Sunday, September 6, 2009

Go West, up America's West Coast that is...

After taking in the delights of L.A. and following our evening with Liza Minnelli at The Hollywood Bowl, on Saturday we made an early start driving up the Californian coast retracing the journey we'd made almost six years ago.
Go West sign
This time everything wouldn't be so new for us after living in L.A. for the past year and a half and having traveled up scenic Highway 1 before, but we did have a friend with us who was experiencing it all for the first time.
Stearns Wharf Santa Barbara
Even though our short vacation would take us to some familiar places and meeting up with some friendly faces, there was one big difference, this time I could drive.
Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf wooden pier
Our journey would take us to Hearst Castle, wine tasting in Carmel Valley and even a boat ride out to Alcatraz in San Francisco, but our first stop was in Santa Barbara to enjoy the ocean view from Stearns Wharf.
Cambria coast
It felt weird to be in there without Cooper, who loves the fantastic dog beach at Arroyo Burro. But we knew he was far too busy getting up to lots of mischief with his new dog pals at his holiday home in Burbank.
Sea Otter Inn Cambria
After a stroll and a snack in Santa Barbara we drove up the coast to Cambria our first overnight stay. We dropped our bags at the Sea Otter Inn and headed for a walk along the ocean to take in the lovely coastal views.
Cambria Pacific Ocean view
Cambria coastline
When you live in a bustling city environment, even one as sprawling as L.A., it's always nice to get away from it all and find some much needed peace by the calming ocean.
Pacific Ocean view at CambriaCambria Californian coastline
Whilst we walked alongside Moonstone Beach we were entertained by the local wildlife scampering about the pathway, who popped up once in a while to say hello.
Cambria furry friend
It was lovely to feel the cool coastal breeze after the heat of L.A., especially with all the wildfires raging back there, but even though it was sunny when we arrived in Cambria you could tell that they also get a lot of changeable weather as these windswept trees attest to and with motel names like Fogcatcher's Inn, you know it's not always so perfect.
Windswept trees in Cambria
We even had a taste of the fog the next morning which burned away fairly quickly, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Cambria coastlineCambria Ocean view
Anyone traveling up the coast needs to realise that places close early in these coastal towns - restaurants, bars, shops, gas stations, you name it. By 10pm it's normally all shut up and like a ghost town.
The Black Cat restaurant in Cambria
Luckily we made a delightful discovery courtesy of a recommendation from an old-fashioned guide book (take that internet), a wonderful bistro called The Black Cat.

Not only was the decor and service to our liking (which was great as sometimes these coastal tourist spots can be a bit 'twee'), but the food was interesting too. I enjoyed some pheasant wrapped in pancetta in a parsnip sauce and we all shared a lovely bottle of Zinfandel, from nearby Paso Robles.
The Black Cat Bistro, Cambria
Tomorrow I'll share with you our visit to the eclectic Hearst Castle, before our jaunt up along the coast through Big Sur to picturesque seaside town Carmel.
Cambria Californian sunset
For now I'll leave you with a beautiful Californian sunset in Cambria...

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