Sunday, Oct 02, 2011 at 11:01

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

Trip Day 25
Thursday 29th September, 2011

This morning we wanted to see San Francisco from a different perspective so after check-out we drove around the bay and over the Richmond Bridge and towards Sausalito and then up the "scenic" hill for views over the ocean and Golden Gate bridge. Rather than a visual experience we had an aural one, with ships foghorns piercing the still crisp morning air.

We then drove over the Golden Gate bridge and let "Tom" guide us out of the city and south towards our day's end destination - Monterey via Santa Cruz. After taking photos of more coloured terraces and letting ourselves be whisked away on the super highway for about 40minutes I started to question when we'd start to see the coast. After querying this, David realised that the Tom Tom was not taking us via the Highway 1 to hug the coastline but had found the fastest route to Santa Cruz on Hwy 17. We pulled off, re-routed the sat nav' and had to backtrack up the expressway before we could pick up a road across to the coast. We drove up a huge winding path popular with extreme cyclists and immediately enjoyed the beautiful scenery and being back in the forests of redwoods and Australian gum trees!

We came to the coast at a place beginning with P (that I've forgotten) and found a wild stretch of rocky coastline and made a picnic lunch of ham/salad wraps from our esky beneath the "tusami risk area" signs. The detour had added about an hour to our route but was worth doing to get off the superhighway. It was quite an enjoyable drive to Santa Cruz, especially the stop at Stanton Berry Farm, an organic strawberry farm where we got coffee, blackberry pie, and chocolate/strawberry truffles all on an honesty, self-serve arrangement. When we arrived Santa Cruz the beach front was deserted and boardwalk amusement park closed so after a drive around the nice homes along the coastline we continued south to Monterey. This part of the drive passes through a massive vegetable growing region and there were pickers everywhwere. The farming was mostly artichokes, but also cauliflowers, and other unusual crops.

In Monterey, the weather was beautiful so we went out for a late afternoon excursion down the Cannery Row and had a bit of fun taking the kids to a Mirror Maze and Laser Challenge (like being a bank heist in Mission Impossible). We got a wine tasting voucher for the Scheid Winery a few doors down so had a half hour of adult time while the kids had their fun. Dinner was very entertaining at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant (a Forest Gump themed place) and then enjoyed an evening stroll.

Trip Day 26
Friday 30th September, 2011

Although we knew we had quite a big drive down the Bug Sur today, we started the day with a visit to the Monterey Aquarium - based on rave reviews and the fact they had a great white shark. We were told to allow at least 2 hours, and we weren't keen to spend $98 entry (for 4 of us) but we ended up staying 4 hours and could easily have stayed another 2 hours. It certainly lives up to it's reputation of being one of the best aquarium's in the world. The quality of the exhibits was astounding. No expense had been spared with glorious lighting, funky signage, enormous layout, numerous feeding time shows, guides in each area on hand to explain the animals to you personally, numerous touch-pools and an overwhelming attention to young-child friendly exhibits and numerous massive, multi-floor high tanks filled with incredible variety of fish. The largest tankheld the juvinile great white shark, a hammerhead, a sun fish (molla molla), blue fin tuna, thousands of sardines, and we watched a feeding session here! Another tank had the massive African penguins and another had very active sea otters that were popular. But there was also an entire section of more than 30 sea horse exhibits with every type imaginable including pipefish, weedy and leafy seadragons, and intersperesed with this was clever computer graphics, and video macro-footage. It was an aqua-sensory overload and utterly wonderful.

We then emerged at 1.30pm to have MYO frozen yoghurt, and let the kids enjoy another run through the Mirror Maze again before heading south towards our day's destination of San Simeon. Along the way we stopped at a look-out for a late esky-lunch of wraps and fruit then the kids slept while we enjoyed a lovely afternoon's drive down the Californian coast. We could have stopped at every Vista point and every quaint teahouse and village but chose to limit our stops and arrived in San Simeon around 5pm. We spent the dusk walking along the "beach" and Chardae got herself covered in black mud again before we went out for dinner.

Our motel promotes free wifi but we can't hold a connection so blogging is being done offline into notepad for uploading when we get into a better service area. This is the area of Hearsts Castle but as it will cost $75 for us all to enter the grounds we are not sure we can afford it, nor if the kids will find it worthwhile. We still have a 4 hour drive without stops to reach Santa Monica tomorrow.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Travelling fulltime in 2024
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