The stretch of Highway 1 from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara was a fun day full of surprises. I had insisted to Louise that we try to spot some sights from the fantastic movie “Sideways” which is made around the Santa Barbara wine country. One of those stops was Ostrichland which was great fun. Louise actually chose to not enter, (there you missed something Louise), but I had never seen Ostriches close up and was eager to meet them eye to eye. I had such a good laugh watching those beasts, a real energy boost However I was a bit afraid of feeding them since they are not exactly the friendlies animals on earth.
After Ostrichland it was time to stop by the Danish village Solvang. My pre feeling was that this was going to be a real tourist trap that we would quickly rush through and leave with a disappointing feeling. But it actually turned out very different. Sure, Solvang is very touristic but it has a natural Danish feel. It is a pretty place full of greenery, great architecture and cosy cafés.
As we continued towards our stop for the night, Santa Barbara, we took the opportunity to take a detour around the beautiful wine country of Santa Barbara. Most tourists, including myself, immediately associate Napa Valley with California wine. But I found Santa Barbara (where “Sideways” was shot) much more pretty. It was a well worth detour
Once we had checked into our motel for the night we took a stroll through central Santa Barbara. What a pretty place! Palm lined streets and lots of great people watching. And a beautiful Courthouse from where you had amazing views. In the evening they had an open air movie/picknick event. We would have loved to stay but as the sun sunk it became really cold and we instead opted for an early evening at the motel.
The part of Highway 1 stretching from Monterey to Morro Bay is absolutely stunning. On the map this part is not so far in distance but due to all the beauty which will make you want to stop all the time, two full days is really to recommend. Part of this stretch is called the “Big Sur”, a very dramatic drive along open ocean. I had read in a couple of forums that the Big Sur was so scary that if you drove from north to south (meaning having only ocean on your right) you would sometimes, as passenger, have to close your eyes out of anxiety. Now, this is really not true at all
As we were approaching Cambria, where we were going to spend the night before continuing to Morro Bay, we suddenly saw lots and lots of car parked further ahead and immediately understood there must be something of big interest. And yes it was! A whole beach packed with lazy, chubby Elephant Seals resting close together. Was I in love! They are so funny and charming to watch and I had a hard time leaving them…
The next day we continued towards Morro Bay. Before going there we visited the lovely little town San Luis Obispo (also called simply SLO). Somehow I hardly got any pictures from there but it was a cosy town highly recommended to stroll around a few hours. However if we would have know just how wonderful Morro Bay was I think we would have rushed a bit more. Our hotel for the night was really funky and overlooking the picturesque harbor where we strolled around in the evening. There we also had the possibility to share a bottle of wine, that we had bought in Napa Valley, since everything was withing walking distance. The lady running this cute little place gave us whine glasses and together with some complimentary snacks and a big bunch of yellow ducks we finally had a moment to reflect.
Morro Bay has a big population of sea otters. Really charming creatures. We had decided to find them the next morning before setting of. Unfortunately they were rather far from shore that morning so it was hard to catch them on picture. But I got a few and also a girl on her way to find a good surf sport
Full of expectations on the legendary Highway 1 of we took from San Francisco towards our first stop, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, where we also were going to spend the first night. I have to say this stay was one of my highlights on this route. The lighthouse is very remote and has a kind of spooky feel about it. It was so peaceful to just stroll around the lighthouse area and feel the fresh (chilly) coastal winds. The hostel itself was really quiet and super cheap. Not the cleanest perhaps but for sure very memorable.
For dinner we went to the excellent Duarte´s Tavern in the small village Pescadero, famous for their Artichokes. This place was only a short drive from from Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We had an excellent dinner there followed by a American pie for desert. Walnut and a berry flavors! Still today I get a watering mouth from thinking about this amazing cake. Good timing since it was actually my birthday this day And my birthday ended with 30 minutes hot tub with a view. Who would have expected a lighthouse with a hot tub?
We left our hostel early in the morning the following day, to drive down to Monterey where our day was going to start with a whale watching tour. This is something I had been looking forward to very much and I have to say it did not at all live up to my expectations. Even though I had taken a pill against sea sickness I had constant nausea and the boat was too crowded with eager people. Besides this I just could not get excited by just seeing a small part of the back of a whale from a really far distance. Zooming out as much as I could below whale shot is the best I got. My highlight of that tour was instead when a big bunch of dolphins came swimming past. That was really cool. But the best part was once we approached the shore again and the happy sea lions, that are all over the town, greeted us in their playful manner.
Our day ended by a brief visit to the picturesque town Carmel, next to Monterey, where we also had a wonderful dinner. And after that a sunset drive along the Monterey shore. I loved little Carmel but Monterey to me was not so special. However I know they have a great aquarium which we unfortunately had no time to visit! The best part of Monterey were for sure the sea lions. They are so charming and literally everywhere!!
San Francisco is just as cool as everyone tells you. If not cooler. It is a funky city with funky inhabitants. And lots of dogs! But there are two reasons why I would not like to live in this city. It is freezing cold winds most days of the year (I asked a local and she said September and October were a bit better but for the rest it is cold and most of the time a bit grayish sky). The second reasons is the hills. They are fun for a first timer but I am sure I would not find them as intriguing after a while…
Above picture is taken from the opposite side of San Francisco, in Sausalito. A cute community that we, coming from the north, passed by before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. In Sausalito the sun was shining but as we hit the bridge we were caught in that gray San Francisco cloud. You can see it “hanging” over SF on above picture as well.
After checking in at Hostel International Fisherman´s Wharf we strolled along the shore. I must say that Fisherman’s Wharf is what impressed med least in San Francisco and please don´t bother trying the famous Clamchower. It was not appetizing at all (picture below). Pier 39, famous for seal watching, was somehow empty this day. Not the best start
The first encounter with SF took a turn at night when we heard there was a local Friday food market just around the corner. “Off the Grid” as this recurrent event is called was a tasty surprise. And even though we were cold as ice we enjoyed enjoyed an even colder beer and some street food.
Our first full San Francisco day was discovered mostly by foot. After managing the first obligatory photo shoot of the local tram (which is by the way just used by tourists, why I will come back to…), we started of with the “must see” Lombard street”. This quirky road is fun to watch. But imagine to live there
The hills took us up and down and I soon discovered how fun it was to never know what was behind the next hill. A game of baseball or a friendly Italian man with his very old dog in the Italian quarters…
When it was time to eat the natural choice was the Saturday “Ferry Plaza Farmer´s market”. There the healthy local population enjoyed their weekend lunch and did their ecological groceries.
After lunch we did some Levis shopping around Union Square. Then we had decided to end the day by taking the tram back (downhills) to Fisherman´s Wharf. So though most of the tourists which resulted in a one hour queue. Totally normal said the locals who always seemed to prefer the bus. Anyhow, we got our ride and it was fun
Our second full day started pretty late in the day and the reason for that is that we had a bit too much fun the evening before. Since it was Saturday night we decided to go clubbing. Being in San Francisco checking out the rainbow district Castro seemed like the most fun way to spend the night. It started with a kind of drag show combined charity for illegal Latino gay men and ended in a fun dance bar where we finally got to dance to great house music with a big mix of happy people
The next day we started with a walk through the large China Town of San Francisco. Then further to see the “Painted Ladies” houses followed by a stroll through the hippie quarters in the “The Haight”. On the way home we had some Mexican food in Castro and so another day was gone….
San Francisco is a fun place but we felt our 2 1/2 day was enough to see and feel this city. (If we had one more day we would have added Alcatraz). To be honest, we wanted to get rid of the cold so we were rather happy to leave.
In San Francisco the word “micro” can be found quite often, example micro beer brewery (common). One funny thing we experienced was the micro climates. It could be bearable at the Fisherman´s Wharf and even a little bit sun and actually fine for T-shirt. But a short bus ride “uphill” and a fleece and shelf jacket was necessary.
On our last day we drove past the Golden Gate Bridge lookout and managed to get some great shots. The first one below is natural colors. And the others a bit are more like the way I would have liked it to be
Sometimes your biggest disappointment can turn out to become a really beautiful memory. I think that is how I best would like to describe my meeting with Point Reyes. Point Reyes is a vast cape just north of San Francisco, a natural seashore sanctuary. Louise and I had decided to take a night in this area before heading to San Francisco. We had read about the amazing views from the Point Reyes shores, big chanses of seeing dolphins and even whales. What met us was ice cold wind and a grey sky. After checking in to the rustic Point Reyes hostel where we were placed in a new built dormitory house which we had all to ourself, we took a windy walk along the coast.
Even if it was grey and cold I slowly started to appreciate the feeling of peace that came with this laidback place. And after a wonderful nights sleep in a super quiet hostel without wifi and other media noise, we had a lovely day discovering parts of Point Reyes before heading to San Fransisco. I had fresh oysters at a cute oyster farm called Drakes Bay which we just by coincidence passed by. We felt the fresh and powerful Pasific winds as we wandered along the Lighthouse area. Cute deers popped out from nowhere and greeted us to their peaceful home. When thinking back I have only good memories from this experience which I felt was a bit fairytalish. A true natural gem.
California really has so much to offer! After two days discovering Yosemite we had booked two nights in the Napa Valley region, famous for its wineries. Apart from Napa Valley there is Sonoma Valley, the latter said to be more relaxed. When doing research we fell for the town Calistoga in the northern part of the Napa Valley, since that particular part is famous not only for wine but also for its thermal activities. Calistoga has lots of hot springs and spas. The speciality for the town is mud bath with volcanic soil from the area. Therefore our first activity upon arrival was a mud bath followed by some soaking in the different temperatured hot springs in “Calistoga Spa hot springs”. It was a wonderful afternoon and for the first time on this trip we had time to actually relax. We ended the day with great Italian, accompanied with excellent red wine ofcourse. Then we slept like babies in our comfortable hotel. Filled with energy for the next day´s activity!
The next day we had booked a self guided tour called “bike & sip”. After being provided bike, helmet and a map with a couple of wineries where we could do wine tasting just by showing our wrist band, of we took. The sun was shining and it was nor desert heat or chilly coastal winds. Just perfect temperature. The instructions we got was to rather bike and spit but we didn´t follow those instructions but enjoyed the great wine throughout the day. At one small winery we decided to have a picknick that we had bought along the way. It was just a lovely day! From the five places we visited I liked “Lava vine” and “Tedeschi” best. That were small, hip places with relaxed tasting atmosphere.
Time again to pick up where I left on my South Western USA Rd Trip. But first I want to wish you all a Happy 2014! May this year bring lots of new exiting travel memories
The roadtrip me and my friend did last year in USA was for sure memorable. But very very intense. If there is something I have learnt lately about myself in regards to travelling, it is that I want to try to add fewer highlights on my future travels to have some more time to relax. Seeing a lot is allways in contradiction to the relaxing part. And it is a hard choice. But I will try. Cause more time in one spot also gives more spontanious meetings and happenings. And those are usually the most memorable once.
This years travel adventures will begin in March with 2 1/2 week Brazil whereof one week work. I could have chosen to pack lots of places into the vacation part but instead I have chosen to stay 6 days in Florianapolis after my workweek in Curitiba. And I will finish with a weekend Rio (where I have been before). In Floripa I look forward to relax and maybe try some surfing. And I want to pick up some other kind of surfing again, the couchsurfing. Couchsurfing, which you can read more about here, is not only about staying at each others homes. It is as great for just meeting locals and hanging out.
Well, back to US and Yosemite which was the stop after the visit to Bodie. Yosemite is many´s favourite but not really mine. It is a huge national park with forest, mountains and lakes. I have realized I am not a mountain person. And forest I have enough in my birthplace Småland. However, I love jungle (because of richness of exotic animal speeches).
Maybe Yosemite would have given a complete different picture off-season or in a more remote place of the park. But if you go in July to the Yosemite Valley area, where most treks starts and most lodging within the park i situated, you will sometimes have to queue the paved trails. Nevertheless, there were ofcourse some beauty around. I enjoyed seeing the Giant Sequoias in the The Mariposa Grove. I however think this is not the best place to see the real giants. But it gave a flavour And I enjoyed the drive to Yosemite Valley after entering though the Tioga Pass, elevation almost 3000 meters.
Our entrance and starting point, the Tioga Pass
Giant Sequoias in the The Mariposa Grove
Trek around Yosemite Valley
We hoped to see bears but had to be happy with bambi and bear bins
My best memories from Dubai are for sure those that happened after sunset (sunset in Dubai in November happens at 17:30). Simply because I love twinkling skyscrapers, enchanting views, cool design and amazing food. Taxi cost hardly nothing in Dubai so from our basic and very affordable and comfy hotel Akas Inn in Al Barsha, we threw ourself in to taxis many times a day. Neon passing as we were constantly on our way down Sheikh Zayed road.
Two nights we met up with a Danish girl living in Dubai that I got to know through WordPress. We have been following eachothers blogs for a while now and I am really glad we decided to meet in real. Sanne is such a lovely person – sincere, smart and versatile. Under alisa Mitzie Mee, Sanne´s lifestyle blog mainly focus on food but also other topics that occurs in her daily life. Our first “date” was a dinner at the lovely Aquara restaurant in the Dubai Marina. We enjoyed a great buffet, including free flowing cocktails and a magic view. Our evening ended at the tranquil bar “Arabian Courtyards” at hotel One&Only Royal Mirage.
Me and Louise literally ate ourself around the globe in Dubai. Everywhere we went the food was amazing. We had Lebanese, Pars (Iranian), Italian, American, Chinese, Japanese, South African and two international buffets. Most of the times we ate in very affordable but excellent restaurants in the malls or in the hotels. Each of the large hotels has several restaurants, bars and nightclubs. To have a drink with your meal the hotels are the only option. In other places there are only non alcoholic bevarages served.
We spent one full day downtown Dubai to discover Burj Khalifa, that I wrote about in my last post, and the Dubai mall. That night we ended the evening on the 64th floor in the fancy hotel bar “Neos” in hotel The Address downtown. We had a table right by the window and an enchanting view.
I absolutely loved the area Madinat that consists of two large luxurious hotels and a bazaar. The whole area is built up with water channels and restaurant promenades. The enviroment is so beautiful and we spent a whole evening there. We felt like queens in the adorable hotel lobbies and the lights and the fabulous architecture of this place was just magic – from the sunset cocktail at Bahribar and the Italian dinner in Toscana to the Shisha at Barzar.
It was once more time to meet up with Sanne for the weekly Tuesday Ladies Night. After taking a peak at her and her husbands place in Dubai Marina we started our night at a club called XL and finished with dancing at a club called “Boudoir”, the latter situated in the “Jumeirah Beach Resort”. We had such a fun evening
And here are some more beautiful lounges and bars that we were lucky to discovered during our trip. I spent quite some time on the great link Platinum list to find out about Dubai nightlife. As a result I think we got to discover a whole lot of cool places
I have now chosen to make two posts about our wonderful days in Dubai, beside my special food post from “Saffron” that you could enjoy last week This post will show you how we filled our days before sun set, and the next post…well, how we spent the nights. Explanations are found under each picture.
The lenght of our (mine and my friend Louise) stay in Dubai was nine days. We felt this was a perfect amount of time since there is so much to do in this city. I can understand those who don´t like Dubai. It is a bit “plastic” and, just like in the USA for example, there is no possibilities for cosy strolls in between sights. Despite this, we found Dubai faschinating. It is a bit like a fairy tail, just there to entertain you. If you don´t stay in a fancy beach hotel there are frankly not that much beach to chose between. Out of the public spots available we found the JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) beach the best. We also tried two beach clubs, but they allways come with some kind of charge. However if you anyhow plan to eat and drink it is not that bad since the price is usually a “minimum spend” in return for a sunbed. In those places there is allways great upbeat lounge music in the background and a more sofisticated feel.
Besides spending time on the beach we also had time for some shopping and to take a peak from the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa building, until today the world´s tallest. Heavy rain our last two days (average rainfall in Dubai is three days a year so yes, I guess you could say we were a bit unlucky) gave us a good opportunity to visit the Karama “fake” market and the older parts of Dubai – Bur Dubai and Deira, the latter famous for the biggest gold souk in the world.
Just freshly arrived from Dubai I will take a break from my USA roadtrip theme. While I sort out my recent holiday pictures I will give you a teaser of how wonderful Dubai can be if you, like me and my friend, prioritize eating on your vacation Last Wednesday we decided to try the Saffron buffet, located in the hotel Atlantis The Palm. Saffron has different themed buffets most of the nights and on Wednesday´s there is a focus on Asian inspired dishes even though there was some more choices available too. It is truly a feast for the eye and with several live cooking stations serving dishes from all over the world, there is something for everyone.
Below my pick. Plate number one was by far the best. In fact plate number four was not as wonderful as it looks like. Maybe I was just too full to fully enjoy the very sweet dessert. But they looked amazing
Two happy but very very full holiday goers.
The lobby of Atlantis The Palm.