08.07.2012 - 11.07.2012 26 °C
This was a really fun three days; we got to see a lot of cool scenery and stop at lots of nice places. The weather greatly improved as we moved further away from San Francisco and it was nice to feel the warmth of the sun again! We camped just outside Santa Cruz for our first night, stayed in a motel in San Luis Obispo for our second night, and another motel in Santa Barbara on our last night.
We didn't think we'd be doing much driving today as Santa Cruz is only an hour and a half away from San Francisco, so we decided to make a stop in Stanford and have a walk around the university campus there. Unfortunately, the GPS got a bit confused as we took the coastal route and it ended up taking 2 hours just to get to Stanford when it should have taken about 30 mins! We did have a very scenic drive though:
I was pretty jealous of the people who get to Stanford because it looks amazing, not that Nottingham wasn't! You could tell they have so much money because all the buildings and grounds were immaculate. This is the church on campus - pretty spectacular:
When we finally arrived in Santa Cruz we walked around the town centre, along the river and down the the beach. We saw this crazy van drive past so many times as we were walking:
The guy inside it had this puppet that he was making dance to the weird music he was playing - it was all very odd.
We passed a really cool skate park on the way to the beach where there was a full pipe, we didn't see anyone attempt it though, but it would have been interesting! There's a big board walk at the beach which was fun. There were lots of rickety old rides and fast food stands and it was all very American.
The beach was so wide and long (all the beaches in California seem to be like this), it was a shame we weren't there earlier so we could have spent some time on it and gone on some of the rides.
Today was probably the busiest and best of the three days. Lots of the places we visited were very nice and upmarket so it was interesting just to visit briefly to see what they were like. We started off by going to the Monterey Aquarium for a couple of hours which was really good, if not a bit pricey fr the amount of time we spent there. They had some really big tanks and cool sections dedicated to jellyfish and seahorse. We were lucky enough to see the sardine feeding; it was amazing to see how they all move together as one to get their food.
Tank showing the sea life in the kelp forests that are off the Californian coast
When we left Monterey we went on a private coastal drive called the 17 Mile Drive, which goes from Pacific Grove to Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was very picturesque and we got some good photos and saw some very nice houses. Not sure it was worth paying $10 to use the road though.
An example of the coast line along the 17 Mile Drive
After stopping for lunch in Carmel we went to a nearby beach for a bit of sun, but it turned out to be pretty windy so we didn't stick around for very long! It was very beautiful there though, and quite a lot of people were braving the wind or trying to find a place in the sand dunes where it was sheltered.
When we were nearly into San Luis Obispo we spotted lots of people taking pictures of something at one of car parks near the coast. We turned around and went to park up and have a look and it turned out there were loads of elephant seals there! There were so many, all packed really closely together and some of the males were fighting like they showed on Frozen Planet last year, it was amazing to actually see it in real life!
As we got into town pretty late, we didn't have any time to explore or see much. There were lots of cheap restaurants and bars as it's a student town so we just picked one, got dinner and drinks, then went to bed.
We wanted to have a full day in Santa Barbara so we got up early and headed straight there. It's a really lovely town with lots of good shops, bars and restaurants and a long, wide, sandy beach lined with palm trees. Everyone there is quite posh, but I guess that's because it's a very nice place!
Santa Barbara beach
We had a really nice chill out day - a bit of time on the beach, a bit of shopping and browsing the farmers' market which suddenly popped up in the middle of town during the afternoon. We went to a place called Santa Barbara Brewing Company for dinner where they brew all their own beers. The beer was good and the food was yummy! After dinner we got some frozen yoghurt (as most people in California seem to do), where we discovered that Hello Kitty is obviously just as popular in the US as Japan - they had special edition flavours, cups and spoons!
Hello Kitty frozen yoghut
The following day we continued on down the Pacific Highway, through Malibu and Santa Monica. It was a shame we couldn't stop and enjoy the sun and beaches, but we had a lot of things we wanted to fit into our three days in LA, so we just headed straight there so we'd have the afternoon free to get started