Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 13, 2012

San Francisco to Los Angeles

I got a bit behind on writing these when I was travelling, so you’re in for a big one!

After Yosemite we headed to San Francisco, and didn’t do much more than travelling that day. Getting into San Francisco the famous fog was there to greet us, which meant we could hardly see the Bay Bridge as we drove over it, and definitely couldn’t see the Golden Gate Bridge. That afternoon we had a bit of an explore around Chinatown and got some massages after camping for so long (ok, it wasn’t all that long since we’d had a bed but massages are good).
The next day we headed off early to Alcatraz (luckily we had pre-booked as it was Thursday and the next available tickets were for Saturday). The audio tour was really good, narrated by old guards and prisoners, and some of the crumbling areas away from the old cell block were very decrepid and atmospheric. I hadn’t expected there to be so many flowers as well, but they have had gardens there for a long time. As we left Alcatraz the fog was just starting to clear so we got a nice view back to the Rock. After Alcatraz we went to Pier 39 where we saw the sea lions. Very entertaining, I could have watched them all day. Then we went to Fisherman’s Wharf and I had some crab chowder in a sourdough bowl. Mmmmmm. After that it was an ice-cream sundae at Ghirardelli, except that got eaten too fast to take a photo of it. After eating all of that food we decided to tackle something else San Francisco is famous for, it’s hills. We walked up a very tall hill to get to Lombard Street, one of the crookedest streets in the world (possibly the crookedest but there is some controversy about that – I won’t go into that here). Then we walked down the especially steep section (pedestrians have stairs, cars have eight hairpin bends over one block). Then we kept walking down the street until it started going up, at which point we walked up another steep hill to Coit Tower. I guess it does make sense to have a viewing tower on the top of a tall hill, but we were pretty tired once we got to the top. The view was nice though. After that we called it a day.
On the following day we had a walking tour booked. There was a little bit of confusion as the start time I’d been given was 8am, and it actually started at 8:30am, so we weren’t sure if we were in the right place or not. Luckily I had a phone and we got a bit of time to wander before it started. First we got one of the historic F trams to the Mission district where we saw some pretty cool murals. We also got hot drinks in a place with too many options. I got a hot chocolate and got choices about how sweet I wanted it, how much milk, what type of milk and probably other stuff too. It’s too hard to make all those choices for one drink! After the Mission district we got a local bus and then went on one of the cable cars. That was fun except that a group of 41 French tourists also got on (our group was only 5, including the guide) which made it a bit harder to see anything. We got the cable car to Chinatown and realised how little we had seen when we’d wandered around ourselves. We had only really seen the ‘tourist’ street but there were loads of little alleyways and other streets. This time we went to a fortune cookie where we saw them make the cookies by hand (so quick!) and got to eat some baby fortune cookies (flat ones before they’ve been folded). We also went to Tien Hau Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in the United States (not quite in it’s original location, but pretty close). Then we had a massive dim sum lunch. It was yummy. Our next stop was back to Pier 39 where we got to watch the sea lions again (Yay!) and then we had a ride on a catamaran under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was still a little foggy, but not too bad. Although the boat ride was a bit cold to be honest. After the boat ride I had to top up my phone. According to the internet the closest place to our hostel was somewhere called the ‘Psychedelic Smoke Shop’…which meant we found the dodgy area of San Francisco (well, one of them at least).
In the morning we left San Francisco for Berkeley, on the other side of the bay. We had a very tasty pizza from Cheeseboard for lunch, and sat on the grassy median strip like locals to eat it. We then had a guided tour around the University of California, where we saw dinosaur fossils and went to the top of the Campanile, the third tallest bell and clock tower in the world. It had a nice view. That evening we had a tasty fish dinner and then went to Fentons Creamery (referenced in the film Up!) where we had a really tasty ice-cream sundae.
The next day we went back into San Francisco. We visited the Exploratorium, a really fun and interactive science museum, had lunch overlooking the sea, and then, as it was a surprisingly clear day, we went across the Golden Gate Bridge and got some fantastic views of the bridge and back to San Francisco.
The next morning we set off on our way to LA. Our first stop was Monterey. Once there we went on a three hour whale watching cruise. We were full of high expectations as over the last week the boats had seen blue whales, orcas and humpback whales. We weren’t so lucky. We saw a couple of sea lions, and possibly an otter. But it was gone before I could be certain. So that was a bit disappointing. We then found our campsite and then went to Cannery Row for dinner.
We then continued our drive along the coast, driving around Pebble Beach, which had some lovely views of the Pacific Ocean, and then continued driving along Highway One, past Big Sur and on to Hearst Castle. Just before we got to Hearst Castle we stopped by a small beach full of elephant seals, which was pretty cool. Hearst Castle is very impressive, perched on the top of a hill, you pass zebras and cattle to get there on a bus, and then get to the fabulous Casa Grande, the main house. We did the Grand Rooms tour and walked around, each room filled with centuries old objects from Europe, including ceilings and tapestries, as well as some ancient Egyptian statues. The Roman pool was particularly impressive, more something you would see in a fancy hotel than a house. After Hearst Castle we headed to Morro Bay, a nice little town.
The next day we went to San Luis Obispo, then realised there wasn’t all that much to see there (well, we didn’t have a guide so we might have missed something) and then went to Lompoc. We went to the tourist office and discovered that the main sight (the flower fields) was done for the year so we went onto Santa Barbara and then to Carpinteria, our final destination for the night. Our camp site was right on the beach and next to the town, so we had a lovely walk along the beach and a relaxing afternoon.
After that it was on to LA, the last stop for the trip. Our first afternoon we wandered around downtown, but didn’t do a huge amount.
The next day we set off for Hollywood. We did a tour of Paramount Studios, which was really interesting and got to walk onto the set of Happy Endings (they weren’t filming) and drive around the New York lot. We also caught the tail end of filming for another show as well. We caught the bus back into the center of Hollywood and went to the Hollywood museum which was full of props, costumes and old Max Factor rooms. The whole building used to be the salons for Max Factor. After that we went to Madam Tussauds and saw all the wax dummies, and then did a walking tour of Hollywood. That was very interesting, we got to see some of the old movies theatres, the Hollywood walk of fame and the footprints and handprints outside the Chinese Theatre.
On the following day we went to Universal Studios. We started with the studio tour, where we saw a 3D King Kong film and some of the sets, then saw the Waterworld show (we sat near the back so didn’t get wet), the 3D Terminator film, went on a ride and saw a show on special effects. By the time we left the lines for some attractions were over an hour, so we thought we’d leave at that point rather than waiting in line for anything else.
The next day was the last day in the US. We started the day heading to Long Beach and after eventually finding some parking we visited the Queen Mary, where we saw some of the old engines and reconstructions of the rooms and also did a ghost tour which led us deep into the ship and was full of flashing lights and effects like water pouring through the sides of the ship. Our next stop was the Aquarium of the Pacific where we saw lorikeets (a bit far from home), seals and penguins. From there we drove along the coast to Santa Monica where we walked along the Pier and went on the solar powered ferris wheel (it felt like a normal ferris wheel) before heading to the airport.
So now I’m back in Australia, and starting work on Monday, so it looks like I’ll be here for a little while
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