California: the Coast

Santa Barbara is a nice little town, with low rise buildings with red tiled rooftops, reflecting the Spanish colonial heritage. There is a pleasant and easygoing ambience, all in accord with what the traveller expects to find after viewing so many Hollywood movies. We woke up early, the boys a bit jet-lagged and visited Stearns Wharf, arguably the town’s landmark. The wooden pier was completed in 1872 and at the time was the longest deep water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco.



Santa Barbara Beach
The beach in Santa Barbara.
My Guys
My two guys in Santa Barbara.
Stearns Wharf
Stearns Wharf, the wooden pier in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara beach in the morning.
Homeless in Santa Barbara
A homeless guy in Santa Barbara.


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.


Califonian Waves
The Californian coast at the Salmon Creek.
Fields at Estero Base, on the Calfonian coast.
Highway 1
Highway 1 along the Califonian coast.
The Coast
Piedras Blancas bay on the Californian coast, with a thin film of fog.
Estero Bay
Estero Bay, on the Californian coast.
Estero Bay
Estero Bay, on the Californian coast, with some fog at the background.
Estero Bay
Beautiful Estero Bay, on the Californian coast.
Highway Rollers
A couple and their Harley on Route 1.
The Big Sur
The Californian coast at the Big Sur.


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.


Big Sur
Route 1, with the Big Creek brifge at the back.
Lucia Lodge
Lucia Lodge at the heart of the Big Sur, overlooking the coast.
My Guys
My sons at the Big Sur.
McWay Falls
McWay Falls, Big Sur.
Brixby Creek
The coast at the Brixby Creek bridge point.
Brixby Bridge
The historical Brixby bridge, at the Big Sur.
Happy me with my sons, at Brixby Bridge.
The Big Sur
The Big Sur near Brixby Bridge
Monterey Canning Company
Downtown Monterey, at the Monterey Canning Co. development, shortly after sunset.


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.

Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge
Pier 39
Pier 39 in San Francisco.
A jellyfish at the San Francisco aquarium.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco
San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco Tram
A tramway car in San Francisco.
Sea Lions
A group of sea lions, sunbasking at the San Francisco port.
Nikitas & Chris
Niktas and Christos at the Golden Gate Bridge.

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.


Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate bridge, viewed from the Coit Tower.
San Francisco
San Francisco from the Coit Tower.
Coit Tower
The Coit Tower, overlloking the San Francisco Bay.
Napier Lane
Napier Lane at the stairs near the Coit Tower.
Near the Coit Tower in San Francisco.
The Alcatraz rock, in the San Francisco bay, viewed from the Coit Tower.
San Francisco
San Francisco from the Coit Tower.
San Francisco's Exploratorium science museum.
The Tram
A tram car in San Francisco, near the port.


Next: East California and Los Angeles


Santa Barbara


Big Sur

San Francisco