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Old 11 Aug 19, 10:05 PM  
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smithlane
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Highs, not so highs and observations from our 3 week West Coast road trip

We are now home from an epic 3 week road trip in California so thought I would post my Highs, Not so Highs and Observations. I truly canít post any lows, only a few niggles but nothing major at all.

A quick recap of what we did
San Francisco - 3 nights
Monterey - 3 nights
Solvang - 1 night
LA - 2 nights
Buena Park - 3 nights
Oceanside - 5 nights
Bakersfield - 1 night
Yosemite - 3 nights

There was 8 of us altogether. Myself, my OH Jim, my children Hope and Sam, Jimís sister and BIL Helen and Nick and their children Sean and Jenny. It worked perfectly and not one bust up was had the entire 3 weeks, must be some kind of miracle!

Highs

The whole holiday was one huge high. But thatís a bit boring to write about so in particular

Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge - I am ridiculously unfit so found it tough in parts but boy was it worth it! Sausalito was just beautiful, I could live there





Alcatraz at night - we all found it fascinating, including the teenagers




Going on a cable car - so iconic to San Francisco, the hours wait was totally worth it




Driving down Lombard St - a bit scary as we couldnít see over the dashboard at times but it was great fun




Seeing Mrs Doubtfireís house - one of my all time favourite films so it was a must do for me



San Francisco - I had low expectations of San Fran after some not so great reviews I had been told but we all loved it here. 3 nights were not enough, I will definitely be back




Whale Watching - just incredible! We saw 5 humpbacks, countless sea lions and a couple of sea otters. Princess Monterey were a fantastic tour guide.






Monterey - As a big fan of Big Little Lies and the inspiration for this whole holiday it was everything I imagined. I loved seeing the places I recognised from the show.




17 Mile Drive - Iím so glad we managed to fit this in to the plans. The scenery was stunning, the houses huge and Jim was in his element visiting Pebble Beach Golf Club. To be fair it is pretty spectacular






Pacific Coast Highway - totally and utterly amazing! The views around each bend are just jaw dropping. A lot of the beaches are only accessible by boat so leaves them completely unspoiled. I was the passenger so it was fairly nerve wracking being so close to the edge though










Kayaking, Surfing, Hiking and Rafting - like I said before Iím not very fit and I donít really Ďdoí exercise for fun but we hired kayaks and Paddle boards in Santa Barbara, had Surfing lessons (which I was rubbish at!) and body boarded in Oceanside, hiked up the Mist Trail in Yosemite to the top of Vernal Falls and rafted down the Merced River. It was great fun to do something out of my comfort zone even though I now feel like a broken woman with every muscle screaming at me















Warner Bros Studio Tour - as HUGE fans of film and tv this was a must for Jim and I. It was amazing seeing the sets to some of my favourite movies and shows, in particular Friends and Gilmore Girls. We even got a private walking tour at the end as we had missed seeing Lorelai and Roryís house so a guide took us round there himself. Hope loved seeing the Pretty Little Liars sets too. Itís really interesting how the camera distorts things on screen, most sets are tiny.







San Diego - I spent the day here by myself as everyone was shattered and needed a lie in so I took the Coaster train from Oceanside to Santa Fe, then went on the Old Town Trolley Tour around the city. Absolutely beautiful place, I can see why so many people fall in love with it there. Got off at Coronado Island and visited the hotel, the Old Town and went through Balboa Park. If we ever make it back to California, San Diego will be at the top of the list.











Top Gun bar - once I had my time in San Diego, the others drove down to meet me and after a shopping spree at the Premium Outlets we went for dinner at Kansas City BBQ. Top Gun is mine, Helenís and Jimís all time favourite film so this was a must do for us. What can I say, it was amazing. There is so much memorabilia on the walls and of course the famous piano. The staff were so friendly and let us behind the bar for a photo.







Beaches - We visited 10 beaches during our stay and by far our favourites were Garrapata State Beach, Pfeiffer Beach, Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara & Corona Del Mar near Newport Beach











Yosemite as a whole - We saved the best destination until last, there is just jaw dropping scenery at every turn. I actually cried when we pulled up to Tunnel View and the 4.30am wake up call was unbelievably worth the spectacular sunrise at Glacier Point







Shopping - with the rubbish exchange rate we didnít do as much as we usually have in previous years but I did manage a few bargains especially some Fall decorations from Michaels and Joanns but also in Ugg and Ralph Lauren





Licence plate game - seems an odd one to add to a high list but we all really enjoyed playing. We play every year but this time was the first time we got almost all of the 50 including Hawaii and Alaska. Only North Dakota and Delaware escaped us!



Accommodation
A big shout out to the Columbus Motor Inn in San Francisco. It may be basic but is spotlessly clean and in a fantastic location only a 5-10 min walk to Fishermanís Wharf. The staff are also very friendly who took great care of my passports that I left behind (see below!)

Our Air BnB in Monterey, well actually Pacific Grove just next door was perfect. It was so quaint and only a 3 minute walk to the Ocean with its dramatic coastline. We also had this Mule Deer and her baby stroll by every morning.






The Svendsgaard Lodge in Solvang, very basic but very well priced with comfortable beds. Solvang is a very cute Danish Town and is a good stop to break up the drive down the PCH.




The Radisson Suites in Buena Park. If youíre visiting Knottís Berry Farm this is perfect as its only a 5 minute walk away. We had a one bedroom suite that had been refurbished even though the rest of the hotel is a bit tatty but didnít bother us. A nice pool area that was never busy, we spent a nice day just chilling there. The kids were very happy to finally have a day off from doing stuff!

North Coast Village in Oceanside. We had an apartment booked through Booking.com which was lovely and ideally placed on the beach. The pool was quite busy with little kids but we just used the beach instead where there was loads of space and not overcrowded at all.










Food - our best meals came from
Hollywood Cafe, San Fran
Ikes Place, Monterey
Lailaís Oceanside Grill, Monterey
Treehouse Cafe, Carmel
Picnic from Whole foods, LA
Kansas City Bbq, San Diego

People we met - throughout each town we visited, every person we came across and chatted to were always so friendly. Thatís what I love about the Americans, they are always so pleased to speak with you and love the fact that youíre British!

Not so highs

Thankfully only a few niggles were had starting with -
Leaving our passports in the room safe of the Columbus Motor Inn in San Francisco and only realising when we were in Santa Cruz. I can only blame myself! We called the hotel up straight away and they said they had located them and would put them in their main safe until we drove back to San Fran on our last day. I wanted to drive back to get them straight away but I got talked out of it by the others. I had that niggling feeling though and after putting a thread on here asking for advice we took a drive back one morning whilst we were in Monterey to pick them up. We got speaking to the manager who was just lovely and I would have no doubt they would have been safe with them but I felt so much better having them with us. It was worth the 5 hour round trip!

LA just wasnít for us, all the bad reports Iíve read are true. Itís grimy and dodgy to say the least, Hollywood especially. Since going weíve spoken to a few Californians and they all say the tourist spots are bad but the places where locals go are much nicer so maybe weíll give it another go if we go back.

Going when US kids are off school - We normally visit the States at the end of August/beginning of September but we needed to go earlier this year because of Hopeís GCSE results. Iím sure a lot of the places we visited would have been much quieter had we gone when we usually do.

Queuing for toilets - Helen and I felt we spent half the holiday queuing for the loo! In every single public toilet there would only be 2 or 3 max with one giant disabled toilet that was easily the size of 3 normal ones. Now donít get me wrong I completely understand the need for larger cubicles for wheelchair users but these were bigger than my entire bathroom at home!

Beaches - Venice and Malibu were 2 of the beaches we were so disappointed with. Venice was full of wee, weed and weirdoís! Weíd hired bikes at Santa Monica and rode down thinking we would stay for lunch but we did a quick u-turn and headed back.
I was really looking forward to Malibu but the stretch of sand was so narrow with barely any place to sit. I was expecting Baywatch . Also hardly anywhere to eat, only places we could find were a ridiculously expensive organic restaurant on the pier or a Jack in the Box fast food place. Nothing in between or anywhere to just grab a drink!

Oceanside town - even though our apartment and stretch of beach was perfect, Oceanside itself is very run down and the beach by the pier nowhere near as nice as where we were a mile down.

Accommodation - our apartment in LA was in a seriously dodgy area. If a homicide had taken place outside it wouldnít come as a huge surprise! Luckily we were only there for 2 nights.
Whispering Meadows in Bakersfield - This was literally a pit stop to break up the drive to Yosemite but what a dive! The apartment had huge potential but it was so basic with the most uncomfortable beds on the planet, I should have slept on the floor!
Curry village - now donít get me wrong we fell in love with Yosemite but I donít think weíd recommend the camping, not if you like your sleep! It could have been we stayed at peak times but the noise went on throughout the night with people checking in and out in the early hours of the morning and wheeling their suitcases right outside your tent having very loud conversations. There was meant to be a quiet period between 10pm-6am but this was not enforced at all. Some people can be so selfish with no regard to anyone else!
Also the facilities were seriously lacking for such a busy period. Only one server at the food places or in the gift shop creating huge queues at all times of the day, not enough bus drivers again creating long queues. Luckily we only used the bus twice as we just drove or walked around the Valley.

Observations

Just a few musings really that we found over the 3 weeks.
Bit of a strange one and Iím not sure if itís just me but the toilet seats in the US are so flipping uncomfortable. They are really narrow and arenít contoured like the ones here. I was actually looking forward to sitting on my own loo seat!

Itís something weíve noticed the last couple of years in Florida, New York, Vegas and now California but Americans are some of the slowest people on the planet when they serve you in either a shop or restaurant, it was torture at times I felt like getting behind the counter and doing it myself! They then become like maniacs when they get behind the wheel of a car, swerving and cutting you up and never ever let you in or say thank you when you do! It became a bit of a laughing matter by the end of the holiday

Another road observation but why oh why are most of the carsí rear indicators red? It makes it really difficult to see them switch lanes or pull over especially if their lights are on too!

Wow that turned into a bit of a ramble, thank you if you made it to the end! These are obviously just my opinions, I hope I don't offend anyone
Iíll be doing a trip report once I make sense of my scrambled notes and sort my 3500 photos out
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Old 11 Aug 19, 10:29 PM  
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Loopylooloo
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Wow! This looks like an incredible trip, thank you for sharing so many photos, I love a highs/lows!
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Old 11 Aug 19, 10:58 PM  
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Great report and photos!
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Old 11 Aug 19, 11:07 PM  
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Loved reading that, thank you.
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Old 11 Aug 19, 11:09 PM  
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What an amazing trip, and great photos.
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Old 11 Aug 19, 11:18 PM  
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We have done various West coast trips and love it. Your trip report makes me want to go back! We also did Alcatraz at night. What an atmospheric place - loved all the stories but we were freezing as we didnít appreciate how cold it was out on the island at night.

I agree with you about slow service - they donít seem to care how long the queue is either.

I liked Laguna beach and Carmel beach. I also donít like LA.
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Old 11 Aug 19, 11:24 PM  
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Sounds like you had the time of your lives! Iíve been to a few of those places & canít wait to do a proper road trip someday! Youíre pics are amazing!
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Old 11 Aug 19, 11:32 PM  
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Originally Posted by Loopylooloo View Post
Wow! This looks like an incredible trip, thank you for sharing so many photos, I love a highs/lows!
It really was! Thank you for reading
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Old 11 Aug 19, 11:32 PM  
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Originally Posted by LRMD View Post
Great report and photos!
Thank you!
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Old 11 Aug 19, 11:33 PM  
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Originally Posted by Feebee2 View Post
Loved reading that, thank you.
Thank you for reading
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