I’ve been pretty lucky over the last few years. I’ve been to many places and done and seen some pretty amazing things. But there’s some experiences that do stand out above the rest. It’s hard to narrow it down to just ten but since I have to do so (well I don’t have to, but I’m making myself do it) then I’d say that it would probably be these, so in no particular order:
A wise man- J. R. R. Tolkien, to be precise- once said, “not all those who wander are lost.” He had a point, however sometimes those who wander are just plain lost. Getting lost is not always a bad thing. If you fall off the beaten track, you might get to see the real city, find places which you never thought you’d see or stumbled across hidden gems. Yes, it can be a nightmare, I’ve had horror film scenes flashing through my mind and you can lose valuable time if you’re in a city for a limited amount of time but I’ve found that it usually turns out for the best. At the end of the day, you’ll probably at least get a decent story out of it.
After writing yesterday’s mammoth California post, I figured it may be handy to write a shorter post with only my highlights from California- just in case you don’t want to wade through 4,200 words of places I went shopping and where I ate lunch. In all honesty, the real reason I had a fantastic trip was due to the people I was able to stay with. My travel buddy had family up and down the state and they took us in, treated us and showed us the sites. I know not everyone will be as lucky and be able to get down with the locals so in this post I hope to pass on what my hosts showed me.
Get ready for a pretty hefty post (there is a shorter alternative here). I wanted to do a city guide for the places I stayed in California but I realised that I didn’t explore any of them fully enough to write a good guide. Well maybe I did but it was a while ago so I don’t remember all the details. Instead, I thought I’d put together a guide for anyone planning a road trip through California, with a brief outline of where I went, ate and stayed. In April 2010, I went on my Great Big Gap Year Adventure. California was my first stop, for a 3.5 week road trip from San Jose in the north to San Diego in the south, and back again. I’m now going to pass on the infinite wisdom I gained in this post. On first glance, this may just look like a guide to places but if you bear with me, there’s also tips on transport, routes, music, time and food. I appreciate that this could be deemed an excessively …
Bucket List number 43: see the seven wonders of the world. I think that this is probably a regular feature on bucket lists: Christ the Redeemer, Petra, the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza, the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu with either the Pyramids of Giza or the Colosseum taking the last place. With the exception of the latter I haven’t been to any.
In the morning, it was time for us to leave San Diego and hike back to San Jose. We had to start early. My travel buddy started the drive and we were relatively lucky with the traffic, especially in LA. After a few hours we found ourselves driving through the grapevine (a mountainous area). The scenery was something even though it was drizzling. The mountains were snow capped and the tips were surrounded in cloud. As we finally made it through, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, however this time we were meant to be there and were not lost.
The next day was our day at the famous San Diego zoo and it was my turn at the wheel. We actually got to Balboa Park fairly easily and managed to park free of charge. However, as we didn’t know exactly where in the big park the zoo was, I for some reason decided just to follow the car in front and ended up miles away. It was no big deal really, it was a clear blue, sunny day and the park really was something else. Apparently it was originally built for the World Fair when it was in San Diego and is now filled with around 13 museums. It definitely deserved a return trip.
The next day felt very long, mainly because I discovered a new time in the morning called 7am. We did not get on. But it was not a surprise, our past acquaintances hadn’t worked out either. It takes a lot to get me up and out before 8am, but the prospect of the Huckleberry Bakery with my travel buddy’s family did the trick. By 8.30am the place had started to fill up so the early start turned out to be necessary. After my breakfast of ginger cake, cinnamon rolls, strawberry pie and scrambled egg with fresh orange juice, we attempted to use a Mac to communicate with home (we are both PC people). Much frustration later, we went off to Venice Beach. We found a small parking lot which charged us $15 but we could stay until 5pm so at least we didn’t have to worry.
After our stay in Monterey, we got a early start, made some pancakes and hit the road in the Californian sunshine. The Big Sur was amazing; roads cutting through big red rock, big green, rolling hills, clear blue sky and the turquoise ocean hitting huge rocks that were rearing out of the sea. We even saw a pelican. We then found stretches of beach where masses of seals were sunbathing.
After acclimatising to America and travelling, it was time to break away from our cosy stay in San Jose and hit the road in our truck. If you’ve been following my story so far, it will be of no surprise to hear that we got lost. Majorly. And it was my fault. We were on the way to camp site in Santa Cruz, so when I saw a sign saying that Santa Cruz was in the other direction, I made my travel buddy turn the truck around. After driving around, disorientated for a couple of hours, we realised that our campsite had been about 20 mins from the point where we’d changed direction. We’d been going the right way the whole time. Our campsite was not in Santa Cruz, it was just outside Santa Cruz, at New Brighton State Beach.