Driving the Big Sur

Trip Start Sep 06, 2009
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, September 14, 2009

After three days of the fairly heavy mist that had dogged us since leaving San Francisco, we were a little undecided about whether it was even worth attempting The Big Sur, the world renowned 90-mile coastal drive from Monterey to Cambria. There seemed little point in braving the twisty windy roads if all we were going to see was white-out.  However, the day dawned clearer than the preceding ones and we were cautiously optimistic as we set off from Monterey.  

We began with the 17-mile Drive which connects Monterey with Carmel and winds along the coastline and through an exclusive residential area with Golf Course with some breathtakingly large (though generally not particularly tasteful!) mansions.  The St Georges Hill of California, maybe?  However, the coastline had a lovely, crumbly, bleached, weathered look about it and we could easily understand why these moneyed people had made a home there.

In Carmel we stopped at San Carlos, an old Spanish mission which had been lovingly restored in the 40s and really quite beautiful – it was particularly nice because it is still being used as a local Catholic parish and mass was being said when we arrived.

After Carmel, the scenery became ever more dramatic and it's hard to describe just how beautiful that coast road is.   We probably took hundreds of photos – it’s hard to select just a few to upload here…  The weather got better and better and we were incredibly lucky to have clear blue skies and sunshine all the way to San Simeon where we were due to stay the night.  It was a wonderful day capped off with a sighting of elephant seals on a beach just before we arrived at San Simeon. 

We were staying in San Simeon because we wanted to visit Hearst Castle, the opulent and wildly extravagant folly of the newspaper magnet William Randolph Hearst, built largely during the (last) depression.  Perched on a hilltop 5 miles from the coast but commanding views of the sea and the enormous estate it once commanded, the hill it is built on was the next morning shrouded in mist and we were unable to see the views for ourselves. However, we goggled at the display of conspicuous consumption and marvelled at the priceless antiques and artwork he bought for the "ranch" as he called it, though we all agreed that it wouldn't be how we'd spend $6 million....

Next stop: Yosemite.
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