In an attempt to try and find some sunshine along the so-called sunshine coast, the three of us packed up the car and headed South to L.A along the Big Sur
Claimed to be one of the greatest meetings between land and sea, the Big Sur is one of California’s treasures. Located along Scenic Highway One between San Francisco and LA, the Big Sur spans 90 miles between Carmel, to the north and San Simeon to the south.
With San Francisco now a couple of hours behind us we arrived in the hippie destination of Santa Cruz. Despite being steeped in low cloud, there was still an undeniable vibrancy about the town. A melting pot of surf seeking beach bums and San Francisco’s wealthy tech geeks, Santa Cruz is an organic eating, coffee loving, micro brew guzzling paradise, where it’s still cool to be a hippie or a stoner.
Walking down the high street it’s difficult to spot anyone over the age of fifty, about from the homeless that is. Young, beautiful and tattooed men and women man the coffee machines, thrift stores and food trucks, filling their establishments with their local peers and tourists alike eager to live the Santa Cruz lifestyle.
The three of us agreed to stay in a budget motel for the next couple of nights to afford the odd splurge in food and drink. After convincing each other that the Eau de dog aroma that filled our room was worth the sacrifice in the name of three meals out a day we headed to our first taste of Santa Cruz at homegrown Verve Coffee
Sipping our espresso’s and complimentary sparkling waters Jake and I quickly realised that the West Coast was a different country entirely to the America we had seen over the past weeks and months. Healthy conscious living was the first and most noticeable difference that separated this stretch of California to the vast majority of the U.S.A that we had travelled through. With not a McDonalds, Taco Bell or Wendy’s insight we meandered down the high street to the Bagelry
A trip to Santa Cruz wouldn’t be complete without a strut along the seafront and it’s world famous boardwalk. Founded in 1907 it is America’s oldest surviving amusement park.
Kayleigh had come to the U.S.A armed with a list of foods that she wanted to try, the Fairground offered up the perfect opportunity to strike corndog off that list. Armed with our paper penny tokens we queued up for the monstrous big dipper that stretched most of the length of the fairground. Trying to not pay too much attention to the weathered condition of the wooden joints and joists that held the structure together, we closed our eyes and hoped for the best. It was at that point that Kayleigh and I realised that Jake had a rollercoaster laugh. A contagious childlike chuckle that was reserved and only released when an adequate balance of terror and ecstasy rose up inside him. That ride put Disney to shame. Without an animatronic animal or cartoon insight, it was the sheer terror of not knowing whether the wooden beams and asthmatic chugging of the chain beneath us would hold us that made that ride so god damn fabulous.
In need of a drink to calm our jelly legs, we headed to Pono Hawaiian Grill for some fresh fish cold beer and relaxing Honolulu guitar. After a couple of hours of sampling deliciously fresh Poke and slowly drifting into a trance-like state by the managers’ guitar playing we headed for some local brews and a couple of games of pool at one of the many downtown bars.
After a couple of days, we chased the sunshine south to Carmel-by-the-sea, a destination that my mum Sandy had raved about after her trip to the Big Sur a few months before. A beautifully manicured town, Carmel looks almost storybook-like, with an eclectic mix of whimsical Hansel and Gretel like buildings and Mediterranean whitewashed villas. It struck us that Carmel was the next residential destination for the young, rich techie’s after their years in Santa Cruz were up. Here there was no shortage of people over fifty. Accompanied by their Range Rovers and Ferrari’s the beautifully manicured residents glided up and down the streets with their even more manicured pooches.
Not being able to afford to even look in any of the shops we opted naturally to concentrate on food, this time heading to La Bicyclette, a french restaurant our mum had recommended. This small, rustic and beautifully dressed bistro was a slice of heaven. The three of us barely spoke during that meal, too engrossed with the food in front of us and too distracted by the host of other tempting delicacies that were being served up around us.
Feeling overly full and slightly sleepy from an afternoon of sipping French wine, Jake was a gentleman and drove sleeping Kayleigh and me to nearby Monterey where we would stay for the next couple of days.
With one of largest underwater canyons in the world in the center of Monterey Bay, it’s not surprising that Monterey is home to some of the world’s richest marine life. We had journeyed to Monterey to experience what was claimed to be one of the best aquariums in the USA. Monterey didn’t disappoint. Built on the site of an old sardine plant, this gigantic center plays host to some spectacular and mesmerizing displays. Every minute, two thousand gallons of seawater is pumped into their three-story kelp forest and at 11am every day twenty-seven thousand sardines are released into the forest, feeding large fish of prey for all to see.
After a day at the aquarium and with our sustainable fish guides at our sides, we headed to The Monterey Fish House for what was to be an evening of the best seafood yet.
As we neared L.A we opted to head south towards Orange County in pursuit of sun and surf. Kayleigh finally found a use for her multiple bikinis and after two days of lounging on the beach, we headed to Hollywood to be reunited with our old friend Adam.
Thanks to the generosity of Adam and his husband Tyler who bought Disney passes for Jake, Kayls and me, we were able to spend our final days together recreating the last time Kayls and I we were here in the USA. A nostalgic blast to the past, this time on the other side of the country, we spent the day pretending it was twenty years ago, having just as much fun and laughing just as much as we did when we were two little girls.