Sunday, April 11, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip-Day 4: Carmel

It's been a while since my last post due to the insurmountable pandemonium going on with school work, so I am looking forward to writing this post and being taken back to this trip while pretending that I am still there. Carmel and Monterey are next door neighbors. In fact, I don't even know why they are separate cities, but the separation did make for a nice division of days in our road trip.

Point Lobos State Park: We began our day in Carmel with a quick drive south to Point Lobos State Park. I have to say, this was my favorite state park that we visited. The views and trails were incredible and contained a little bit of everything you would want to see on the California Coast. It costs $10 to enter with a vehicle, but you can park across the street and walk in if you don't mind walking to the trailheads instead of driving, which is what we did.

We began at Whaler's Cove Trail. It was a very short trail but had nice views of a bay and ended at a 100 year old Chinese whaling cabin.

The next trail, Cypress Grove Trail, was my favorite trail of my favorite park. With breathtaking views of breaking waves on staggering cliffs it is easy to understand why. The forests we walked through were fascinating, with red moss growing all over them. It felt a little like a strange planet.

The last trail we ventured on to was Sea Lion Point Trail. While we had to conquer quite a few steps to get to the end of the trail it was definitely worth it. Most of the trails at the park give you a far and expanded look of the coastline, but this trail takes you right down to the water where you can get a close view of Sea Lion Rock and the Sea Lions that sun bathe there. This area is pretty much self-explanatory. If you like sea life, definitely venture down this trail.

Devendorf Park, Carmel Beach, Cottage of Sweets, Hogs Breath Inn: After cleaning up from our morning hikes we headed to downtown Carmel and enjoyed its amenities. Our first stop was Devendorf Park where we enjoyed a wonderful picnic. Afterwards we walked down the main street to the Cottage of Sweets, famous for its wonderful chocolate desserts. After getting some treats there we immediately understood why it was famous!

We attempted to walk to the beach but soon realized how far away it was, so take our advice and drive down the street to the beach! It was a gorgeous and failry uncrowded beach. It would have definitely been a great opportunity to lay out and relax if we had worn our bathing suits. We ended the day at Hogs Breath Inn, apparently founded by Clint Eastwood, who was apparently famous back in the day. The staff was friendly and the food was great. All in all a wonderful day!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip-Day 3: Monterey

This was by-far my favorite day of the trip. I would have loved to spend more time in Monterey and would highly recommened this as an exciting destination.

Monterey Bay Aquarium: This was our first stop of the day. While it is slightly expensive to visit ($29.95/person), you can save $2 per ticket by printing out this coupon...
This aquarium was literally "swimming with life". It was the most intricate and interesting aquarium I have ever been to. The aquarium is segmented to reflect the different parts of the ocean such as the reef, outer bay, and kelp forest. Each of these segments have giant tanks that you could stare at forever and constantly take in new sights and creatures. The aquarium also offers fascinating exhibits of marine life not housed at many other aquariums, as well as touch pools. From sea otters to baby sea horses, they have it all! They also have a cafe with ocean views and many outdoor look-outs over the ocean. You could easily spend a whole day here.

Cannery Row: Right next to the Aquarium is Cannery Row. Previously a factory street of canneries, it has since been transformed into a street of shops, art galleries, and restaurants. In one art gallery we met both the featured artist and the owner, and soon struck up a conversation. When the artist heard we were on our last spring break he gave us a complimentary wine tasting he had received from a friend for a winery a couple shops over. We were pretty excited and shocked at his kindness! We tasted wines at 2 different wineries. The first was Bargetto Winnery. I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay, and John and I feel in love with their signature Olallieberry Wine. It was very fruity and hardly even tasted like wine, perfect for out underdeveloped pallets. The second winery was Scheid. This was more up-scale and also had very enjoyable tastes that would appeal to the mature wine connoisseur. We finished our time here with a cookie from the Toll House shop, and had quite an enjoyable experience!

17 Mile Drive: The last stop of our jam-packed day was the 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach. It costs $10 to get in with a vehicle, but if you spend $25 or more at one of the restaurants there, the restaurant will deduct the entry fee from your bill. We took advantage of this at Roy's Restaurant at Spanish Bay Inn. The food was delicious and we enjoyed some spectacular ocean and sunset views at a window table. The drive itself provides viewers with 21 different stopping points. Each point offers a different attraction, most of them bordering the coast. Our particular favorites were Point Joe, China Rock, and the Lone Cypress. The drive is definitely worth the 2-3 hours it takes to finish it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip-Day 2 Continued: Pigeon Point Lighthouse

After a fabulous day in San Francisco we traveled an hour south to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Hostel, and got there just in time to watch a brilliant sunet.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Hostel: This was definitely a new experience for us! We booked our 1 night stay through Hostelling International- We stayed in a dorm room, in a little house next to the lighthouse, with 4 cyclists from the University of New Mexico who were braving the trek of cycling around 150 miles down the coast. We had a great time getting to know them and hearing about their adventures. When we woke up in the morning the weather was perfect, and provided a multitude of photo opportunities. The stay here was a great experience. The people were nice, the facilities were clean, and there was free wifi!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip- Day 2: San Francisco Continued

On our second day in San Francisco we woke up to some bright and shiny weather, and were ecstatic to get outside and play!

Golden Gate Bridge: The most obvious tourist attraction in San Francisco was where we decided to begin our adventure. Despite the fact that we attempted to traverse the bridge at 10:30 in the morning, there was an unsatisfying amount of traffic. Instead of going over the bridge with the traffic, we decided to take a close exit and find some good photo opportunities. We took the McArthur exit (I believe that's what it was called! It was right before you would go through the entrance booths to cross the bridge ) and stopped at the first pull-off. There were some decent views of the bridge and Alcatraz, but we found much better views when we drove a little further to the second pull-off. This pull-off has a parking lot (no charge!) and looks deceptively unattractive as the viewing area is covered in wood chips. However, past the woods chips is a path down to the water with wonderful views of the bridge as well as access to the only civil war fort on the west coast. Go here for good pics!

Chinatown: Chinatown was awesome! It was full of bright colors, fascinating shops, and exotic eateries. Grant is the street you definitely want to hit up when visiting here. It is the most crowded for a reason. It has a kite shop, bakery, quite a few restaurants, uncountable knick-knack stores, and a wonderful little tea shop, which provides great gifts for mom. Tucked away, Ross Ally has a small fortune cookie factory where you can watch them make the cookies at record speed and purchase some of their delicious creations. Sacramento Street holds Clarion Music Center at which John and I had a blast testing out our musical skills on the foreign instruments housed there. If you are wondering where to park, I would recommend the Golden Gate Garage. On the weekend it is only $7 for the whole day and has a shuttle which can drop you off close to Chinatown. It is definitely another world you will have a fun time exploring!

The Crooked Street: The quickest attraction of our trip. It is exactly what it sounds like. Traversing down the side of a hill, it curves back and forth in a zig-zag fashion. While a little bit of a scary and steep drive, it provides some spectacular views.

Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39: If you want to find some entertaining street performers, this is it! From steel drum bands, skeleton men, and silver and gold egg-crate dancers they pretty much have it all. We parked at Anchorage Mall and were able to get validated by purchasing candy from the Candy Barrel. Of course there are other options of validation. If you are a seafood lover, Fisherman's wharf will be your haven. Plenty of seafood restaurants, crab stands boiling crabs right on the street, and of course the Sourdough Bread Company with their famous bread and clam chowder. Pier 39 was like walking down Disneyland's Main Street. Lots of music, shops, entertainment, and dessert stalls. If you walk to the end you will find some great ocean views and, most likely, a mass of seals sunbathing on the docks.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip- Day 1: San Francisco

The majority of our first day was consumed by the 12 hour drive from Phoenix to San Francisco, but we were able to squeeze in one exciting attraction after we settled in our cozy room and the rain outside finally gave up.

Ghirardelli Square: While we visited at nighttime, this cute and classy shopping center still provided some great sights and good eats. There were quite a few upscale restaurants, particularly of the seafood variety, with views of the harbor which created a small crowd in the square despite the chilliness and wind. The square also contained art galleries, more dessert shops than your heart could ever desire, and twisty outdoor hallways leading to beautiful views of the harbor. But, of course, the main attraction was the Ghirardelli Dessert Shop which can be found right as you enter. Besides a quick stop at Lori's Diner for a bite to eat (nothing too exciting, but affordable), we spent most of our time at this mecca of chocolately desserts. I ordered a hot chocolate- which was incredibly rich, creamy, and delicious- as well as a chocolate covered strawberry-equally wonderful. John went all out and ordered a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry on top, held in place by a chocolate covered waffle-cone. As you can imagine, he was full after the first 5 bites, granted John's bites are quite large since he is always attemting to utilize the effeciency of his mouth. Since I cannot eat dairy we were left with a half-eaten sundae. My recommendation if you visit here is to try the hot cocoa, and if you get a sundae, split it with someone! I have also heard the shakes are quite tasty. Either way it was a delicious start to our trip!

Lodging: Marina Inn.

Pros: Great location, right on Lombard Street and within walking distance of several of the city's attractions. Also very affordable. We booked through priceline and only paid $54 for the night. It was a really cute old stlye building in a safe neighborhood.

Cons: The bed seemed to be 100 years old, and I am pretty sure I could have counted the springs individually if I had tried, as you could feel them all. The door had a huge gap bettwen it and the floor allowing for easy passage of hallway noise into the room. We got resourceful and stuffed the hotel pillows in the crack and used our own on the bed. Parking can also present a problem, as they do not have a formal parking lot; however, we discovered almost nothing in San Fran does!

Overall, I would recommend Marina Inn if you are looking for cheap lodging in an expensive city!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip- San Francisco to Morro Bay

John and I just returned from a road trip that revealed some of the most spectacular natural treasures on our country's western coast. Maintaining a thorough level of entertainment received from audio books, MASH, and celebrity name games, we took the 12 hour drive from Phoenix to San Francisco. We made our way down the central coast of Califonia, soaking in its nenver-ending beauty. We traveled through Monterey, Carmel, countless state parks and hiking trails, and began wrapping up our trip in Morro Bay. Our trip ended in a quick cut across California to LA for the SIFE compeition where we took regionals, sending us through to nationals in Minnesota! It was an extraordinary journey, and I am looking forward to sharing it with you. For those of you looking for a new adventure I highly recommend this trip, and hopefully, I will be able manifest some of the exciting pit-stops, attractions, and natural wonders along the way. I will post about each of our stop's over the next few days. Tomorrow's post: Our first taste of San Francisco!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Garmin

From the last post, it may seem like I was bragging a little about my family…well I might just have to do a little more of it. Sorry, I can’t help that my family is so cool! Before leaving, my dad presented us with our very own GARMIN, our trip’s life saver! I honestly do not know how we would have survived San Francisco, or any of our “unplanned detours” without this contraption. It gives play-by-play directions with endless map views. You can type in addresses, points of interest, and you can even generate directions to the nearest gas station, hospital, restaurant, etc. I am thoroughly impressed and highly recommend this GPS! Thank you mom and dad!!! Road trip details will be posted as soon as our thusly-fabulous trip is over!