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07/2017: California

For our summer vacation this year we decided on a drive through California, from San Diego to San Francisco… or from San Francisco to San Diego. We planned it for June, when the weather is not too hot and it’s not the beach season in NY yet. However, our plans got re-scheduled and re-shuffled, and I was only able to take 2 weeks off for the 2nd half of July. Well, my coworker who lived in LA for a long time told me the hottest time there is actually August and September, so we should be OK. Changes of plans also meant that we basically have no hotels reserved, but we should find some place to sleep 🙂.

While planning, we found that a section of Pacific Coast Highway (also known as Route 1) is closed in two places because of this spring’s landslides that did a lot of damage. This makes pretty much the most scenic areas inaccessible or require huge detours. Well, it will have to be done some other day, together with Monterey. Instead, we’re gonna go east to the national parks – Sequoia and Yosemite.

Day 0

San Diego

I also have a coworker who grew up in San Diego, so we got a bit of info about it. We’re landing in the evening, so we did reserve a hotel… well, not precisely in San Diego, where they turned out to be quite expensive (a trend that we found more common than we wish in California), but in Mission Valley, a bit north of San Diego. We figured: everybody drives in California, right? That means the infrastructure is ready for us, let’s drive! 

The hotel is fine (Comfort Suites), and has a pool that looks good, with a small hot pool. Anne wants to go in, our answer – “definitely maybe some time”. We found a Japanese restaurant nearby. Time to sleep.

Day 1

San Diego SeaWorld

When we were discussing the trip we convinced Anne that after all our visits to Orlando parks we should skip the ones in California, and we agreed on it, but, seeing that we should have ample time, made an exception for SeaWorld. We decided to visit it and go to the city afterwards.

The first attractive thing we see in SeaWorld is… flowers, which is symbolic as we are going to see so many beautiful plants (and, particularly, palm trees), on this trip…

San Diego SeaWorld

Some droplets are on the spiderweb…

San Diego SeaWorld

We all love SeaWorld although I personally have seen it enough times already and it shows in the low number of photographs this time – Dolphin show is pretty much the same as it is in Orlando, and I’ve made photos of Orca show back when it was, let’s say, a bit more visually impressive than it is nowadays. I’m not criticizing, in fact what they did after all the criticism, at least here in San Diego, turned out to be more informative, and we learned things about Orcas that we did not know, so, kudos to SeaWorld for adjusting pretty well to circumstances, definitely a place we like.

They have some sort of a light show in the evening that sounds awesome, and we decide to return to SeaWorld in the evening.

USS Midway 

It’s past lunch time and it’s reasonable to have a “linner” instead. To our surprise, parking near USS Midway or Seaport village seems practically impossible in the afternoon. We got lucky and finally found a parking space when a gentleman signaled us that he was leaving. We have a pretty nice linner in a restaurant at Fish Market and decide to leave the car here and go to USS Midway, a short walk from here. Well, it turns out it closes in an hour, we talk our options out with Harry, a cheerful ticket booth employee, a former navy officer from Long Island. The best choice we have is to see something today and get back tomorrow. 

San Diego

It’s too late for the tours, we just walk around.

Photobomb… There’s been a lot of those lately… I don’t mind really 😀

San Diego, USS Midway

Back to SeaWorld, walking about, we decide to get the seats about 45min before the show, and it’s good that we do because the seats are going fast. The show itself I think was shorter than that, about 30min of acrobats in the dark wearing phosphorescent suits. Pretty cool..

San Diego

Day 2

San Diego 

This time we’re in earlier, and park in the USS Midway parking lot. This will be our base and we’ll walk around from here. This time we are more thorough exploring the ship, with a tour and some lectures too.

San Diego

Some active carriers are parked on the other side of the bay

San Diego

Done with USS Midway, heading out with some cheers to Harry, who is in one of the ticket booths again… It’s time for lunch.

On our trip to Virginia our chain eatery of choice was Cracker Barrel. This time it turned out to be Cheesecake Factory. There is one near Seaport Village. The weather is sunny, very pleasant, maybe just a bit warmer than perfect. The city is clean and beautiful and the cacti are abundant. Clearly, we are on vacation in California.

San Diego

Seaport Village turned out to be, basically, a picturesque shopping area with restaurants, we’re done with it pretty quickly.

San Diego

What to do next? We walked back to the car and considered – it is too hot to walk across the city to see the streets. Tamara has an idea – an amphibian tour! We should see some of the city and get some views from the sea.

It turned out to be not exactly what we thought – mainly a water tour that took us north of the city past the airport to the piers with a lot of sea lions, pelicans and herons, which, as far as we’re concerned, is just as good if not better. The ground part of our tour was just a faster way to get to the sea lions 🙂.

San Diego

The shores are filled with hills and tiled roof houses. What is it about tiled roofs that I like so much?

San Diego

We did get some views of the city as seascapes from afar:

San Diego
San Diego

We’re back and the sun is still fairly high. We have a choice of driving around the city or visiting Coronado, a peninsula known for the fancy Hotel del Coronado, built in 1880s and featured in “Some Like It Hot”. We choose Coronado. The highway (CA 75) is going over what I’m pretty sure the tallest bridge I’ve ever seen so far. I don’t know if it’s made this way for the large ships to get through, I think airplanes can fly under it freely… The bridge is overlooking the city in a haze of the setting sun on one side. There are several battleships and carriers parked on the other side… no, I mean on the side of the bay opposite of the city relative to the bridge, not parked on the other side of the bridge! I’d love to park on that bridge to make some photos though, but I’m not reckless enough…

It’s a beautiful hotel and we walk along the beach, the sun is setting making it a very pleasant evening indeed.

Coronado, San Diego
Coronado, San Diego

Yep, there is a photobomb…

Coronado, San Diego

There is also a charming town around the hotel… with tiled roofs…

Coronado, San Diego

Unfortunately, places to eat that look like something we’d like are closed and we drive back. We are not that hungry anyway.

There is still a little time left and tomorrow we’ll have a busy day. I really wanted to go to La Jolla Cove (pronounced basically the same way as “la hoya”), where apparently we can see seals. It is in general direction of our hotel (north) and opposite of where we’ll go tomorrow.

Turned out we did not see any seals. We did, however, see the sea lions in abundance. Through a little wicket you can get to the sand-covered rocks and – voila – you can get as near to a sea lion as you wish, though we did not try to pet any or take with us 🙂.

La Jolla Cove, San Diego
La Jolla Cove, San Diego
La Jolla Cove, San Diego

Another rock is filled with cormorants

Cormorants here have dark blue eyes. The ones I’ve seen on the east coast had green eyes. I need to figure out which species these are.

La Jolla Cove, San Diego

We’re still not hungry and it’s too late to go to a restaurant anyway. Instead Anne and I take the plunge, literally, and go for the pool and hot tub. OK, the hot tub is too hot and we enjoy it only for a fraction of a second, but the swim in the pool is very enjoyable. Apparently it took long enough for Toma to get hungry and we order a Japanese takeout…

Day 3

San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park

Today we are visiting the two main attractions of San Diego, according to most, the zoo and Balboa Park. There is an outdoor organ in the park and one of the main reasons we started our trip in San Diego is that we can be here on a Monday, when, in the summer, the park hosts free organ concerts.

I expected to be blown away by San Diego Zoo that everybody lists as the #1 must see. Apparently, all the Bronx Zoo and National Zoo and others spoiled me, I think San Diego Zoo is on the similar level with them. Looking back though I have to admit that they do have rare pandas, koalas and an Amur Leopard, though they are hard to see. Pairing cheetahs with dogs is also really interesting, and hey, they’ve got a donkey playing football…

With pandas in hiding what really welcomed us in the zoo is… flora! Not sure if it’s mostly native or the zoo acts as a botanical garden as well, but the flowers and plants are amazing!

San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo

Curiously, San Diego Zoo conducted an experiment where a cheetah kitten grew up with a dog puppy of similar age (and I must add, somewhat similar size, such as Golden Retriever). Apparently, when growing up this way cheetahs develop, I guess, better communication skills? This one certainly is not shying away…

San Diego Zoo

There are many beautiful animals in San Diego Zoo.

Here is an antelope

San Diego Zoo

Here is a sad monkey

San Diego Zoo

The ride on Skyfary is nice. Here is a view of California Tower and Museum of Man, two of the beautiful buildings in Balboa Park.

San Diego Zoo

After the zoo we take a pretty short walk to Balboa Park and stroll around the buildings. This greens arrangement is appropriate…

San Diego

In the park the museums are now closed, but it gives me a chance to just snap some pictures.

San Diego
San Diego

Tamara’s color pattern goes well with the environment

San Diego

We find the organ and take a little rest at the plaza nearby.

San Diego

A book of jokes is an excellent accessory in a traveling bag.

San Diego

There are some buildings left to see and we continue our walk ending it with California Tower.

San Diego

Back to the organ, got some drinks (soft), just waiting for the concert to start

San Diego

The concert is very nice, though we only listened to the first half, about 1 hour 15 min. Taking it in fully we would end up going to sleep very late. In the dusk the park looks different

San Diego
San Diego
San Diego

A little plaza is completely empty and I spend several minutes making long exposures shots.

San Diego

Now we go to the hotel. We will not return to the city of San Diego on this trip.

Day 3

San Diego 

Nope, this is not a mistake. Although we are not going to the city of San Diego we are going to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, thanks to Toma who remembered it from the fist time she visited Sand Diego. This is where the city was founded, not at the glorious bay, but several miles north of it, on the river. Listed as attraction #23 in San Diego by TripAdvisor, behind the baseball stadium and some beaches, this is the place to learn about San Diego history.

San Diego
San Diego

We have a considerable drive in front of us and a plan to go to Pageant of the Masters, an elaborately named art show in Laguna Beach that features paintings made on stage with real people, highly recommended! On to LA!

Day 3

While looking up hotels in LA over these couple of days we found that it is easy to find one for 3 nights without advanced reservation… unless you’re looking for a decent hotel for a reasonable price in a safe area. In this case it’s practically impossible. Also we do have a bit of information about some of the LA’s 3692 neighborhoods (the number is approximate), but not enough to cover the whole map. There are also distance and traffic to take into account. We even looked at internet forums about “safe” area to stay, with one post offering a hilarious and, possibly, effective, suggestion: “just look for areas around Whole Foods stores”… 

Anyway, we decided Los Angeles is large enough for us to move around. The first night we’ll stay in Anaheim, which has Crystal Cathedral that we planned to visit, is close to Laguna Beach (for Pageant of the Masters), and has reasonably priced hotels. So, even though we’re not going to Disneyland, we will benefit from proximity to it 😀. For the second night we’ll move to Glendale, where I stayed a long long time ago during my first visit to LA. I remembered it as a nice area with Armenian community. Also, it is close to places we want to walk around, like Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Griffith Observatory. Finally, the 3rd night we’ll spend in Santa Monica, which we also want to visit, close to Route 1.

Anaheim 

We found out yesterday that Crystal Cathedral is under long term renovation and not accessible to public, so we just had a view from a parking lot, apparently reserved for construction workers. That’s ok, it wasn’t that high on out priority list. Curiously, about half of the cars on this parking lot are expensive models of German manufacturing…

Crystal Cathedral, Anaheim

Laguna Beach

Checked in to the hotel, and we’re off to Laguna Beach. Another Californian feature I’ve never seen before is traffic light at the entrance of a highway. Learned by our San Diego experience, we park early and walk to the the Art Center to pick up our reserved tickets. We have enough time to have dinner and walk to the beach. It’s a very nice beach with a boardwalk, and the sunset makes beautiful hazy cliffs.

We don’t photograph a beach often, and this trip gave us an ample opportunity to do so, despite closures on Pacific Coast Highway.

Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach

The sun is setting and it’s time to get to the theater. Actually, the Art Center hosts a festival with some expositions and other events, rather than only the “Pageant of the Masters” performance. We walk around it some more and buy the book about the paintings and sculptures featured in this year presentation, before getting to our seats.

Photography and video recording are prohibited at the show and instead of a thousand words to replace each picture I’ll replace all the pictures with one word: awesome. I don’t know exactly how it’s done, my guess is with both back- and front-lighting, but I’m not sure. Attention to details is really impressive!

The show ends late at night, tomorrow’s highlight is Getty Center.

Day 4

Los Angeles 

Driving from north side of San Diego to the center takes 5-10 min. Curiously enough, this is not the case with Los Angeles… On this trip we decided not to torture ourselves with early rises, so our aim is usually to take the road after the rush our. Our drive from Anaheim took 1.5 hour, which may not have been horrible by LA standards, and with help from an experienced navigator (Tamara) we are finally in the downtown. I really wanted to see Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, that’s the main reason we’re in here.

Los Angeles

There are some good-looking buildings around too. There is no street parking available and we don’t want to stick around long enough for a parking lot, so we make a rather quick job of looking around.

Los Angeles
Los Angeles

The Getty

Getty Center turned out to be a little smaller than I expected (again, spoiled by The Met), but a great museum and I really liked not only the building and the views but also the way collections are structured. 

Getty Center, LA

It is a gorgeous sunny day outside

Getty Center, LA
Getty Center, LA

Outside with the view of the gardens, I trying to make use of infra-red filter

Getty Center, LA

The location on the hills makes for wide vistas…

Getty Center, LA
Getty Center, LA

By the time we are back to the car it is already evening. Our plan is to get to Griffith Observatory and get some views of Los Angeles and Hollywood Sign (I personally don’t share the excitement about the sign, but it’s high on Tamara’s list and Anne seems to really want to see it).

The reality turns out to be, however, to visit Griffith Observatory on a late Sunday afternoon you have to be ready to walk uphill for a mile or so and, after walking around the museum, we’re not willing to do so. We already had a pretty good view of LA from the hills at The Getty Center (to be honest, it is not the most attractive vista), and we’ll see Hollywood Sign from somewhere else. We drive to Glendale via local streets, love doing it when I can in an beautiful city!

Glendale

The hotel, Vagabond Inn, is really a motel (which is just fine by us for the price) and there is a mall with Cheesecake Factory nearby, actually right across the street although it is not seen. You cross the avenue, go into a narrow passageway and – voila – a busy pedestrian plaza filled with relaxed pedestrians, beautiful buildings and an awesome fountain. Makes waiting for the seat very enjoyable. A guy with 2 large dogs (Husky and German Shepherd) provides even more entertainment for Anne (and other kids). A very nice place and a beautiful sunset.

Glendale, CA
Glendale, CA

Day 5

Hollywood

The breakfast in Vagabond Inn is not something to write home about, so we ate it instead. A short drive along the local streets to Hollywood Boulevard, we parked right near of what happened to be Capitol Records Building. Not only it’s an interesting looking structure but the sidewalk features stars for musicians, there are many names Anne recognizes, she knows more old musicians than old actors…

Hollywood, CA

Stars of all the Beatles, Buddy Holly and others grab Anne’s attention.

We walk along Hollywood Boulevard until we reach Dolby and Chinese Theaters.

Hollywood, CA
Hollywood, CA

We spend some time in front of Chinese Theater. This seems to be the tourist meeting place in Hollywood…

Tamara’s interest are the classic movie actors and actresses. Anne is more attracted by the plate with Harry Porter crew’s traces, though Judy Garland does get recognition and attention.

Hollywood, CA

We walk through Dolby Theater. Looking at the lists of Oscar winner films I’m reminded again how bad they are on average 😀. Going through a mall to Babylon Court we get a view of Hollywood Sign. It’s a very nice vantage point but not a good photo opportunity, at least not if one has Hollywood Sign on his mind ðŸ˜€

Hollywood, CA

A pleasant courtyard though…

Hollywood, CA

We mull getting a tour but I object: I don’t quite share the degree of Toma’s fascination with Classical Hollywood, and suspect the tours may not concentrate on it anyway. Crowd and heat can make an uninteresting tour simply unpleasant, and a waste of time. An alternative suggestion is to go to Beverly Hills as planned, but take a detour through

Mulholland Drive

A little research maps the route from Highway 101 to Coldwater Canyon Drive down to Beverly Hills. It is a very sunny day and it’s nice to spend an hour or so in an air-conditioned car. Mulholland Drive offers some beautiful scenery. Here is the view of the sign we wanted, mission accomplished.

Hollywood, CA

There are some negative reviews on Tripadvisor about Mulholland Drive and I humbly disagree. The views are definitely worth it. Maybe it’s possible to get them elsewhere but why not here?

Mulholland Drive, LA

Beverly Hills 

Even if we didn’t see the vistas from Mulholland Drive, approaching Beverly Hills via Coldwater Canyon Drive is worth the detour. We’ve seen this street view with high palm trees in the movies and, I don’t know, it can probably be found in other places in LA, but it is grand nonetheless…

Beverly Hills

Parked in a lot, lunched in Cheesecake Factory (served, clearly, by a striving actor, a good-looking fella who is an amazingly bad waiter), ready to do some walking. Just like in Hollywood, I didn’t expect much more than a pleasant walk of Beverly Hills center. I get it, there are shiny stores… also many tourists and some bored store attendants… 

Beverly Hills

fancy cars, sometimes

Beverly Hills

2 Rodeo Drive is a very nice addition though.

Beverly Hills

It leads to Beverly Wilshire Hotel where most of “Pretty Woman” film takes place, a major point of interest for Tamara and a hotel / movie prop / minor curiosity for me 😀. We walk along Wilshire Boulevard to the fountain.

Beverly Hills

This is a longish walk for a day this warm and sunny and I was prepared to be disappointed by the fountain and it didn’t disappoint, I mean it kind of did, I mean… Although it’s just a fountain, it is nice and has shade and stone benches and no people around… Such a good place to rest a bit! Also, there is a little rainbow…

Beverly Hills

You think we walked all the way here just for the fountain? Turned out nope, Tamara has some plans to see interesting houses this side of Santa Monica Boulevard.

This one is a meticulously constructed witch house.

Beverly Hills

A Gaudi-inspired design

Beverly Hills

Santa Monica 

It is evening already but the day is long and we still have enough time to walk a bit in Santa Monica before going to the hotel. Driving there on the beginning of former Route 66…

Turns out Santa Monica beach is actually down a significant cliff from the streets, so we’re just looking…

Santa Monica

Taking a stroll on 3rd Street Promenade, a pleasant pedestrian street with shops. Today we dine here.

Santa Monica

Day 6

Getty Villa

Our first stop today is Getty Villa. The tickets are timed and Toma ultimately decided to reserve them during breakfast. It’s a good thing she did because time slices are going fast. You know how museums can be a bit stuffy? You know, many rooms with no windows, artificial light and so on. Getty Villa does not have this problem at all. It was designed to be as close to an ancient Roman villa as possible, located on a hill with a view of the ocean, its own amphitheater and gardens…

Getty Villa
Getty Villa

and wide passageways and open doors…

Getty Villa
Getty Villa

I don’t like mixing photos of museum collections with personal and travel photos, for many reasons… I’ll post a family photo instead…

Getty Villa

We always spend a significant time in museums’ antiquity sections, this time the whole museum is one antiquity section! By the time we are on the road it is already lunch time, but before we have lunch we need to drive to…

Santa Barbara

All my knowledge about Santa Barbara before the trip, despite hearing it mentioned quite a bit, could be summarized as “a nice town at the pacific coast, also there is some oil there somewhere”. Well, at least the part about “nice town” is evidently true, there is a nice view of the hills…

Santa Barbara

We arrive at about 3:30PM and have a lunch in The Palace Grill restaurant, we are the only customers here. It’s a nice restaurant, also with a funny bathroom interior… After lunch – walking around the historic center visiting a couple of museums

Santa Barbara

I like the design of the houses here, with a lot of ceramic tiles…

Santa Barbara

The more tiled roofs and palm trees the better, as far as I’m concerned…

Santa Barbara

with an occasional citrus tree…

Santa Barbara

We decide against going to shopping mall passageways – we plan to go to Hearst Castle tomorrow, and with tours, shuttles and so forth it sounds like we should be there in the morning. Hearst Castle is a very long distance from here, so after the walk we drive uphill to Old Santa Barbara Mission. While Toma and Anne are reading inside I’m experimenting with lens flare

Santa Barbara

A view with the fountain…

Santa Barbara

The road between Santa Barbara and Solveng goes through very picturesque hills, there are a couple of observation points with parking.

Solvang, CA

Solvang

Solvang was founded by Danish immigrant in the early XX century and it keeps the Danish ambiance on. North-European style houses, a statue of Little Mermaid, a windmill, flags of Denmark… it’s a charming town, with Californian hills in the background.

Solvang, CA

It’s a small town and we only walk around a small part of it. All is quiet in the evening. We see a good looking bakery and consider pastries for dinner…

Solvang, CA

but in the end opt for a full meal in a restaurant.

Solvang, CA

It’s getting dark and we drive north to San Luis Obispo for the night. I’m sure the road surroundings are quite pretty but this time we don’t see them.

The hotel in San Luis Obispo is at the bottom of a hill, which makes for some funny math when it turns out that are our room 403 is, basically, on the first floor 🙂.

Day 7

Hearst Castle

Just like with Getty Villa, Tamara reserved the tickets, basically, while going there, instead of purchasing them at the location, and both times it made the difference. Yes, it is risky, especially driving a considerable distance, traffic and finding a parking spot can make one be late.

Driving along Route 1 we see glimpses of scenic parts of Pacific Coast Highway. Toma notices a sign saying “Elephant Seal Vista”. Very curious, but looks like the place is farther north than the turn to Hearst Castle. We have a note to return to the highway and find it afterwards. Horses in the field is always a popular sight with Anne, but this time she sees something unexpected too… Zebras, she exclaims – what are they doing here?!?! As we found out later, it’s all a part of Hearst Castle, traces of a private zoo. They seem to be happy grazing along with cows and horses…

We did make it on time to pick up our tickets with about 15 min in reserve. We would have lost at least an hour, however, if we didn’t reserve our time… A ride in a bus, and we’re on the hill, near the castle. Of course, Hearst Castle is not a castle, I would call it a very large mansion. The real name of the main building is Casa Grande, which describes it much more precisely.

Hearst Castle

We reserved both lower and upper floor tours, figuring that, as long as we’re here might as well finish it up, so we don’t have an urge to return and go again through the process of getting shuttle, gathering for a tour, getting back and so forth. The tours are quite interesting and the interior elements are amazing.

Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle

After the tours we spend some time enjoying the views of the house…

Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle

and the surroundings…

Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle

Neptune Pool, unfortunately, is being repaired…

Hearst Castle

but Roman Pool is in order…

Hearst Castle

It’s interesting and unusual to visit Hearst Castle, it doesn’t feel like a museum since it is a residence and was designed as such, with no later changes. This is, after all, what individual collectors do as opposed to art galleries. However, at times it felt a little… I don’t know, cramped with rarities? Maybe because the objects didn’t always come together, though often they did… The impression Getty Villa leaves is “here was a man who had a serious fascination with ancient Rome and a lot of money.” Hearst Castle’s impression is “here was a man who was fascinated with mediaeval Europe, had loads of money and really liked to show it off…”

We are back to the parking lot in the late afternoon, after having a late lunch in Hearst Castle Visitor Center. Now, where was that Elephant Seal beach?

Elephant Seal Vista

It’s a good thing this sign was on the road before Hearst Castle and it’s a good thing Tamara was paying close attention, because we have heard nothing about this place (which is just a stop on the Pacific Coast Highway) anywhere. Not sure how common elephant seals are on the pacific coast but for us it is a unique opportunity to see them in nature.

Pacific Coast Highway, Elephant Seal Vista

Just like with the sea lions at La Jolla Cove, the beach is filled with elephant seals of different ages and sizes. They are not at all as agile as sea lions and move, basically, like giant caterpillars, to our enjoyment 😀. Yes, I know it’s just because they’re on the ground, I’m sure people swimming look funny to them too… I’m officially allowing any Elephant Seal to ridicule me aloud while I’m swimming!

Contrary to La Jolla, there is no easy access to the beach itself, and we wouldn’t want to get too close to elephant seals anyway based on what we’ve heard (and now see) about their temperament.

Pacific Coast Highway, Elephant Seal Vista

Turning back south we are stopping frequently at Route 1 observation points, taking in the scenic vistas of Pacific Coast Highway.

Pacific Coast Highway, Elephant Seal Vista
Pacific Coast Highway, Elephant Seal Vista

This beach is filled with birds!

Pacific Coast Highway, Elephant Seal Vista

Tonight we’re going to drive deep into the middle of California and stay for the night in the city of Visalia. On the map it seems to be a fairly large town (got its own Convention Center), located conveniently enough to go to Sequoia National Park next day. In the next couple of days (we’re not sure whether it’s 2 or 3) we want to visit Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite with night stays in Visalia and Fresno. One possible problem: the weather forecast for these two cities is very consistent for this week with today’s high in Visalia as 104F! Frankly, at this point we have little choice as it is far too late to get cabins inside the parks and all places outside are likely to have the same weather pattern. Oh well, we’re just spending nights there anyway.

The road from Cambria (where we turned inland from Route 1) through the mountains is extremely beautiful! I should have stopped at a couple of more points with some view of the ocean but, alas, we passed them. 

Sequoia National Park

We knew that California is a major farming land and not surprised to see many farms. This area is filled with wineries… No wonder, Toma says, this looks like Tuscany.

After crossing the mountains the landscape turns flat with occasional hills, and the temperature on the dashboard climbs past 100F. The only color we see on the ground is yellow – everything is covered with dry grass. This grass turns green in the winter (at least that’s what we were told by our tour guide in Hearst Castle) and yellow – in the summer. What is absolutely amazing is that we see farms even in the flattest hottest places! Even when there are no farms growing grapes we pass a herd of cows here and there.

Close to our destination we see an interesting road sign: 1 1/2 Avenue in what seems to be pretty much a farmland. I should have stopped to photograph it but I didn’t. Later I found through Google Maps that it was in a town of Hanford and this is not the only interesting street name there, it fact it seems to be the street naming convention…

We arrive in Visalia by about 8:45PM, the temperature outside is 97F. We find a restaurant that seems fancy – The Southern Pacific Depot, in what used to be an old railway station – and get in right before closing. We are the only ones here. The food is very good, this is the first time any member of our family besides me tries oysters (I really like them). This member – Anne. Before leaving I ask our waitress whether today was a hot day. It’s on the cool side, she says, it can easily get to 110F…

Day 8

Sequoia National Park

The sun is up and the heat is on. We quickly check out and drive towards Sequoia National Park. Our intent is to visit both Sequoia and Kings Canyon, since some of the large trees, such as General Grant, are, technically, located in Kings Canyon. Judging by the map, however, it seems to be just a one large park (a correct assumption as it turned out) and we intend to go through it by the Route 198. 

Moro Rock is a popular attraction in Sequoia and it’s the first from the entrance we used. Signs say that Moro Rock parking lot is “full/closed/not available/whatever” and we can only access it via shuttle. Parking lots that are close to the shuttle stop are also full. We’re advised by a ranger to “park somewhere and walk”. Somewhere it is – parked off the asphalt on the edge of a picturesque slope full of sequoias and pines. Lot’s of people around, partly because it’s Sunday… The wait for the shuttle is long because I think it’s about lunch time now. Finally a shuttle and an opportunity to have a steep walk uphill in the sun. Ladies choose not to… their loss because the view from Moro Rock is absolutely awesome.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

Now our acquaintance with the sequoia trees can start, and turns out they are a very interesting kind indeed, virtually indestructible by parasites and even forest fires, which in fact helps them to proliferate! Many of the trees have traces of forest fire… it’s hard to believe that’s good for them!

The sight of sequoias is very grand indeed

Sequoia National Park

Two tiny mammals hiding in a tree. No, wait, it’s Anne and Toma! These trees are really large…

Sequoia National Park

General Sherman, the largest (most voluminous) tree in the world. It is really thick, that’s for sure. Some of the surrounding pines are actually taller.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

A “linner” at the local restaurant, the sun is slanting towards the west…

https://romanb.smugmug.com/Memories/Our-trips/Far-far-away/2017-07-California/i-ncHB2RH

We continue our drive, stopping periodically to admire the trees and an occasional vista.

Sequoia National Park

Near a parking lot two Mule deer are looking for food. They are ok with me taking photos from about 10ft distance.

Sequoia National Park

It is evening by the time we get to General Grant, the 2nd largest (by volume) tree in the world.

Sequoia National Park

Nearby is on old half-trunk which can be walked through, which we do…

Bi the time we drive out of the park (I guess at this point we are, technically, on the territory of Kings Canyon) the sun is already down, which, of course, makes a beautiful mountainscape.

Sequoia National Park

Today we spend a night in Fresno, which is a large city of half a million residents (5th largest in California, after LA and the big Sans: Diego, Jose and Francisco) and a county seat of Fresno County, the number one county in the US by agricultural production (we knew that thanks to the library book about California that Anne read before the trip). We arrive at about 9:40PM, temperature – 96F. I don’t know how so many people live in this climate…

The logical thing to do the next day is going to Yosemite. There is, however, a concern about Detwiler fires that have been raging near the south-west edge of Yosemite and was the cause of evacuation of the whole city of Mariposa as well as a long term closure for a part of Yosemite National Park. The news from yesterday also mention a lot of haze and smoke from the fire getting to Yosemite making the views, well, let’s just say, quite unusual and not at all as spacious. The quality of air and potential road closure might be a concern as well. Of course, the only reasonable solution is to wait until the morning and see.

Day 9

Yosemite National Park

No major news about Detwiler fires. They are still there although most of the roads are open and the fire is not projected to cause damage in Yosemite. At the breakfast in the hotel we see about a dozen of firefighters. Looks like they are about to go north to help out with the fires.

Since we arrived in the dark and get right to the highway in the morning, we have not seen any of Fresno at all… oh well…

Temperature in Yosemite today is projected to be 87F. Approaching the mountains, it’s already 100F outside…

We have not been early risers on this trip, figured we have enough time to do everything. Directions to Yosemite list it as about 1 hour away from our hotel, but it turns out you need another hour and a half to get to the first interesting point from the park entrance. The road is winding and slow and we are stuck behind a 10mph pink car from Ohio 🤦.

Entering the park from the south, we decide to visit Glacier Point first. Neither of us have been here before. Again, the signs say “Glacier Point parking lot full”, we have to (predictably) take a shuttle, turns out it’s actually a pretty long, about half-hour, shuttle drive. The driver turns out to be quite an entertainer and the ride is not boring. It is also almost definitely faster than it would have been in a car, as this road is not for fast drivers!

I’m not a big hiker or even traveller by any means, so it doesn’t say much, but Yosemite’s Glacier Point is, probably, the best landscape vista I’ve visited in my life, including Grand Canyon. Maybe Bryce competes…

Yosemite National Park

Clearly (pun intended), no visible traces of smoke from Detwiler fire.

Yosemite National Park

Beautiful views open from two sides of the Point, featuring Half Dome between them and waterfalls on both sides.

Yosemite National Park

Trying to make a panorama to combine all of them…

Yosemite National Park

You can’t help spending a lot of time at Glacier Point – it is breathtaking. We must have spent at least an hour just looking and snapping pictures…

Yosemite National Park

Then, after getting some snacks, looking at a large bird (Steller’s Jay), looking some more and experimenting with infra-red photography (not worth displaying), we get back to the shuttle.

Yosemite National Park

The weather is very pleasant indeed, but we are rather high up. The elevation difference between Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley is about 3200ft, good for about 10F temperature difference between here and the valley. Time to drive down there.

We stop at Tunnel View stop for the classic view…

Yosemite National Park

and proceed further. Down here every stop is crowded. The fact that it is Monday and there is a forest fire somewhere pretty close – no matter. Actually, the fire may have made it worse by stopping people from going here on the weekend.

We stop near Bridalveil falls and walk close to it. The fall is very fine and it actually gets carried by the wind so much it almost falls sideways.

Yosemite National Park

We drive around the valley. It is quite a bit warmer down here and we don’t do any long walks, just enjoy the views, there are lots of them.

Yosemite National Park

We entered through the southern part of Yosemite and exit through the northern. There is an odd brownish streak across the sky looking west. This is too early for a sunset, this must be the smoke from the forest fires, still burning south-west from here. We see some of the heavy firefighting equipment parked a bit downhill from the road.

Yosemite National Park, the smoke from Detwiler fire

Groveland

Groveland is a town right by the mountains, on the Route 120 that leads to Yosemite. A Gold Rush town, there are a couple of old buildings both Anne and Tamara really like.

Groveland, CA

A nest of swallows right under the roof of another house, and a lot of swallows flying back and forth.

Groveland, CA

A feeble suggestion to stop for the night in this charming place gets a strong objection, after all we have a night and a day tomorrow planned in one of the Gold Rush towns preserved as a state park. Passing by a beautiful lake we stop for look.

Don Pedro Lake, CA

Columbia

This is not something we planned back in NY, it was rather born from an idea by Tamara to visit Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, a place north-east of Sacramento created around Sutter’s Mill, where the California Gold Rush started. A bit of a google search, however, discovered Columbia State Park, located pretty close to the way from Yosemite to San Francisco, dedicated to a Gold Rush town. Columbia, in fact, used to be one of the largest city in California at the time, I believe the 3rd largest, all because of the gold. After the gold ran out the town population ran out too 😉. Columbia, however, hasn’t become a ghost town as there were someone living here at all times, but most of the buildings here in the park are more than 150 years old…

One of them is City Hotel, where we now check in.

City Hotel, Columbia, CA

It’s as old on the inside as on the outside, with ancient (and antique) furniture in both common room and bedrooms.

City Hotel, Columbia, CA
City Hotel, Columbia, CA

The bathroom is fine, though doesn’t include a shower (the shower is common). Central AC works well though. It’s been a hot day but the room does not feel stuffy.

By 8:55PM there is only one restaurant open nearby, a Mexican, and it’s closing soon. We don’t want to drive even 15min elsewhere. The park has long been closed, the only outsiders around are pretty much people who are staying for the night. Sitting outside, it is very quiet, with an older couple as the only other customers, and occasional sound from a rooster that lives here at the restaurant. Oh-oh, we think, that might be an early wakeup call!

Day 10

Columbia

I guess the windows in our room are good too since we did not hear any roosters, but woke up on our own accord. Morning is upon us and in search for breakfast we walk to Columbia Kate’s Bakery, just a couple of small blocks away. It turns out to be a rather unimpressive building hosting a what looks to be a small family business making absolutely delicious treats. We enjoy them with tea, coffee and hot chocolate outside. A bird (looks like California Scrub-Jay) is here expecting a treat, it gets some…

Columbia, CA

On the way back we see a tall plant that I think is the biggest tallest dill plant that I have ever encountered…

Columbia, CA

By the time we check out from the hotel there are already people in the park. We walk around the 160 year old town, visiting old shops and buildings…

Columbia, CA
Columbia, CA

including a ride in a stagecoach.

Columbia, CA

Every place in California, it seems, offers sunny weather. Every place not located on the coast or above 6000ft elevation also offers considerable heat 🙂. Columbia is located a bit more than 2000ft above sea level, which means it gets 92F high in the shade. The town is rather small and flat and we are not exhausted or anything but we do wish for a little cool… this will sound a little funnier in the future…

We learned a little about Gold Rush (I honestly knew very little about it). The town was right near the digging site and after the gold had ran out some houses were demolished to look for gold underneath… A lot of ground was washed out by the mining and there are large stones revealed that are used to be underground.

Columbia, CA

History says there were about 87 million dollars worth of gold mined in Columbia. And that’s in 1860 money 😮!

San Francisco

Amazingly, our longest drive on this trip is not from San Diego to LA, or from the coast to the mountains (maybe because we stopped on the way), but what would be described as “from a place east of San Francisco to San Francisco”. It’s going to be more than 3 hours with traffic. Now that we decide that our next stop is San Francisco it’s time to find a hotel and go there. We decide to skip lunch and have another “linner” in the city.

You remember our hotel conundrum in LA? It is similar in San Francisco except there are fewer neighborhoods (and fewer concerns about them) and the prices are 50% higher 😒. Alas, this is the price of flexibility! We expanded our search to the outskirts of the city and ended up getting a glorified motel for a price of fancy hotel not in the city but near San Francisco airport 😠. But we have a car we are not afraid to use it! Also, while it is entirely possible to spend time in San Francisco without a car those streets are fun to drive on, I’ve done it before…

One of the signs of, well, let’s say, an imperfect hotel 🙄 is a significant time you need to check in even if you have a reservation. By the time we’re checked in and on the road it is evening and we are really hungry. We obviously don’t have a lot of time today, thus we pick a destination that shouldn’t require it, Sutro Baths, ruins of a salt water pool complex from a century ago. Maybe we’ll see a Golden Gate Bridge from the outlook nearby. There is also Cliff House, a fancy restaurant, where we could have our linner.

San Francisco

The restaurant doesn’t disappoint, very nice view and food. The outlook at Point Lobos, however, does not offer a view at Golden Gate Bridge. We walk about the baths and the outlook.

Oh, by the way, remember our wishing for a cooler weather? San Francisco hails us… no, not with hail… but with 65F cloudy weather, and a strong cold wind!!! We put on the warmest clothes and shoes (which is not saying much because all we have is summer outfits plus light jackets).

San Francisco
San Francisco

The sun has set and, since we are here in the western part of town I suggest we get to Twin Peaks, something I have wanted to do but never done, and see the night city from there! We drive up, there is a parking space (it’s good we got here kind of early, before the darkness, it turned out), and take a peek (yes, pun intended). Absolutely awesome! How is this place not overcrowded?

San Francisco

While it was cold on the coast, here on the top of the hill with the sun down it is… considerably colder 😀… After posing for some photos Toma and Anne get into the car while I continue finding shots.

San Francisco
San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge is visible from here, with the top touching the fog, but it is barely distinguishable in the dusk.

San Francisco

A small raccoon climbs into a garbage can and comes out with a dinner.

San Francisco

Now that the night is closing in the parking lot is full, so it’s good we came here a bit early. It’s getting darker, though still not completely dark, and we finally decide it’s time to go

San Francisco
San Francisco

Day 11

San Francisco

Since our 7-star motel doesn’t include breakfast (gotta have a more expensive rate for that) we decide to go with twice-a-day rations: have a brunch (the time it takes us to wake up and gather is long enough for that) in the city, wherever we happen to be first, and a dinner, well, also in the city.

Driving north we see hills smothered in a white fog, it is lying there on the hills like a white blanket or a layer of down. Unfortunately the highway is busy and there is no place to stop and make pictures…

We stroll on Embarkadero towards a cafe for a nice brunch. San Francisco has a lot of cafes featuring healthy fresh ingredients. The orange juice in this place was excellent.

San Francisco

Today the plan is to visit a science museum called Exploratorium and the area, and Financial District. By the time we get there and have a brunch I start suspecting it’s going to be either/or, plus Exploratorium seems to me rather a place for small kids with a pricey entrance ticket. Anne still really wants to visit it, and we decide to make a compromise: I will walk around the area and Anne with Toma will go around the museum. 

To summarize, I was right and wrong. I was entirely wrong in my assessment of Exploratorium as it turned out to be a great science museum and very interesting for Anne, and, some of it, Tamara. I was right in that visiting it takes a very long time even if one doesn’t do everything… 

In the meantime I walked around the museum area with a view on Coit Tower…

San Francisco

looked around Ferry building a little, here is Vaillancourt Fountain on Justin Herman Plaza…

San Francisco

walked to Financial District to see some trolleybuses and tramways (olden day Gomel and Kazan nostalgia?)…

San Francisco

walked several blocks there…

San Francisco

and found a walkway above street level, which, I think, is called Commercial Street, very quiet, at least when I was there, with modern sculptures…

San Francisco
San Francisco

and some flowers too

San Francisco

The passageway leads me right back to Justin Herman Plaza…

San Francisco

and I walk back to Emploratorium. A short wait and Tamara and Anne are finally done with the museum. Before we proceed, a shot with a one of the historic trams.

San Francisco

After that – a drive through Financial District to Chinatown. Toma really wanted to visit a fortune cookie shop, I think it’s officially named Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. It is a tiny place, with very friendly staff (surprisingly friendly, in my opinion, since there is a bunch of tourists loitering in a small shop, certainly not helping people work…)

San Francisco

We finally find EastWest Bank building largely because it changed hands several times and was referred to by different names. This is something Tamara really wanted to see.

The small pagoda is surrounded by brick walls, but still standing. 

San Francisco

Walking to North Beach, a view at Transamerica Pyramid.

San Francisco

Today’s dinner is going to be in a restaurant called “Stinking Rose”. I ate there when I was in San Francisco about 17 years ago, and apparently it’s still in business. The interesting thing about it is that every dish is made with garlic, and a sauce bottle on a table contained not ketchup or Tabasco, but an olive oil with green garlic mixture. I remembered it being just an Italian cafe in North Beach, but turns out it is not only still in business but got, I think, three times larger, with bright red interior and themed menus. Seems a bit flashy and maybe even touristy… but the garlic sauce is here on the table and the menu still features the hilarious motto: “we season our garlic with food”. It was a good restaurant back then and it is a good restaurant still, although too much garlic can be too much. We declined the desserts and did not try garlic ice-cream.

A bit of a fog sets in after dinner for a nice view along Columbus Avenue.

San Francisco

There is still some time to get to Lombard Street to show off the signature San Francisco hills. I maintain that it is done best in a car, especially driving it. Anne is impressed, though she was not the one driving 😀. We park on Lombard Street right after the curves (the parking is nose towards the sidewalk, no parallel parking), which means if you exiting from the right you need to be careful not to go down the slope and have to really force the door up to close it, and exiting from the left the door becomes very heavy to open 😀.

Day 12

San Francisco

Today we are going to Fisherman’s Wharf, a top tier tourist destination in San Francisco. To me, frankly, Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square, both listed as top points in all the booklets, are puzzles. I never understood what it is that a tourist supposed to do on a street near the piers (Fisherman’s Wharf) or in a shopping area (Union Square). Obviously, booklets are designed to help local businesses, not tourists…

Today we (especially some of us) are taking our time gathering, so we’re ready pretty late (by tourist standards) and that makes me angry a bit because I would like to see Golden Gate Bridge with a morning fog, a view I’ve seen often in photos. This idea will also sound funny later on…

Only when driving I realize that with all the rigmarole (I was also answering some emails from work) I forgot the camera in the hotel 🤦! That has never happened before! I’ll have to use my phone for photography, like a normal person 😲.

We park near Ghirardelli Square and have a brunch in Eight AM, an awesome place for brunch, and go to the shore. The bridge is covered in a beautiful thick fog… Of course it is way too far for a phone lens…

Toma found things to do on Fisherman’s Wharf – we go to Maritime Museum and visit Hyde Street Pier where several old ships are united in San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Amazingly, since it is a National Park, our new annual pass purchased in Sequoia works.

This is Eureka, a ferry boat that used to transport drivers (and passengers) from San Francisco to Sausalito and back.

2017-07 California

After exploring the boats we decide to get to another “must do” in San Francisco – the cable car! The line doesn’t seem to be that bad and we get in. Pricey but we’ll do it once and get back.

2017-07 California

Turns out the line takes about 45min and the car is jammed so we don’t see that much. Even worse, the line for the return trip is about 5 times longer 🙁. The truth is you can get in at the intermediate stops and the drivers actually save some extra room for it. Too much extra room if you ask me… We walk towards the next stop, which also has a sizable line and wait there. Frankly, waiting for a cable car on a busy sidewalk with no shade is not many people’s idea of vacation. On the way back we actually see a little more, and I have a chance to hang on the side of the car, but it is not enough to change my assessment of San Francisco cable cars as a waste of time and money 👎.

Today we walk more and have a better opportunity to feel the San-Franciscan weather. It’s a mixed bag: when it’s quiet it’s rather pleasant, with the bright sun it is even a bit hot, but cold strong wind frequently dissolves this illusion and we need to have jackets on, just in case, most of the time. Unfortunately, my favorite hat does not have enough traction for this kind of wind and I’m forced to walk without it 🙁.

2017-07 California

We walk along Fisherman’s Wharf down to Pier 39, where the sea lions are, which is pretty cool, with an impressive crowd of people observing them. The crowd and an intensive smell of caramel popcorn makes our stay there short. It would have been an impressive sight have we not visited La Jolla Cove a week before, but as a sea lion nature reserve Fisherman’s Wharf pales in this comparison.

For the next stop we’re going to visit Painted Ladies and Alamo Square Park, which allows again to showcase San Francisco hill driving, we can’t get enough of it…

Approaching the park we start seeing many picturesque buildings and stop a couple of blocks short to look at the houses on the way.

2017-07 California
2017-07 California

The hill going towards the park is pretty steep, steeper than the one in this picture…

2017-07 California

Finally there, Alamo Square Park tuns out to be on another steep hill, with a nice view at Painted Ladies. It’s a nice vista, though many of the houses we saw on the way are painted in a much more interesting way…

2017-07 California

The park has a kids playground that Anne makes a use of. 

Today we drive back a little earlier than yesterday and see the fog seemingly slither down the hills just south of San Francisco…

Day 13

San Francisco

Today our plan is to have a brunch and go to Muir Woods, a park with very tall Redwoods trees a bit north of San Francisco. We choose a route away from north-east of the city with its tourists and Financial District to aim straight to Golden Gate Bridge. But first, we’ll stop near Grandview Park to see some tiled steps about which I learned, of all places, on google maps.

The area we stopped in (I think it’s called “Outer Sunset”) is covered in fog this morning. The air is cold and very moist, seems like we can get wet without rain. The cafe we found (also on google maps) is full and we walk a couple of blocks to see our options, and find a Chinese bakery. We seem to be in a predominantly Chinese neighborhood. The bakery is small but it has 4 or 5 little tables. Customers and employees speak Chinese and the writings are in hieroglyphs, but one lady speaks English and we pick some pastries (the price for most of them is $1) and have them with tea. This will do nicely.

After the brunch we get to “16th Avenue Tiled Steps”. Really beautiful steps!

San Francisco

And now on to Golden Gate and Muir Woods. The bridge is still covered in thick fog, just as it was yesterday.

The drive to Muir Woods is not that long although the construction causes significant delays. However, upon arrival we have an unpleasant surprise: all parking lots are full, and from what we can see that includes not only parking spaces but also the areas between them. The sides of the road are filled with parked cars. The middle is filled with cars driving around waiting for someone to leave. The only choice seems to be to drive several miles further until there is a spot on the shoulder and walk uphill to have an opportunity to walk in a park and back… Thinking of how crowded the park must be makes us simply turn around, and head to the nearby Sausalito.

Lot’s of fog on the hills near Muir Woods

San Francisco

Sausalito

Sausalito is a town pretty much across Golden Gates from San Francisco, it’s a pleasant place with a nice view across the bay, though quite hazy on a sunny day like this.

San Francisco

Muir Woods and the town of Sausalito are not the only reasons to get across Golden Gate Bridge. There are two observation points just west of the highway that are absolutely awesome! This is the further one. As you can see, my wish to see Golden Gate Bridge’s top covered with fog not only has been granted but pretty much spread out to the bottom of the bridge as well…

San Francisco

The wind of course is very strong and cold, and Toma and Anne have to persevere a short photo session.

San Francisco

Not only it’s a gorgeous view of the bridge, but also of the coast

San Francisco

After pondering our options we choose to go to Golden Gate Park, curiously located inland, away from Golden Gates. This is a younger brother of New York’s Central Park, in fact a bigger brother – the park is quite large! Speaking of NY, there are also many streets in San Francisco Tamara noticed with names that mirror New York street names.

Just like in Central Park, there are some museums here but they look rather crowded and we decide instead to walk to the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. 

Rose Garden is beautiful and the fragrances fill the air while we walk around the flower beds.

San Francisco

It borders with a nice looking forest.

San Francisco

We really like this area of the park – there is not a lot of people and it is very relaxing, with beautiful plants…

San Francisco

and, sometimes, roots.

San Francisco

Japanese Garden is also beautiful, but very crowded, and that’s with paid entrance! Really, it’s amazing how tourists (or maybe not just them) are drawn to several known spots…

San Francisco

There are other interesting things in Golden Gate Park, like several bison that have their own area to dwell, and thanks to Zenfolio spell checker I now know that “bison” is an unchanging noun, like deer, sheep or fish, so its plural form is also “bison”. Frankly, I’ve seen happier looking bison…

San Francisco

Time for dinner and today it’s a treat for Anne – sushi in Japantown!!! Tamara is really not a fan of raw fish but she is convinced by a prospect of seeing a sushi bar where the dishes are moving about in boats on the water! The place is Isobune, it’s small and there are very few people inside, maybe because it’s a bit early. Anne loves the place, makes videos of the boats, and we have to stop her attacking salmon too much, it is raw after all…

A bit of walk through Japantown, which is just a themed mall, brightened by a conversation with a very nice Japanese lady with a very nice big dog. This lady was the first person who mentioned to us an expression “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”, a quote usually attributed to Mark Twain, albeit falsely. We also do a little souvenir shopping and buy some pastries, time to go to the hotel.

Day 14

San Francisco

Last day, and an incomplete one at that since we are flying tonight. What is it that we didn’t see but should have? One can think of Muir Woods of course, but we are not going there on Saturday 😨. We also haven’t seen Golden Gate Bridge from Presidio…

We stop on the way to have a brunch, only to be refused sitting in a cafe where it is better to have empty tables than to add a third chair to one of them. OK, we stop at a grocery to buy some cheese, crackers and drinks, and drive on towards the bridge.

At Golden Gate we are met by a somewhat familiar chilly wind and the bridge covered in fog… I don’t think Golden Gate Bridge’s top has seen the light of day since we arrived here 😅. You gotta give this place high marks for consistency!

San Francisco

The girls are huddling to get warmer while I’m trying to capture the views…

San Francisco
San Francisco

A short drive, and a walk around Palace of Fine Arts Theater.

San Francisco

Curious birds in the pond go out closer to people, there’s someone sharing some crumbs, pity that we don’t have any with us…

Looks like a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons

San Francisco
San Francisco

Another thing we haven’t been to is Coit Tower. I have been there last time I visited San Francisco and remember a great view on Lombard Street. Of course now, with the summer sun shining from south-west, a good view is iffy, but still it’s a great observation point.

It’s a nice chance to select a hilliest route instead of the fastest one.

It’s a good thing Coit Tower was kind of a last thing on our list, since it took us more than an hour to get to the top because of the long line. It’s a miracle we found a parking near the tower!

The view is hazy but nice…

San Francisco

Lombard Street in haze… I did the best I could in post processing…

San Francisco

Tamara also wanted to see James C. Flood Mansion, the only one of the glorious mansions of Nob Hill that survived 1906 earthquake. This is now Pacific-Union Club and we won’t go inside, just look from the street.

We also walk around Grace Cathedral nearby.

For an early dinner we pick Cheesecake Factory at Union Square. Crowds here are staggering though. What are you people all doing here? Go to Golden Gate Park! They say waiting for a dinner will be about an hour, but we see how many people are here – this will be at least 1.5 hour of standing in this loud chaos… We get out and have a nice meal in a nearby cafe. Their fresh-squeezed juice is as tasty as it was in the first one we visited.

This trip is over. We head “back” to the airport. It’s a pity we haven’t captured the view of the fog sliding down the hills… But there is still a chance to do it while riding on the airport monorail. No, it is not a big cloud – you can see the hill peeking out through the fog…

San Francisco

Well, it’s been fun while it lasted. Kind of a relaxed trip, without early mornings or exhausting hikes, but we covered a lot of ground nevertheless… There are plenty of pictures, about 700 not including some shots inside the museums and most of the photos from mobile phone cameras.

And we should still be back someday for the views of Monterey and Pacific Coast Highway and, maybe, some Redwood trees in the north… so it’s more of a “see you later” than “goodbye”, or, to quote a former Californian official, “I’ll be back”.

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