Day 8 (June 13, 2008) Big Sur, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara


Route Big Sur Santa Monica  The target for this day is getting as close as possible of L.A. wherever the place we’re leaving from. The best would be to reach Santa Monica and spending the night in there. We don’t have any booked room, though, as we don’t know where we’re going to end.

   On our way will pass by the Hearst Castle, the luxurious mansion built by magnate whose live is told in “Citizen Kane”. We will stop in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Malibu. If we end in Santa Monica, we could walk by 3rd Street Promenade by night, a street with a lot of live.

   I’ve read about some spots on the way by the coast where can be seen sea lions colonies. I still don’t know where those spots are but we must find them.

   It’s 230 Km for this day which we should cover on 3 hours of driving .


   You cannot sleep quieter: with the sea sounds as only thing breaking the complete silence of the night. In the morning all is in peace as well and I want to enjoy the views to Pacific Ocean I remember from yesterday but, when I open the door, I can see the views have been gobbled up by a dense frog. We take breakfast in the same restaurant than yesterday – obviously, as there is only one – with one of those platefuls make you thing if could be possible to put something else: eggs, bacon, sausages, etc… all home made at the moment. Then we get baggage ready and put it in the car. When we’re checking out the frog is clearing. That’s good, for a moment I thought we would end this day with dozens of white pictures. It’s chilly, so we’re wearing long sleeve. We get the gas tank full and leave to the South for resuming our route from yesterday.

Lodge in GordaGorda Springs' room

   I can see on the map we’re still far from Morro Bay, like 100 Kms, so our wish of ending in L.A. tonight is getting far too, but let’s see how it goes. We meet the first Vista point of the day soon. The difference is, as the ones yesterday have a clear space for a couple of cars, this one has a big parking lot for more than twenty cars. The views are not that spectacular, though. That must be the reason for being alone here. As there is a display explaining the fauna in this coast,California seals we look further and, just in the last corner, we can find a group of… – Let’s check the display- sails, they’re sails. It’s amazing, we are just 5 meters above them. They're laying on the shore, resting peacefully, and they’re only moving their flippers, like if they were actually a hand, for whether scratching their belly or picking their nose. We spend our time fascinated by the animals in their wild until we take our car back to the road, just for a few minutes, because another Vista point appears. Only this time the car park – which is even bigger – is full of cars and it seems crowded from the distance. So, if nobody was in the place we’ve just being amazed and everybody is in here we can expect something really special.

   And it is indeed: at the right end of the esplanade there is a path driving to a big beach with access restricted by a tape marking the closest you can stay of a huge Elephant seal colony, and the closest is like 2 meters. The smell perceived them before the eyes do. It looks as a crowded beach, just with seals instead of persons and no towels at all. The Elephant seals are bigger than the other seals and have a touch of trunk in the snout. Some of them are in water, but the most are laying in a nap. Just at our side, we can see a couple of young elephant seals playing or fighting, we cannot tell, but they’re the ones at picture at right.

Elephant sealsElephant seals

   The only preventing us of saving these two meters for posing with the animals is, apart of the tape and the smell, a man seated on a camping chair and doing the role of a guard. We leaveEva and the squirrels that spot for walking along the beach and watching the rest of the seals, but we meet the most shameless habitants of this place: the squirrels. They’re constantly appearing along the path asking for food. They’re extremely curious and just by moving one finger I manage to attract a group to me as if it was the monolith of 2001: A space odyssey. They’re examining my finger by turns until one of them decide to go from “How does it smell?” to “How does it taste?” and beats me. It doesn’t hurt as their mouths are small and Eva wants to play the same finger game with them to get some fun. She really gets a big group of squirrels, as if she was Alvin, as you can see on the picture at left.

Seals' coast

    On the other side of the car park we’re alone, but we can still see elephant seals and Californian seal, only with smaller groups. From here is the picture at right: with a squirrel eating and looking to the camera as the crown is at its business.

Squirrel and crowBeach with elephant seals

   We leave the place with the feeling of have been on magic moments which worth today’s journey by itself. Bur we have still a lot of things to come today and, as all magic time, it was a long real time. If there are more Vista points like this in front of us we’re not going even to reach San Luis Obispo today. By the moment, I’ve already discarded visiting Hearst Castle as we preferred the time spent in nature than exploring the fantasies of a rich man. After several minutes driving along the coast we reach the San Simenon turning to Hearst Castle. We follow it just for checking what we can see of the castle from outside, but the answer is nothing: just the Visitor’s center entrance. So we go on with our route without leaving the car. When we reach Morro Bay the mount in the sea is almostSan Luis Obispo entirely covered by the frog. We haven’t stopped on the few Vista points we meet on our way to here, the landscape could be clearly be seen from the car. We don’t’ want to stop now until San Luis Obispo, and we do so.  We drive for some streets until finding the mission, which we want to visit, and since there we’ve been paying attention to the signs until finding a parking. We’ve liked what we’ve been able to see of this city and what we can see from the top of the parking building – where the photo has been taken-. All the buildings are low here and, actually, we can say this parking one is the taller of all of them. They use to be whitewashed but looking different than the typical Mediterranean ones. We walk to the mission exploring the streets full of shops.

    Once in the mission we go in as there is a free admittance and explore the rooms. Obviously there are the typical objects and costumes of catholic liturgy, but some other objects of the daily live in the period. Although this is one of the oldest buildings in California, it is from 1772, so these are objects from the 19th century. Europeans could be used of these things, but they’re very proud of it and a plaque recalls this is the fifth of the 21 missions in California.

Mision of San Luis ObispoMision of San Luis Obispo

   Everything is clean, well conserved and very beautiful: the garden, the facade, the rooms, the objects, the statue of the bishop of Tolosa: San Luis. Enthusiastic about everything we’re seeing we decide to purchase the 14 pieces of the nativity scene, mainly white, as we still haven’t got any at home. We pay 40$ for it ion the gift store and walk exploring the shops of the street as we’ve finally got spare time. We’re going to lunch here and now it’s still forty minutes past noon.

Mision of San Luis ObispoMision of San Luis Obispo

   We walk around and take Higuera Street for checking the stores in there. We get into a pet boutique where you can find anything you can imagine for dogs and cats, with a patisserie among them. The picture shows their assorted of pies, canapés, cookies,… anything can makePet boutique your pet feel special on its birthday. This is quite amazing as these samples can beat the ones of a lot of patisseries for humans. I can see pop corn for dogs by 5$ as the cheapest thing of the whole store. Dogs earn a lot of money around here.

    The window of another store shows decorative designs for home all made with… military helmets!. Really, there are lamps and even a ladybug, which is just a helmet in red with black points and some little legs. I pay attention on a photo shop because they’re selling mostly second hand repaired photo and video cameras with a guarantee and incredible prices. We all have our digital cameras but it makes you want to buy something just because the opportunity.

Mother's Tavern   We finally get into a big tavern on which there are concerts and dance some nights, but now is offering its daily look. Its name is Mother’s Tavern. They do a lot of fine things with hamburgers, but Eva is a defender of healthy food and, recalling yesterday’s dinner and the breakfast of this morning, make me look for another kind of lunch. My sister is out of it as she has gone to the car, where she has a sandwich saved from the dinner. Finally, when we are already served our usual glass of water with lemon and ice, we order a kind of taco with salmon and salad inside and a couple of cokes. When our lunch arrives the taco is quite bigger than expected, and there are two of them! And with those delicious home made fries besides. We ask for each of our second taco to be packed as we’re not going to be able of eat them now. It seems quite normal in US to pack the spare food in restaurants. Trini appears explaining how she’s lost her food: the last memory about it is putting on the top of the car when we were getting ready forStores in San Luis Obispo leaving Gorda, so it seems her pack hasn’t manage to follow us until here. She has lunched a sandwich somewhere. Our lunch is 20$ and we can say it includes our dinner for today too.

   We walk to the parking, but no rush, checking stores in Broad St., Marsh St. and Garden St. Our will is not getting into the stores, but we cannot resist when we see a big store with movies’ objects. They have a real size Chewbacca with the Austin Powers mini-me wearing the Lakers T shirt in its arms, which can make an idea what it is about. I buy a Star Wars Jawa figure which moves the big head by 15$, but my sister says in Barcelona has seen this same figure by 100€. It’s hard to believe.

   We still go into another store, just besides the parking: Sports Authority. As the hint in its name, it is a big outlet of sport equipment. I’m amazed on golf section because of the big stock and the prices, so finally I take a drive. I don’t play with drives yet, just irons, but this costs 29$Parking in San Luis Obispo and is of the brand Wilson. I can value this same club by 150€ in Barcelona. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with it in the plane, but I have several days in front to working it out and it is worth the shot by this price, even if it finally cannot come with me. Eva wants a whole club set with bag, its price is 100$,  which is cheaper too, but that is going to be impossible to bring to home. We finally leave this city. We’ve liked it and I didn’t read anywhere this was a shopping place but my feeling is this is the place where the shopping must be made. We still have a lot to see of California, but we love the style of the cities of these last days: all clean, impeccable! I think we are not going to forget California .

   From San Luis Obispo, Hw1 joins to 101, which is the fast highway across the interior. We leave the coast and are not going to see the sea again until arriving to Santa Barbara. That means we’re not going to have Vista points in our way, so we can drive directly and covering the 150 Km of distance in a good time. It’s a few minutes past 16h and I still can see chances ofRailway along the coast being in L.A. tonight.

    After one hour and a half we get into Santa Barbara and soon we find the parking signs driving us to the top of a building. The views are beautiful, one more time, the sea at one side and the mountain on the opposite. This mountain is full of white houses which I guess they’re mansions due to the level of life I could feel in this city. It is like the expensive version of San Luis Obispo. We walk around to check how it is, indeed, impeccable too. Everything looks new, that’s it is recalling San Luis Obispo for us, it’s just the houses are on the next level of luxury and there are palm trees all around, which is another difference. We’re talking about such level that the typical street musician playing for coins in all the cities is a pretty woman with a night dress and playing a harp. Is the one in the picture at left. What a difference with the ones banging an accordion in our metro!

Walking by Santa BarbaraStreets of Santa Barbara

Streets of Santa BarbaraParking of Santa Barbara

                                                                                                                                         There is a network of trolleys as public transport around the city, they’re in pristine condition too. Just one hour of walk because we don’t have time for more, we can feel how the sun is in rush for hiding today and I still want to stop in Malibu. I’m relieved because I can see that in the case we are not going to end tonight ion L.A., we will do it quite close of it. So, visiting Santa Monica tomorrow morning is going to be feasible. I think we’re going to spend the night in Malibu.

   The road is along the ocean again and the views of the coast are beautiful too, but we prefer the wild touch from the Big Sur ones as here there is not a single area without urbanizing. Even a small island is accessible by a very long gangway over the sea. The quality of the picture is quite poor because it is taken through the window of the running car.

Little Island

   As you can see the sun was almost gone and we are in a frenetic race to as far as possible. When there are more dark than light the signs make us think we’re arriving to Los Angeles city and then I wonder “Malibu?”. It seems we’ve left it behind but, as my goal of spending the night in L.A. at hand, we’re not going to see Malibu.

Santa Monica Lodges   We are now within one of the biggest cities in the world, but we feel like if we were driving by an intercity highway instead. We can see trees – palm trees mainly – at both sides, but we can barely see a building. The highway network in the city is kind of complex and we soon get lost in it. I know we must take the 10 to reach Santa Monica, and I do it, but when I realize we’re going to the wrong direction and leave the highway to turn round I get into a mess of highways where we waste one hour before being back to the 10 one in the right direction.

   We arrive at dark night but it is easy to get oriented because you can feel where the sea is, but our priority now is getting some lodge. I’m driving directly to a Travelodge I chose before travelling because it was close to the pier and the beach. We soon reach the pier, which we can see with lights and pretty crowded by night and we finally find Santa Monica Beach Travelodge (29), although not as easily as I though. But it results not being vacancy in there, it’s completely full. They give us this map with all Santa Monica lodging for helping us in our search. This Travelodge’s situation was not that good as presumed because, it is indeed close to the beach, but between them there is a highway and some buildings, which makes the beach near, but difficult to reach. Actually, you can’t even see it from here!

   Anyway, looking at the map I choose the Comfort Inn Santa Monica (7) because the hotel in Philadelphia belonging to this franchise was superb and it is several streets up next street, but when we arrive we just receive another no-vacancy answer. It’s 22:30h and we can be losing chances with every minute, so this is becoming an emergency. As we could see a Best Western Hotel (5) in this same street we go there, as it is the closest option. It’s also full, though. They even tell us the last free room was just delivered a few minutes ago. Ok, I remember reading very good reviews about a Travelodge in Pico Boulevard (31), the only problem is it is far from the beach, but as we’ve got a car this is a minor problem for us. I stop on the Travelodge we first stopped and ask them for the address and even the phone, as now we’re going to stop going around and look for a bed by phone. The man in the desk of this Travelodge calls and tells us there is only one room available, but they can make it for three by 169$. I immediately agree and take note of the address.

Santa Monica map

   We get the place quickly once we know it is in Pico Boulevard with 31st St., so we go up the boulevard paying attention to the streets names – or numbers -: 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st, here it is. There is only one free space in the parking lot, which is enough for us.

   There is a guy at the desk playing a guitar that stops as we came in. He treats us friendly… a lot… it’s like if we are his surfing pals, but it is nice. Our triple room is ready and with a lot of space. It even has a room with a coffee machine and table with chairs. We like the Travelodge Pico, but we will enjoy it later as we need to go out for dinner quickly. We want to go to 3rd Street promenade without knowing what we’re going to find in there at midnight. Our new friend writes down indications about how to get there and where to park in our map.

   We park in the building in 2nd Street, which you can find following the “P” signs even with no indications. The live seems to be ending in the promenade as it is so late. We still can go into an open place, like the typical American bar but with music. It’s name is Trastevere. There is no problem for dinner at this late time and the man attending to us speaks a perfect Spanish. We order three pizzas with cokes and my sister even go for some shots: 50$ in total. We’re tired and go to sleep.