At the start of this week we visited Santa Cruz to see the seals sleeping and fighting on the wharf and to marvel at the giant Coastal Redwoods in Big Basin that have since been badly affected by fires which swept across an area of 15,000 square miles.
We motored down from Silicon Valley to the Monterey Peninsula. Arriving at the Pebble Beach Lodge we were given a fabulous room that overlooked the 18th green of the famous golf course with views over the bay and out to the Pacific Ocean. I had enough room to practice full swings as well as those difficult 60-foot putts.
The next morning Debbie slunk off for a horse ride through the woods and along the beach followed by a trip to the spa whilst, with nothing else to do, I had to suffer a round on the golf course that will host the US Open Championship next year. It is a stunning course that winds it’s way along the cliff tops and over ravines and inlets to tight, well-bunkered greens. I struggled round in 82 strokes that should have been better had I not parted company with 3 balls. Despite taking 5.5 hours and costing a whopping five-hundred-and-something dollars, it was a truly wonderful experience that I will never forget.
The next morning I left Debbie to organise our move to another hotel whilst I went to spray some balls around Spanish Bay Golf course. An altogether different experience. The Americans call it a links course but, in reality, it is just a golf course next to the sea. Something of a disappointment after Pebble Beach.
In order to enhance our stay, someone had organised an enormous vintage and top-of-the-range car rally that climaxed in a two-day grand auction. There were more vintage Ferraris than you could shake a stick at including 250 GTO’s being offered at $5m. Bugatti Verons were two a penny, Lamborghinis were for plebs, anything under $100k was towed away and we could not dare to be seen in a smelly Ford Mustang (I let Debbie drive whilst I curled up on the floor).
After departing the peace and quiet of Spanish Bay we drove around 17-mile drive, stopping off at Monterey, playing tourist by visiting the aquarium and dining on calamari on the pier. We also stopped off at Carmel, where Clint Eastwood was recently Mayor. We were required to clean our shoes before stepping out of the car into this quaint little village that is completely up its own arse.
At the end of the week, it was a special drive over a couple of days, along Highway 1. What fabulous views of the coastline as the road hugs the cliff tops and each turn brings new, breathtaking scenery. You don’t want to drive at more than 25 mph in case anything gets missed. There were eagles and condors enjoying the thermals and seals. Otters and other indeterminate sea life splashed near the shore. It was worth coming just for this experience.
We ended the first day at a place called Big Sur that has little claim to fame other than it isn’t a place at all; just 10 buildings spread over a couple of miles of road. Nonetheless, we experienced our first Motel: plastic, noisy, cold and expensive. Grudgingly, I have to admit to a special moment whilst taking luncheon when a beautiful humming bird returned time and again to sup nectar from flowers surrounding our table. It was surprisingly difficult to photograph as you may see!
The following morning started off brighter than all the other mornings so far. We brunched at a famous cafe/bar called ‘Nepenthe’ just south of Big Sur. Its claim to fame being the place that Orson Wells had built for his lover Rita Hayworth. A hang-out for the young and old alike, we enjoyed the famous ‘Ambrosia’ burger, while Debbie had the veggie version. We continue on down Hwy 1 and came across an awesome elephant seal colony.
Thence on to Santa Barbara to stay with Floyd and Martha in their new home. Hot showers and a warm bedroom were luxurious.