Santa Barbara is what the Americans call an old colonial town(OCT). To me it's a strip of up market stores and a few buildings dating before 1900 . The old mission here did however almost redeem the marketing description of the place .
Now an interlude to discuss further aspects of the American dream
Eating is an event over here and if anyone has viewed man v food you'll know what I mean . The portions are horrendously large and 'her indoors' grand nachos starter would have fed the five thousand many times over .
There is a serious problem with the homeless there are literally hundreds in ever major centre . All of these people are allegedly vets !!!!
The US car culture is alive and well . The guts and glory ram 1500 is truck of the year again and guess what it does 25 mpg highway driving .
Everyone in the service industry starts off by telling you how much you should tip them and then mentions what they do and their name . It's always then followed up with have a nice day !!!
Back to our travels . A short journey along the coast brought us to San Luis Obispo another alleged OCT. Stayed in a quaint place trying to be a Victorian. Then moved on to Cambria and went to Hearst castle which was fantastic. The money spent on this place and the people who then graced it , Charlie Chaplin etc , really made the place come alive . The Big Sur drive a long the coast really starts from here with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean , cliffs and vegetation. We also visited a elephant seal colony which was fun especially as they had all just given birth and her indoors needed to perform a near physical examination.
A final stay at Monterey / Carmel which again allude to history . Well other than the basis for John Steinbeck novels , pebble beach golf and the sardine industry it has nothing .
To San Francisco . We stayed in the centre after dropping off the hire car . For the first time we bought a hop on hop off ticket so as we could easily get around . First place we hopped too was Alcatraz prison (blog photo) which still felt like a prison . Had audio tour and spent an afternoon reliving the stories of Clint Eastwood , Sean Connery when they were incarcerated. We then on our bus visited Golden Gate Bridge ( rust coloured ), Haight Ashbury ( start of the hippy movement ), fisherman's wharf, Nob Hill, cable car stations and a few other interesting places of interest mainly associated with the film industry and joe de Maggio.
We left SF at 5.00am to catch our plane to Mexico from San Jose . Despite a quick connection we arrived in Loreto on time and checked into our local hotel the La Mision. Now Loreto is a proper OCT and we spent the afternoon checking out the local sights . Next day we had a snorkelling trip , well anyone with an IQ over 10 would have worked out the water was too cold , however the sea of Cortez is teaming with whales and we saw blue and fin whale at close quarters . They are unfortunately very difficult to photograph properly . Next day more whale spotting and this time a pod of sperm whales at very close quarters. We then packed to camp ( I was hoping for glamping ) at the San Magdalena bay where the Gray whales give birth and mate . First let it be said the whale spotting was fantastic and it could be said we had a whale of a time !!!!!! I however got food poisoning on the second morning from the local food ( glamping it wasn't ) and missed two of the boat rides but the whales were so close to camp it almost didn't matter . You'll be glad to know that years of nursing , midwifery , degree , teaching , chatting with 'The famous 5' and other courses resulted in 'her indoors' assessment of ' you look ok I'm off on the boat '.
A quick recovery and a flight back to SF . However in LA we found out that fog had closed SF airport and thought we would miss our Amtrak connection . Luckily it cleared and we were good to go .
Our Amtrak is three days from SF to NY via Chicago and a lot of tip requests . We are lucky to be doing it this time of year as from the Sierra Nevada mountains most of the ground is snow covered which makes for a really lovely vista