With sunny skies and pleasant 20°C air temperature, we headed again north, through the California wine land and towards the Big Sur. The wine country is beautiful and lives up to the reputation that the Sideways movie created, but unfortunately we did not have the time for stopping and visiting some of the vineyards. When we hit the coast again, the famous Californian fog settled in. It was not thick, rather a thin film of clouds, blending nicely in the background with the coastal scenery. From that point to the Big Sur National Park, we enjoyed three hours of dream like driving, stopping frequently for taking some pictures or just breathing the ocean breeze. I set up my iphone on my classic rock playlist, with Hotel California, California Dreamin’ and LA Woman playing on the car’s sound system. The narrow, single lane, Route 1 is winding smoothly along the coast and going up and down the myriad of hills making the ride one of the most enjoyable ever.
We stopped at the somewhat famous Lucia’s lodge, set on the side of a cliff where the Santa Lucia mountain range meets the ocean to enjoy a good meal before heading again north. After a quick stop at the beautiful McWay Falls bay and the Brixby bridge – constructed in 1932 – we drove to Carmel Valley, half hour southeast of Monterey and settled in motel. We visited Monterey in the evening for a lovely shrimp tacos dinner and walked around a bit. Monterey has a relaxed ambience, as any other typical Californian town, but it is a bit touristy for my taste.
The next day we followed Route 1, then 17 up to Los Gatos and then we took highway 280 north through the Silicon Valley, driving through some legendary road exit signs: Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Menlo Park, home of the Silicon Valley most famous startups, whose logos dominate your desktop real estate. This the Mecca of the the computer and Internet age. It is amazing to think how the US economy developed this economic miracle that assures its dominance into the the 21st century.
San Francisco has a European air. It is not so much the architecture, although in the center one can see many 19th century wooden buildings, but rather the concept of a city center where you can walk around. It is more of a city to feel, rather than a city for visiting landmarks and museums. Not that there aren’t enough for two days visit. The Aquarium? Decent, but not spectacular. Pier 39? Pleasant as a family destination, but nothing more. The Golden Bridge? Cliché, but you come to San Francisco without visiting. A bit of fog in the background would make the visit a lot more interesting. Perhaps one the most interesting sites that we did not visit, is the Alcatraz Rock. Unfortunately you need to plan well ahead to be able to get a seat on the daily cruises and I did not.
We woke up and took our breakfast at the stylish Hotel Clift, a nice change from the average and indifferent morels we were staying at. We went straight to the Exploratorium, a huge port hangar, converted to a scientific learning show, where hundreds of science experiments are on display. It is surprising how much of things you can learn in here. if I were residing in SF, I would take my kids there regularly. From the Exploratorium, it was a short but difficult climb to the Coit Tower, through probably the most beautiful neighborhood of San Francisco. A narrow stairway path zigzags through small alleys with luscious flower gardens and cozy wooden houses that overlook the bay and the bridges. The Coit Tower is a 65m high fire fighter tower built in 1933 that offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and the bay. Definitely a must see while in San Francisco.