Working as tour guide my favorite state was Washington (see my blog on Washington state here), and my next favorite state would have to be California. I had two tours that crossed into the “Golden State” and the one that I enjoyed more was the “California Coast” tour.
San Francisco is where it all started. We stayed in properties in downtown, Chinatown, South of Market and on Van Ness (Highway 101, which really is in the middle of nowhere). When my guide packet arrived I would have a good idea what type of tour I would be starting out with according to the property. Being in the center of everything is always easier than the outskirts, but I always had maps and knew quite well how to use the public transportation in the city, although most of my passengers chose to take taxis around. We also had a tour bus that would drop everyone off by Pier 39 and a few other spots as the trip began.
I personally loved these things about San Francisco while being a tour guide:
(1) The city tour where a local guide would hop on the bus and take us around town. To this day I love to drive past the “Mrs. Doubtfire” house from the movie starring Robin Williams, and always enjoy anytime in Golden Gate Park. I may just take my family on a city tour next month when we are in the area just because I love hearing random facts about San Francisco still. I highly recommend the Gray Line tour guides as they always did a great job for me.
(2) Night time when I could go out with my friends after hours. San Francisco has a great nightlife.
What I did not like about the San Francisco portion of the tour was:
(1) Navigating through overcrowded Pier 39 with up to fourty-five passengers to the restaurant we would dine in as a group! It was always hard to keep everyone together.
Leaving the “City by the Bay” behind it was always nice to continue on to Yosemite for a little bit of nature. I didn’t like that we only stayed here for one night, but on a tour you are often in a place for just one evening. We stayed at two properties in the area: either Yosemite Lodge inside the park or Tenaya Lodge just outside of the park. I was only “bumped” (they did this when the first accommodation was full) to Tenaya Lodge once and it was a grand resort I must say. Although I prefer to stay inside the park this place was oozing class. I had to prepare my group for this “upgrade” on the drive to Yosemite. Most people would want to stay in the park, but once I talked to passengers about the great benefits of staying at the resort almost everyone was happy to stay here and visit the park during the day.
What I loved about Yosemite while being a tour guide:
(1) Spending time in my favorite National Park enjoying nature
(2) Swimming in the Yosemite Lodge pool with the views of Yosemite Falls
(3) Campfire time at Yosemite Lodge
What I did not like about Yosemite Lodge:
The possibility of sighting a bear in our accomodations while we stayed in Yosemite Lodge. They were always trying to find food (luckily I never had to deal with this first hand!)
From Yosemite we continued on to Monterey for an overnight stay. I was always somewhat nervous going through the San Joaquin Valley because I was never a great guide when it came to naming all the different crops we would see. Let me tell you someone always asked! I had information gathered from the company I worked for to help, and there were occasional signs by the fields to help, but otherwise I was on my own!
Monterey was a nice stop to stay after Yosemite since it is a small town along the coast. I took my groups to the wonderful Monterrey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. I learned more about the author John Steinbeck while being a tour guide of this region. He wrote the books “Cannery Row” , “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Of Mice and Men”, and “East of Eden” to name a few of his works. Even today I still enjoy reading “Cannery Row”. One day I hope to have time to stop in Salinas to visit the museum dedicated to him, but it was not a part of the tours I lead.
What I loved about Monterey while being a tour guide:
1) An ocasional visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (often I used time while the passengers were here to organize and relax a bit ‘off tour’)
2) I had a friend who lived in this area so I always enjoyed my free evening to eat dinner out and grab a beer at “The Mucky Duck”.
What I did not like about Monterey:
The property we stayed at in Monterey was a series of small buildings going up a hill. As the tour guide I was responsible to make sure that everyone received their luggage in a timely manner. I was pretty good counting luggage and making sure it made it to the right room, but it was so time consuming at this particular property!!!
Today’s blog is running long so I will continue tomorrow traveling down the California Coast on Highway 1 through Big Sur and Hearst Castle to ultimately end up in San Diego.