Originally published 31 December 2014
Typically gorgeous California view.
Some people decide that they'll end 2014 with a bang. We decided to go scorched earth and carpet bomb the joint. Our last day of 2014 was one for the record books....and we're in the hotel room at 10 pm. Today was just too awesome to do anything else so we had to quit early. We left our hotel in Monterey and wandered around in town a bit. The hotel was a little jewel called the Villa Franca Inn. 14 rooms total, immaculately kept, a testament to how old motels/hotels can be brought into modern times. Our early morning wandering showed us that Monterey was a nice place, and next time we're here, we'll stay longer. But Big Sur beckons, and we answer the call.
Villa Franka Inn, Monterey, CA. Old school, real cool.
We didn't have 3 or 4 weeks for this trip, so we've had to make choices. When we've had to make choices, we've forgone the towns, stores, shopping, and man made attractions along the way in favor of the nature and scenery. It has been a wise choice. When you see the photos we took today, you'll be forced to agree.
Looking north from the parking lot.......
Looking south from the parking lot. 180 degrees of beautiful.
We immediately, upon leaving Monterey, fall into gorgeous coastline. We make a time management decision and skip Carmel, staying true to our nature over towns choices. We are rewarded with amazing vistas as far as the eye can see. The water is a deep, dark blue, like a blue opal. The blue water is met by striking coastline. The road is punctuated with bridges that seem to act like a frame for the pictures we take. It's just gorgeous.
Marriott Hotel, Big Sur. Fantastic views, for a fantastic price.
We stop at a restaurant called "Nepenthe". We don't eat there, but walk around the outside and spend a bit of money in the gift shop. The views are to die for. The guide book warns you that you're not there for the food. It's not bad food, but that's not why you're there. We watch about a dozen gray whales in the water hundreds of feet below us. It's a first for Laurie (I saw one very briefly up the coast) and we watch them for quite a while. By the end of the day, whale sightings have become so common we start to ignore them. We probably saw over 100 during the day.
We see amazing houses on the cliffs looking out on the sea, amazing hotels that blend in with nature. Amazing tends to become common here. We stop at one of the state parks that has a waterfall falling directly into the ocean on a beach. Like many of the places we've been on our trips, it doesn't look real. I assure you it is. Yes, it actually looks this stunning. It's so beautiful here, it's almost exhausting.
Car commercials were shot on this bridge. Hell of a backdrop.
We drop out of Big Sur and into coastal farmlands. We see a sign on the side of the road that simply says "Elephant seal vista". We thought that may be the name of the place. After our experience further north where they were keeping such a tight reign on who sees the elephant seals, surely we couldn't just pull off the road and watch them. Guess what. We could. And everyone stayed behind the lines, nobody bothered them, and we didn't need the least bit of supervision. And the seals treated us like we weren't even there.
Mother seal and pup
I've never seen an elephant seal. They are named that as they have a snout sort of like an elephant's trunk. It turns out that they are about the size of a small car....or maybe an elephant. When I first saw them, I thought they were big piles of sand, but I quickly put together that these were actual seals. We took great pics, watched them on the beach nursing their pups, scooting around in the sand.......you know, doing seal stuff!
These guys are huge
We head inland from here. We're about out of daylight, it's the end of the day, we skipped the Hearst Castle as it was after 4 pm when we passed it. We decide to head inland a bit where the towns are and find a place to stay. We wound up in a city called Santa Maria. Ever heard of it? Neither had we. But we won't forget it soon.
Protecting large areas of the coast, so future generations can't see them too.
It's in farm country, not near the coast. I do a bit of cursory searching online and find an old time hotel called "The Historic Santa Maria Inn". The price was what we had been paying for a small room at mom and pop hotels along the coast. Man, did we get our money's worth with this one!
Santa Maria Inn Lobby. Another old school gem of a hotel.
The hotel is a throwback to times past. It is what staying at a nice hotel was like in the 50's. Fireplaces, pianos, even a poker table in the lobbies. It has a salon and barber shop on premises. They have real desk clerks and real lobbies. It is decorated for Christmas. It's not brassy or ostentatious. It is what used to be known as "classy".
Santa Maria Inn at Christmas
We phoned a few restaurants around town trying to get a reservation only to find they were booked. We're dressed very casually and wander down to the hotel restaurant. We wind up eating in the hotel restaurant....which has a prix fixe menu for new years eve. It was NOT cheap. But often times, you get what you pay for....and this was one of them. It was a true gourmet meal.
After ordering, a gentleman sits down at the table next to us. He is dining alone and we invite him to join us. What a wonderful dinner we had! His name was Bill Baeza, and he is a chiropractor from the San Francisco area. We enjoyed dinner, and we all talked for what was probably two hours. We talked about places we've traveled, our families, our careers, our hobbies. Tonight was one of those times that we connected with the people we met in our travels. It's one of the things we truly love......meeting and learning about the people we encounter. It makes the world a smaller place when we connect with others. Tonight, we did our part.
Dinner in a new place, with a new friend
We bid our new friend goodnight and wandered the hotel. We encountered old wooden phone booths, paneled lobbies, photos of past guests that include John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, and Jimmy Stewart. If you are in this city for some reason, stay nowhere else. It is such a treat.
Our new year's eve consisted of visiting one of this planet's beautiful places, we saw whales, we are staying in a fantastic hotel, and we made a new friend. I do not think it possible for our 2014 to have ended better. We hope yours went as well. Happy new year everyone!
Everything in California causes cancer......according to them.
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I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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