I left Los Angeles headed for San Francisco and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. I was excited – not only was the open road calling but I was getting to go to the festival I’d been hearing about for some months from locals! I wasn’t quite prepared for just how amazing the drive would be though!
The first stop on my trip was Hearst Castle – a huge castle like house built on the hills overlooking the coast. The story goes that William Hearst played on the hills as a child and in his later years decided to build a home for himself there. He contracted a female architect (an unusual thing for the time) and together they went about building a home for all of Hearst’s historical treasures – everything from ceilings, rugs, paintings, tables, seats… they put it all into this house. It’s therefore a huge mishmash of styles from various periods of history and also the local furniture store – a trained eye would be able to identify, to me though it just looked like a scene from the Monty Python films. In the grounds Hearst built a huge zoo, which whilst now closed but the zebra can still be seen roaming the fields and the enclosures stand empty.
Perhaps more interesting was what happened in the house rather than the the way it looks as Hearst used to entertain the Hollywood “royalty”. There are countless pictures and videos of the Hollywood elite rubbing shoulders with foreign dignities and also randomers that interested Hearst. The tour you take has a countless name dropping when you enter the different rooms of the house.
My favourite bit of the house and grounds was the pools. The outdoors Neptune Pool is huge and shimmers with bright blue water and the huge white pillars at the edge are impressive. Your eye is always drawn back to the water due to it’s design and it’s amazing colour. The indoor pool is pretty special too with the ornate walls and the integrated dive boards, “hidden” rooms. They are both pretty special places!
The Coastline and the road
I hadn’t driven a car for five months at this stage and I’d forgotten just how much I love it. To sit behind the wheel of a Dodge Charger with it’s 3.5lt V6 on a nice tight and twisty road. I was in heaven. Ok, it’s just a standard and not a particularly great car, but I had the engine roaring, the tyres occasionally squealing as I rounded a corner, the wind roared through the open windows and allowed the car to surge out of the corners and onto the straights. Every time I stopped, the car would click and clack as the hot metal settled, a mixture of burnt brakes and rubber lingered in the air. My fingertips tingled and my shoulders and knee had a pleasant ache from doing something they hadn’t for some months. I felt more alive piloting the car that day than I had since the first time I tried Scuba Diving.
I had to keep stopping to marvel at the sights. The road was tight and twisty as it was hugging the coastline which rose from the violent ocean crashing relentlessly into the cliffs of majestic height. Various little car parks were filled with cars as everyone paused to stare at the ocean and the cliffs. It was a magnificent sight. Various little parks signified something of greater beauty and I stopped at a fair few – my favourite by far was Julia Phiefer Burns – a little cove with bright blue water and a water fall cascading onto the little beach. Pictures do not do this cove justice – it’s easily one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen.
I stopped at Big Sur and did some hiking and came across the American estimation system – “it’ll take forty-five minutes to reach the top of this hike, twenty minutes to the waterfall and then thirty minutes back down” says the Ranger. I climbed the trail, sat looking at the view eating a sandwich for ten minutes, visited the waterfall and then was back to car-park in fifty minutes. I ended up hiking the other trail just for kicks as I had plenty of time as it appears the estimations are for the lowest common denominator!
As I neared the end of the days drive at a town called Monterey (home of the sulky, miserable local) I stopped at Point Lobos, another lovely little park with a couple of miles of trails. The scenery, the drive and the atmosphere had given me so much energy I felt truly alive and ran most of the trails dancing about and taking pictures in the mist. I might have only spent an hour in the park before the sun set, but it rounded off a truly brilliant day!
The next day I drove up to San Francisco which was still a pretty drive was very much back towards civilization and was more traffic’d. It wasn’t as fun!
More pictures of my drive up Highway 1 can be found in the Digitallery albums USA – California – Hearst Castle, USA – California – Big Sur, USA – California – Julia Pfeiffer Burns and USA – California – Point Lobos
Click here to load a map showing you the location of this post and images from the digitallery taken nearby.