California’s Central Coast

I cannot capture the California Central Coast in words. I can’t even capture it in photos. I can share only little tiny pieces: waves, flowers, and sunsets. Sea lions and otters. Food. Oh, the food!

Majestic. Awe-inspiring. Comical and whimsical. Views that captured me so completely I couldn’t move. Traffic that terrified me enough that I had to hand over the keys. I live in a town of 800 and was unprepared for LA freeways.

Elle and I drove straight through to California on day one and stayed two nights in a northern suburb of LA, heading into the city on day two. I didn’t drive, of course. Elle and her mother wanted to hit the garment district, shopping for fabrics and checking out fashions. I chose to do what I do well: visit a coffeehouse. I chose one that specialized in French pastries.

At Paris Baguette, downtown LA.

We also got caught in traffic.

When the others finished shopping, we ate some fine, fine food at a little hole-in-the wall. We had sandwiches on fresh, crusty baguette. I had tuna salad, and it was the best tuna salad—and maybe the best sandwich—I’ve ever had, the secret recipe handed down to the cook from his Cuban mother.

The following day Elle and I headed north, stopping at a coffeehouse in Santa Barbara and visiting Old Santa Barbara Mission, built in 1786. Our visit to the coffeehouse had my sister dub our visit the California Coffeehouse and Pastry Tour. She was not wrong. We hit a coffeehouse every morning and a few afternoons, often supplementing our caffeine with baked goods.

At Daily Grind, Santa Barbara.
Mission Santa Barbara

In Santa Barbara I also saw my favorite hedge and gate.

Slowly, slowly up the coast, visiting Guadalupe and its cemetery.

If you look closely, you can see workers in the field beyond the cemetery.

In Pismo Beach we stopped to see monarch butterflies but could see them only from a distance. Next, late lunch on the pier.

Further north to have some beach time near San Luis Obispo. Then on to San Simeon where we saw the Hearst Castle from afar and elephant seals from a lookout point. We spent the night in San Simeon.

That’s the Hearst Castle left of center.
Elephant Seal Beach

The next day, day four, we headed north again, stopping in Ragged Beach for, yes, coffee. And a killer breakfast with a fabulous view from the patio.

Had to stop to watch the waves on the way to Ragged Beach.
Breakfast view

On up to Gorda which is the southern end of Big Sur country.

About five miles further on at Sand Dollar Beach, the road was closed due to the major slides that happened during the rains last month.

More beach time, a visit with friends, then back south and east to Highway 101 where we headed north to Salinas then west to Monterey for the next three nights.

Stopped at Ragged Beach on the way back south to refuel.

Day five. A lovely coffeehouse in Monterey, then south.

We splurged and paid to take 17-Mile Drive along the coast. Views, views, and more views!

That’s an otter!
The iconic Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive

We had breakfast at the famous lodge at Pebble Beach where we split a breakfast of eggs, potatoes and and Kobe beef—the best, most tender beef I’ve had in my life.

And coffee.

Further south through the village of a Big Sur and finally to the the northern road closure.

Back slowly north to Monterey and our motel.

One of the many bridges between Monterey and Big Sur

On day six we stayed around Monterey and Carmel, visiting Cannery Row and other local sights, battling mobs of tourists for parking and walking space and viewpoints.

The words read as such: “Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses….”

Day seven we had a heavy breakfast on a pier and a visit with a group of sea lions. A group is a herd, a harem, a rookery, or a bob. I rather like rookery.

Sign in the restaurant

Then down 101, west to coastal Highway 1, with more beautiful scenery and then traffic jams as we neared Los Angeles

After a final night outside of LA, we drove through morning rush hour, which was about as awful as you can imagine. Then across the desert, into clouds, drizzle, and into Tucson’s afternoon rush hour. It was a long, nearly thirteen-hour day before we got home.

The beauty was spectacular. I was completely enchanted by the waves, their constant crashing as they slowly erode the cliffs. About five or six times daily I’d exclaim, “The waves! My god, look at those waves!”

I must return for a more leisurely trip. More time with sea lions and sunsets and waves. Especially the waves.