Today’s blog is a continuation of yesterday’s blog on the California Coast which you can access here.
Leaving Monterey we drove the “17 Mile drive” which goes through Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Carmel. We always stopped at the golf course at Pebble Beach and the Lone Cypress tree which is a spectacular stop on the drive.
Our tour continued on to the famous “Highway 1” along the coast through beautiful Big Sur. The colors of the Pacific Ocean here are intense and nothing like what you would see in Los Angeles. The challenge with driving Highway 1 is that fog is often present and if this is the case you will see nothing. I always had to prepare my groups for this. We usually had good weather conditions.
We stopped at Hearst Castle after driving down the coast through Big Sur. The town of San Simeon houses the famous castle which is definitely worth the stop. William Randolph Hearst Jr. made his money in the newspaper business. At various points of time he owned “The San Francisco Examiner” and “The New York Journal”. His dad originally bought the ranch where he built the castle with the help of architect Julia Morgan. This place is beautiful! He loved to party and invited the Hollywood crowd over to his castle for some lively parties.
What I love about Hearst Castle:
1) The castle itself is wonderful to explore and learn about on one of the tour
2) The pools!!! I would love to swim in either the outdoor or indoor pool here anyday, anytime
3) The zoo. Although I never saw any animals he had a zoo on the grounds. (If you take a tour of the castle you must park below and take a bus 5 miles up to the castle overlooking the town below. It was always stated by the driver on the bus that you may see some of the wild animals running around during your drive up to the castle)
What I did not like about Hearst Castle:
Extreme heat! It is very hot here in the summer up on the mountain. Bring lots of water or be sure to go to the theater for some air conditioning while watching a movie on William Randolph Hearst and his castle.
Our day would end in Solvang, a Danish town in Santa Barbara County. This stop was always nice after a super busy day on the road. We would do a group dinner and the two properties where we stayed were nice. I always encouraged passengers to go to the Danish bakeries and pick up wine in town (Wineries are in this area).
The next day we drove to Los Angeles. We stayed in downtown which is not a favorite spot of mine in the city where I currently live. It is a nicer area now that we have “L.A. Live” next to the Staples Center, but in the days that I was a tour guide the area had very little to offer. Prior to making our way to the hotel we would explore the city.
Knowing the area well I would sometimes drive down the coast to Los Angeles through Malibu on Highway 1 (a drive I still love to take up to the outlets in Camarillo). Depending on if I enjoyed my group or not we did this detour. We would also visit Beverly Hills on my diverted tour or The Farmers Market. I have talked more about these sights on my LA blog. Other times I would take the main highway, the 101, to Hollywood which was the only featured stop in Los Angeles for the tour company I worked for.
San Diego Zoo
The next morning we continued on to San Diego which was the final stop of the tour. I love the casual beach feel of this small city by the ocean. Having a friend here and being the end of the tour I only needed to send my passengers on optional tours (pay tours ran by a San Diego company that my company endorsed), collect their money and arrange pick-ups prior to sending them off back home. We stayed in downtown San Diego which was a great stop since the Gaslamp District and Horton Plaza mall were both in walking distance to our hotels.
At the end of the tour I was always rewarded with my tips. Be sure to tip your tour guide if you ever have one. That money is what they live off of, at least that was the case with the company I worked for. We were paid a daily flat fee, commission on optional tours and tips.
On a side note the things I miss most about leading the “California Coast” tour are visiting Yosemite and the Hearst Castle. I am blessed that I can visit San Francisco and San Diego at least once each year.