San Simeon, Big Sur, and the Hearst Castle

This morning, we headed out of Monterey on the Pacific Coast Highway. When we started in the morning, the coast was mostly covered in fog–very usual in California. As the day went on, the fog lifted and we had panoramic views of the coast and the mountains. We stopped for pictures at many of the turnouts along the road. One of the highlights of this part of the trip was seeing the male elephant seals on the beach molting.

Off of the Pacific Coast Highway, we stopped in Julia Pfeiffer Burns park, which is part of an area known as Big Sur. In this area, we hiked down McWay Waterfall trail. The 80′ waterfall flows into a scenic bay.

In the afternoon, we toured the Hearst Castle. The castle was built by W. R. Hearst starting in 1919 on land that he camped on as a young boy. Mr. Hearst became very wealthy as a newspaper owner around the turn of the century. When he inherited the land, he started construction on a bungalow within weeks. This bungalow grew into a village with three large guest houses, the smallest which is 2500 square feet and a main house of 60,000 square feet by the time of his death in 1951. Today, the house is a state park. We took a guided tour of the middle size guest house and the public areas of the main house (main parlor, dining room, game room, movie theater, and both swimming pools).

This evening, we’re staying in San Simeon, a small town on the pacific. Tomorrow morning, we’re leaving for the five hour drive to LA.


Monterey and Carmel

This hotel in Monterey (a 14 room Rodeway Inn) barely has in room web access, but I seem to be able to keep a connection just long enough to write something.

Today, we left Yosemite and drove to Monterey, which is on the coast of California. It’s about 190 miles south of San Francisco. We took the famous 17 mile drive that goes around Pebble Beach. There were many amazing views along the road. We also enjoyed looking at the golf courses and houses that border the sea.
Pebble Beach

Later, we ventured into Carmel, where we looked at the quaint town and enjoyed sticking our toes into the beach at Carmel by the Sea.

Dinner was at the Thaihawaiian Bistro, a hole in the wall restaurant highly recommended to us by two of my coworkers. All our food was outstanding and the prices were good. It’s probably the best table service food we’ve had so far on the trip.

After dinner, we explored Cannery Row, which is the heart of Monterey. Cannery Row was made famous by John Steinbeck, who lived here for several years and wrote a well known novel about life on cannery row. Sadly, not much remains of the original canneries. The sardine population disappeared in 1946, and the last cannery closed in 1960. Today, few of the cannery buildings survive.

Tomorrow morning, we’re heading south to San Simeon for beautiful scenery and a tour of the Hirst Castle.



Today, we rented a car and left San Francisco. We headed east to Yosemite National Park, the home of the giant sequoia trees, many beautiful mountains, and waterfalls. The drive was very interesting–a chance to get to see the rural part of California. We spent more than four hours in the park, first hiking up to see some of the famous sequoia trees and then driving to the Yosemite Valley, which is bordered by majestic mountains and graceful waterfalls.
Giant SequoiaBridalveil Falls

We’re staying at the Best Western that’s about half an hour south of the park entrance. Once again, I have free in room internet access. However, this time, we have three queen size beds arranged as two rooms with a bathroom and wet bar in the middle. It’s much more comfortable than the Adante Hotel, which had two double beds in a closet size room.

Tomorrow, we’ll get back on the road and head to Monterey. I don’t know where we’re staying and what amenities they offer, so I may be offline until Sunday.

California Computers General

Twin beds and parking brakes

Today, while waiting with the luggage in the Adante Hotel’s lobby, I witnessed firsthand how unusual some of our American ways seem to the rest of the world. First, I noticed a car pull up in front of the hotel. The rental agent got out, and a lady got in. She and another lady loaded their luggage, but then just seemed to sit there. At one point, she pulled up about six feet, then stopped. The second lady had gone back into the hotel lobby and was standing there looking confused. My sister asked me what kind of car my parents were picking up, and I told her I had no idea. The lady overheard me, asked me if I was American, and asked for help with their rental car. Their Chevy Mailbu had a tap on / tap off floor pedal to control the parking brake. The ladies thanked me and said something about their rental in New York had a normal parking brake in the center console. Ironically, my parents ended up with a Malibu as a rental. My dad struggled to figure out the parking brake too.

The second interesting exchange that took place in the hotel lobby was between the guy at the front desk and a man from Germany. The man seemed upset about the accomodations in his room. Apparently, he booked a room for four people and the hotel gave him a room for two. A few exchanges later, it came out that the man thought that a twin bed slept two people. It seems that in Germany, what we would call a twin bed is referred to as a single bed. Fortunately, the hotel had extra rooms with two double beds available, and they were able to get him into a room that would sleep four people.


San Francisco, day 2

Today, we visited the Golden Gate park (not near the bridge), went to seal rock, rode the famous cable cars, and enjoyed the waterfront. Inside Golden Gate Park, we visited the Japanses Tea Gardens and also walked through the Botanical Gardens.
Japanese Tea Garden
Today’s lunch was Cathay House in Chinatown. I had beef with mixed Chinese vegetables. It seemed that the only vegetable used was something that vaguely resembled celery. The beef was fatty and chewy. And don’t get me started on their brown sauce. The only redeeming factor was the Oolong tea that they served with the meal. For dinner, we returned to In-N-Out Burger. It’s already a favorite. To quote one of the guys from my office “general note about eating in California: In-N-Out Burger: wherever you see one, stop and eat!” I agree.
In-N-Out Burger

Tonight is our last night in San Francisco. Tomorrow morning, we pick up our rental car and head to Yosemite National Park. No word on the internet access for the rest of the trip.


San Francisco

Today was spent in San Francisco. We’re staying at the Adante hotel. Today, we started by walking through Union Square on our way to visit Chinatown, where we toured the Golden Gate fortune cookie factory.
We looked at the Trans American pyramid building, but it’s no longer open to the public.
Trans America Pyramid
Continuing on to Fisherman’s Warf, we took a cruise from Pier 39. The cruise showed us Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the west) up close.
Lunch was at Boudin cafe, where I had a bread bowl of chili. In the afternoon, we hiked up to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, which has panoramic views of the entire San Francisco Bay area.
Coit Tower
An afternoon Segway tour of the waterfront introduced us to Segway human transports. The tour ended at the Palace of Fine Arts. Dinner was at In-N-Out Burger. On the way back to the hotel, we walked down the famous block of Lombard Street, which has 8 switchbacks on a 40 degree slope.


Made it to CA

Just arrived at the hotel in San Francisco, where we’ll be staying for the first two days of the trip. Jet Blue has great in flight service, but they ripped part of my suitcase that was checked. Nothing duct tape won’t fix.

I’ll have web access the next two days while I’m in San Francisco. After that, I don’t know if I’ll be online or not.