Big Sur coast: Cambria to Carmel

near-bixby-bridge

Tues 30 Aug : Cambria to Carmel   

We were booked onto the 10am tour of Hearst Castle, 9 miles up the road at San Simeon. We would stop there again overnight on the way back but I felt I’d made a mistake not planning a full day in this area. Ah well….so much to do so little time! In fact I’d thought about cancelling the Castle visit until Chris said just to leave things as they were, we could see this famous place ‘and beat the Spaniards also’ – his favourite saying.

We arrived early and managed to get onto the 9.30 tour instead so that was a great start! The little bus took us up a lovely road to the castle itself, a magnificent European – style palace, almost cathedral like with real Spanish/Moorish touches. The gardens were lovely. Inside – wow, that wealth had re-created sumptuous medieval interiors, with walnut and mahogany lined walls and beautiful ornaments and decoration. Well worth the $50 entry fee (total for us both.)

Took a walk after that out on San Simeon’s pier, overlooking a pleasant bay, an undeveloped old pier this time that was peaceful and very attractive. Inland, California’s rolling hills were yellow and dry, parched. There had been terrible fires across the State for months now, after years of drought and several areas were still not under control. Noticed fire trucks parked off road in many places.

san-simeon-pier

Spent half an hour at the impressive Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Colony just 5 miles up the coast. What an incredible number there were, mostly young males and they were incredibly close – much closer than we had on our last trip at Ano Nuevo. We could watch their interaction and mock battles and hear their calls, just below us.

elephant-seal

Big Sur proper, in terms of the really dramatic scenery, starts at Ragged Point. The landscape now became much more impressive, much wilder and the mountains dropped steeply into the ocean. We stopped at the Hotel itself, a very attractive set up – mobbed! – with its café and impressive viewpoints, then headed on.

What a drive it is!

It was a fine sunny day and there were stopping points on just about every bend of the road. I reckon we stopped in at least half of them!

It’s always sensational looking down from a height out onto a wild ocean It’s all so unspoilt too, with not much development which adds to its appeal. Long may it continue to be like this! We had just stopped at one viewpoint when we spied humpback whales blowing WAY offshore again. Wonderful sight.(whales in Pic 2 🙂 )

just-before-we-spotted-the-whales

 

humpbacks-feeding-offshore

The odd hotel or Inn is beautifully situated along the coast,nothing else much around them and they just compel you to stop and get out to admire them, or have a coffee or lunch. We stopped at St Lucia Lodge (which we’d almost booked as an overnight) just to see what the whole set up was like. The far away lodges looked best, with their big shared patio overlooking the sea and the cliffs. But it was also quite hard by the main road. Not cheap either. They had a nice looking terrace serving food but you had to eat a full lunch to gain a seat there, or be relegated to an indoor café to sip your coffee so we moved on.

It really did delight us as much as on our last trip – it’s a joy of a drive. Stopped at Julia Pfeiffer Falls, the famous waterfall which drops onto a small beach. It wasn’t easy to park but we managed to find a spot by the roadside and walked along to join the beautiful trail along the cliff edge. What a gorgeous sight it was, classic Big Sur, with cypresses and pines and the rugged coastline.

julia-pfieffer-beach

Stopped at Café Keva, below Nepenthe restaurant, a favourite spot from our last trip. It’s in a glorious location high above the ocean, near Big Sur village. Had coffee and an excellent Lemon Drizzle sponge (good baking at last) and enjoyed just being here again. We were only half an hour away now from our accommodation in the Carmel Highlands.

It’s always great to discover new places but it’s equally lovely to feel you are back in a much loved area, somewhere familiar that you can relax in and just ‘be.’ Despite our wonderful experiences in Utah and Arizona, Big Sur was not a disappointment or ‘less’ in any way. It was quite clear now why it had drawn us back and I just felt so happy that we had chosen to be here again. (oh me, of little faith.)

Then we were over the impressive Bixby Bridge and in no time we had easily found John’s beautiful Airbnb villa, our home for the next four nights. Carmel Highlands is only a five minute drive away from the gorgeous town itself, a very upmarket area of stunning homes hidden amongst the line trees and very close to beautiful Point Lobos. Clint Eastwood has a ranch and a house close by and was Mayor here for a time (giving some idea of the great draw of this area to those who have the money to no doubt live wherever they want.)

johns-house-carmel-highlands

John greeted us as we parked up in the acre of garden ground around the villa, a really friendly guy. Our ‘room’ turned out to be the upper floor of the house! It was stunning accommodation; we couldn’t expect better from a five star hotel. The bedroom was a dream, huge, elegantly furnished with a double sink en suite shower and bathroom. We also had a small ‘snug’ for sitting where the fridge and kettle and some breakfast things were. (croissants, at last!) There was also a luggage and clothes storage room! We had access to several outdoor patios and the garden itself. All for $125 a night. Wow. (It also included two free passes to Monterey’s Aquarium , worth $80 -$100).

Decided to head into Carmel after getting all the gear up to the room and unpacked, heading for an excellent deli we knew – Bruno’s. Picked up a hot whole, roast chicken and potato salad ( I’m embarrassed to think how often we ate this as a carry out meal during our trip) but it was a great stand by for a quick tasty meal. Also indulged in a great looking bit of their carrot cake. And chocolate.

relaxing-on-the-patio

We ate in the snug then sat out afterwards with some wine and watched the sun go down over the cypresses and pines of this little wooded corner. There didn’t seem to be soul in the house (John actually stayed in Pebble Beach). Good Wi Fi in the house so caught up with messaging and photo sending to the boys, and getting their news back. We had 4 nights here now and what a joy it was to find we’d arrived, again, in such a superb house. Accommodation so far throughout our trip had been top notch, really beautiful.

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