Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Vacay Recap week one
Let me sum up this year's vacation choice, adventures and such. When we were on Kauai for 16 days last year, we were doing good but then halfway through we started to get a little bored. It was our 10th trip to Kauai and we pretty much saw everything especially with the addition of paddleboarding and kayaking and walking a charity 5K, we felt like maybe things were getting a little stale. We went to San Francisco in 2011 and had a wonderful time except for one big thing...I was sick the entire trip and the Mr was only a day behind me in the cold department. So I missed out on tasting most of what we ate. We wanted a do over, so that's how this years trip came to be.
Now obviously about 6 months in, we started to panic. Hawaii fever was setting in and when you realize you aren't going, you start to throw the words cancel and re-book around. Even more so when a friend's daughter comes back from there and shows pics of their honeymoon. We were at the point we would've forfeited $1250 for the Carmel house if we did that...we were THISCLOSE to doing it. But we hung in and had a completely different kind of vacation than we're used to. This vacation was going to consist of walking a LOT. Around the holidays, I started slacking on physical therapy and really set myself back. I rehabbed hard to get ready for this trip because the places I booked were close enough to the action that unless we had a road trip planned, I wanted to walk it as many places as possible.
Our first week was spent in Carmel. Carmel would act as our home base for several road trips I planned. The Mr was a wannabe skater dude when he was a teen so Santa Cruz had always been a dream for him and being a Lost Boys fan, he also wanted to see the Boardwalk. I also planned a trip to Big Sur because that's where Jack Tripper always took his most special dates and I said one day I would go to Big Sur. So many people said Cannery Row, the Monterey Aquarium and such were big draws so I planned a trip to Monterey which was just the next town over.
Our house in Carmel was beautiful. I would recommend it to anyone as it's 2 1/2 blocks from the main drag, easy to walk to everything, 1/2 mile from the Pebble Beach golf course/17 mile drive gate and reasonably priced considering the area. My only beef with it is there are no blinds/window coverings on any windows except the bedroom and bathroom. The neighbors are right on top of you and they could literally see inside the kitchen straight into the living room. Not cool with that. I made a makeshift solution for privacy but other than that, all was good. Here's our take on our first road trip to Monterey.
Monterey is a pretty water town but it's a lot like any other water town. It smells of ocean, dead fish, you risk getting crapped on by gulls and it is the biggest tourist trap in the area. Don't get me wrong, if you've never been, you should make it a stop if you have the time but it's the first place I would cut knowing what I know now. I can't count how many people tout the Monterey Aquarium and people say it's a must do. Well, we're going against popular opinion and saying, if you're comfortable paying $80 for two people to get in and aren't going to get pissed off that you can walk 1/2 mile up the street to the Naval Point Pier and see half the animals (including huge jelly fish) for free, then this place is for you. Seriously, we weren't impressed and we were there for an hour and saw everything we needed to see. Everything surrounding it is basically overpriced tourist shops where we literally saw the same pattern shirts with different location filled in that they sell at the ABC stores in Hawaii. The food stops are all overpriced and from what I read, underwhelming. We did make a stop at Ghirardelli Ice Cream shop for some sundaes in case the one at Ghirardelli Square was crowded and we could bypass it the following week. They were good but so filling and just sat there so luckily I had a bit of a walk planned on the Monterey Coastal Trail which you should totally do. It's a well marked urban trail and we walked from Monterey to Old Fisherman's Wharf. I'd already done my research and decided on Old Fisherman's Grotto for lunch. I tried sand dabs which is a mild, local fish much like flounder. It was good but the Mr's really had my mouth watering, with this great halibut. But the true star of the lunch was their clam chowder. Holy hell man. SOOO delicious! I would go back for the chowder in a heartbeat. It wasn't the lightest on the wallet but didn't care. We went to a nice antique store or two in the area and just had a nice day taking in the ocean and getting some walking in. Again, I'd say go there if you're a Steinbeck fan or a fan of little touristy beach towns, but if you have limited time within a 1 hour drive of Carmel, skip it.
Santa Cruz was not a big priority for me but I didn't mind coming up with a little road trip for the Mr to realize his Gleaming the Cube dreams. We stopped at the Natural Bridges Park and drove along West Cliff Drive which is beautiful. We stopped at the little surfing museum lighthouse and walked a good portion of area and saw the boardwalk in the distance. We parked a little closer but nowhere near the boardwalk so we didn't get suckered into their ridiculous prices. I'll walk if it means parking for free. I also knew not much was going to be open and I was right. We were greeted at the front of some hotel by a chick sobbing on the sidewalk and three uninterested cops gabbing. No clue what happened there. As we made it closer to the Wharf, there were the typical panhandlers but not out in full force yet since the tourists hadn't made their way down for the day. We walked the wharf and heard the call of the seals which were said to be congregating at the end of the wharf. We got there and yep, there they were! LOTS of 'em! They would sleep in a big pod and a few would swim around the perimeter like they were either wrangling them or searching for predators. We spent about an hour there then headed to the boardwalk. Oh man, you know when you get that skeezy feeling? Like you have that instinct in you that says to be aware, walk a little taller, suck it in and puff it out in all the right places. This was that time. At one point a group of four late teens all looked up to no good and kept stopping a bit so we would catch up to them so I told the Mr to come over to the rail and I let them get a good distance ahead. It just felt like a set up to something. We went in the arcade and had fun playing the old school video games and skee ball. We went out to where the opening of Lost Boys was filmed on the Boardwalk and it was neat to see but about half of it was closed. It was really windy that day and people were on the beach but the only ones in the water were surfers in wetsuits. We walked around for about 15 minutes and then noticed little pockets of 15-20 people all eyeing the other groups giving each other the kind of greetings you'd see on Beyond Scared Straight in the yard. You could feel a change in the air and we saw everything we needed to see and that whole spidey sense thing started tingling again. As we were on the way out with a bag in our hand and me on edge, an old smart ass panhandler comes up and asks for money since we obviously were able to buy a shirt and the Mr says we don't have any cash and he says "can I have your credit card and PIN number?" to which I replied a pissy "are you f**king kidding me with this sh*t!?!" He shut up real quick. I was about done with my time in Santa Cruz but we headed over to a nicer section nowhere near the water and wandered the outdoor mall and had lunch at Pono Hawaiian Grill on the patio. That was as close to Hawaii as I was going to taste this trip. I'm glad the Mr got to see it but he agreed he'd never have to go back. LOL
Our final road trip was our best by far...Big Sur. Driving south on Highway 1 is like heaven (it's also a quick way to get there if you're not paying attention. Lots of blind curves and such) We've driven the Hana Highway and over one lane lava roads, not much really stirs us emotionally on the road anymore. It seems like it's not a vacation for us unless we're driving some road that makes others want to pass out or turn around. We got some wonderful views of the Bixby Bridge, gorgeous coastline, the hippie town of Big Sur and the beautiful McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We packed a picnic and let the road take us as far as we wanted...we both regret not just going down to Hearst Castle but we didn't have tickets and I don't think spur of the moment is recommended with them. We are all about coastal views, hikes and little spots to just appreciate the beauty of God's country. There's not many services or restaurants that aren't high priced but it's within 25 miles of Carmel so fuel up there, make a picnic and explore early. On our way back there were tons more people and we were done by 1pm and still had a good portion of the day for tomfoolery!
That tomfoolery came in the form of Point Lobos State Park. We were here in 2011 and it was so beautiful, we couldn't wait to go back. We ran into one of the begging squirrels (I don't think he's a squirrel but maybe the closest they have there? It didn't have a big ol' bushy tail), saw the beautiful coastline and hiked the haunting cypress trail. If you're ever in the area, it's within 5 miles of Carmel and worth every second you have to spend there. It's $10 but people park outside and walk in for free which irritates me. I'll gladly pay for certain things that look like they're using the money properly. Besides, you can't put a price on watching an otter bang clams and oysters against a rock on his belly for well over 45 minutes!
Carmel-by-the-Sea is the town we stayed in and it's a very high falootin' kind of town. The people are very into themselves, showing off their dogs and generally disregarding anyone but their friends. But if you can peek past the self centered pricks you pass, you'll see enchanting architecture in their storybook cottage design and that is why we fell in love with the place. You can certainly pay the $10 to see the 17 Mile Drive like we did and with Spanish Bay and Pescadero Point, it's worth it but if you drive to just before the beach and turn left off of Ocean Ave onto Scenic Road, you will pass some of the most breathtaking coastline, adorable and massive homes in a culmination of beauty that is Carmel River State Park and the beginning of Mission Ranch, which Clint Eastwood saved when they wanted to turn that gorgeous land into condos back in the day. Mission Ranch is where we had the best meal of our trip and a sheep threw us a bone and got up from his comfy grass patch to let us pet him. There are so many wonderful shops. Most are pricey...it was far more expensive than San Francisco but you could find some great gems like Flanagan's Pub and RG Burgers if you didn't want to pay out the butt for a meal. Carmel was a great home base for our adventures in the area.
Stay tuned tomorrow when we drive up to San Francisco!
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