I'm up at 6am and ready to hike Cerro San Luis, I can actually see the mountain from my garden shed :)
I drive the shortish route to the foot of the mountain, park, take the dusty dirt trail and start my ascent. There are a few locals around and a couple of runners (really, they are going to run up this rather steep trail?) and the fresh morning area is lovely. I smile to myself as I realize it's 7am on a Sunday morning and I'm out hiking alone, not sure i'd be doing this if I was in Philly! The walk up is quite challenging and I have to stop a few times to catch my breath, all good practice for the altitude hiking I will be doing in Peru next month. It takes around 2 hours to get to the top and I am rewarded with mystical views of the valley below and a 365 degree vista of the area. I say magical because there is a lot of low lying cloud that rolls around the surrounding mountains and the valley beneath me and it's quite breathtaking. I sit and enjoy the views for about half an hour and then start the much faster decent which is about one hour. I am pleased to note that I am having no issues at all with my leg (it's been pretty much a year to the day since I broke it)
I get back to Pete's place, say my goodbyes and take the obligatory photo of me and my host (I'm trying to take one at each place I stay) then I'm on the road, it's a 4 hour drive to Monterey and I'm planning to stop at Hearst Castle on the way.
A few different people have told me I should stop at Hearst Castle, I have not done much research on the place, so when I arrive I'm not really too sure what it expect. I park up and make my way to the visitors centre.
So a bit of history. Hearst Castle’s history began in 1865, when George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of ranchland. In 1919, his son William Randolph Hearst inherited what had grown to more than 250,000 acres, and he was dreaming of ways to transform it into a retreat he called La Cuesta Encantada—Spanish for “Enchanted Hill.” By 1947 Mr Hearst Junior and architect Julia Morgan had created Hearst Castle: 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways—all built to house Hearst’s specifications and to showcase his legendary art collection.
Visitors now pick one of four tours, or can combine multiple tours in order to see the whole Castle, but at $25 a tour, I opted just for the Grand Rooms Tour. You are then bused up to the castle in a rather Disneyfied fashion with a commentary (thank you Alex Trebek) being being played as the bus makes it's drive up the long road to the castle. The views from the top are spectacular and the tour of the Grand Rooms interesting, but I can't help but think really they should show you the whole place and not just a few of the rooms for the price you pay. Afterwards I wandered around looking at the lovely gardens, pools and views and taking tons of photos, before catching the return bus which takes you back down to the visitor center and parking.
To be honest I could have spent a little more time at the castle, but it's a 3 hour journey to Monterey and I was keen to get on the road. I was taking the famous Route 1 all the way up the coast to Monterey and it was amazing, around ever corner was a view more stunning than the last. I nearly did not stop at Piedras Blanca's to see the elephant seals as I was so keen to keep driving, but thank god I did because these delightful creatures were well worth a half an hour of my time. There were hundreds of them all resting up on the beach, most actually looked dead they were so still, but the odd one or two were moving around or flipping sand over their fat bodies, I could have stayed for longer marveling at these amazing creatures, I'd never seen them before and they were so dam cute.
My drive continued up Route 1 and I had to pull over and stop a few times so as to not drive off the cliff whilst trying to gawp at the views. The weather was pretty clear until about 15 miles from my destination and then it started to get foggy. It did not stop my enjoyment of the drive but created a different atmosphere.
I arrived at Seaside which I quickly learnt is a suburb of Monterey and the place I am staying at for 3 nights, while booked on Airbnb, is run really as a typical Bed and Breakfast. My room is small and lovely (single bed again) and there are nice touches like a large bottle of water and 2 chocolate chip cookies by my bed, great. On the recommendation of Annemarie (one of the hosts) I went to a Hawaiian place for dinner, had a lovely crab curry (having never been to Hawaii I have no idea if this is a typical entree). I got talking to a lady at the bar who works a Pebble Beach and when I told her I was planning on doing the "17 mile drive" (which is in Pebble Beach) in the next couple of days, she said she would leave my name at the gate so I did not have to pay the entrance fee ($10) bonus for a traveller like me on a budget!