animal, migrating from Alaska to mate off the Mexican coast. A breath-taking emotion you can live especially in Monterey Bay, a bay on the Pacific stretching from Santa Cruz in the north end and Monterey in its south. We have travelled for about one hour by boat and finally saw an humpback and a blue whale, not far from us, as big prehistorical giants floating in the sunset…
TIPS. You have basically 2 different seasons for whale-watching on the Californian coast: in winter and early spring you can watch gray whales and dolphins, while from April to December (I’ve been there in July) you have humpback and blue whales. Several tours depart from Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, generally lasting half a day (in the morning it is usually easier to see the whales): you will never know if – and when – you will see the animals, so sharpen your gaze! You can even depart from San Francisco, but the trip will be longer. In the town you have also an Aquarium.
Postcard 16: California dreaming in San Francisco
PICS. Frisco is The City. The birthplace of hippie controculture in 60s’, with its artistic expressions, free love message and liberal soul fighting for peace and gay rights, it’s still a nonconformist city with a strong personality. Crowded, rich – it has the highest salaries in US and is close to Silicon Valley – sometimes “radical chic”, you can spend infinite time climbing its steep roads on a typical cable-car, shopping in Chinatown, enjoying the view of Golden Gate and finally eating seafood before hanging out in Union Square for a cocktail or clubbing in Castro.
TIPS. In a separate post I will tell you the things you cannot miss in San Francisco. I would for sure include a guided visit to Alcatraz Island, the federal prison popular for its hard and lonely location, from where it was almost impossible to escape, with a few epic episodes narrated in movies like “Escape from Alcatraz”.
It’s a very European city, after the immense Wild West territories, and his summer fog is a character: it’s Karl the Fog, you can even drink it in fog martini! California dreaming, but with a touch of madness on the ocean…
After 17 days our road-trip has come to an end. Hundreds of kilometers, images, discoveries and people not only behind but also inside.
Which is your favourite postcard? Have you been there or are you planning to go? Tell me about your fav road-trip 🙂