On Boxing Day the streets of the Castro were deserted-and then we arrived at SF Airport to pick up the hire car, along with half the population of California, who were also picking up a hire car! Two hours later we were still in the queue. “Bad day to travel” quipped Jose at the service counter, just to infuriate squabbling families-especially the husbands who had forgotten to confirm the bookings..Oh, Happy Holidays.
Finally, we were off-with no idea how to get out of the airport and darling Miggs driving on the wrong side of the road. Then we hit the traffic jams, for hours on end- we never did figure out why the traffic became jammed-there were no accidents, but just an enormous mass of traffic. We were heading down the south coast of California and through Big Sur.
Big Sur, was big! Very picturesque, but the single lane road was made dangerous by the crazy tourists parking precariously and walking over dangerous bridges to hang out to take the perfect photos!
We arrived at Cambria very late at our Airbnb, which was just fabulous. We quickly grabbed a surprisingly healthy takeaway and headed out to Hearst Castle, for our night tour of the Christmas lights. Randolph built his pad..The Ranch..Hearst Castle, high on the hills above San Simeon. The Great Gatsby lives on in this magnificently maintained temple of wealth and opulence, now owned by the state, and run by the Art Gallery
The Christmas Evening Tour has the castle set up for opulent festivity, complete with costumed actors. The bus tours left every 5 minutes full of people at $25 a head, so the Hearst Castle Empire continues to make money, although I believe the upkeep is horrendously expensive.
I am not a lover of group tours-and I found the restrictions inhibiting, and prefer to meander at will. However, it was an eye-opener as to how the rich and famous lived and entertained the Hollywood set at Randolph’s Ranch. Apparently, Randolph was not a fan of alcoholics, and was most parsimonious when it came to liquor, even after Prohibition. A drunk was never invited back-I guess that would cross me off the list. At the same time he was most generous with everything else- guests could take their mink coats home afterwards.
According to the “GOSS” after Randolph retired for the night, to write for his newspapers, the party would begin in the indoor Roman Baths-it screamed debauchery and wild partying in all the nooks and crannies with stunning mosaics and gilded arches and columns-the photo does not do it justice in the dim light.
Next stop was Santa Barbara and Montecito- we stayed at the Montecito Inn once owned by Charlie Chaplin. We had now hit the rich, beautiful and anorexic country. It is a very wealthy area and everyone was thin, wearing designer ensembles and dripping gold jewellery-we blended in well, stuffing food in our faces and wearing our stained and daggy clothes from the road trip. We even had the gall to wait for our change from a $20 salad which never appeared. I hate the compulsory tipping of America, particularly for surly service.
We had a delightful fish dinner overlooking the harbour in Santa Barbara, and I was so glad Migg was driving because I had no idea as to where I was. Then the next day we did a quick tour of the Old Spanish Mission, which was quite forgettable..and then we headed off to Venice Beach
Ahh. Venice Beach the sleazy sandy patch of freaks and weirdos, who sadly all seemed to be asleep when we did our bike ride early the next morning. We did catch a few show-offs at Muscle Beach, doing their workouts and there were a few wandering nutters, and sadly far too many homeless. The whole homeless scene in America is very confronting!
Another delightful fish dinner overlooking the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean.
The last part of our road trip took us through the concrete jungle of Los Angeles,( I was in awe of Miggies driving, I could not have done it) until we arrived at beautiful San Diego and La Jolla (la hoya) and yes we did call it..La Jolla. I had lashed out to stay at The Grand Central La Jolla, a beautiful old colonial hotel. It was most luxurious, although we had a plumbing issue, and children in the room above us who staged a minor revolution when their parents left them with a babysitter. Apparently, they locked her outside and then rampaged-we thought they were being murdered. As a result, the hotel reduced my bill considerably!! Nothing like a whine to pay for the wine.
San Diego dotted with palm trees and with a balmy climate is most attractive. The Coronado – the islands attached to the city- was a commuting nightmare, and has seen a huge growth in population. We spent most of the day at the San Diego Old Town-30 miles from Mexico-eating tacos and knocking off pitchers of margarita and listening to mariachi bands!! We made a new best friend with a neck tattoo who was sitting behind us with his identical obese friends from the trailer park who told us he’d just gotten out of jail… followed by a long pause and a “just kidding!”. We don’t think he was! Never the less, he said my glasses were FAB-U-LOUS, so we liked him.