Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Weekends Across America VII - San Francisco and Big Sur

"Holy shit moment" #65 in Big Sur, CA.

"Wait a minute, why VII?"

Well, we started a "weekends across America" series a few years ago, before this blog was even a twinkle in our eyes. The basic idea is a trip that takes place over a weekend - usually a long, holiday one - and explores some part of these great United States. We may not have written accounts of the previous installments of these mini-adventures, but I also don't want to start back from Number One, which, coincidentally, was also San Francisco... ahem... I think it lends an extra dimension of credibility to my love of travel, knowing that I began to "brand" our trips as far back as 2010.

So, on to lucky number 7 and our weekend in California.

The trip to San Francisco is a loosely annual affair for me, because Flo's company, which is based there, throws an annual get-together for its employees and invites the plus ones to tag along. The company picks up the tab, and this girl is not one to turn down a free trip. So, this was my 4th time in the Bay Area. I'm practically a local.

I'm going to skip over Friday night, which involved incriminatingly drunk co-workers, DiGiorno, margaritas being sipped from champagne flutes, and, later in the night - swilled straight out of the bottle.

On Saturday, while Flo was geeking out in sessions, I had the whole day to myself to stroll around San Francisco. I took the BART to Embarcadero (See? real expert here) where I chanced upon a craft show and farmer's market.

From there, I took the San Francisco Bay trail from Pier 1 all the way to Ghirardelli Square, weaving in and out of the piers dappled with colorful tourists.

no one is as fearless and vain as San Francisco seagulls.

"buy me a hot dog."

a rare warm and sunny day of a NorCal summer. The forecasters promised a high of 60, and I cursed them all in my wool and leather once the temps hit 75.
America's Cup - an extreme boat racing event taking place in late August, and associated hullabaloo - has taken over Pier 33. They created essentially a small city with entertainment, restaurants, stores, concerts,and a whole slew of promotional events, where you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about this sport while sipping on a Louis Vuitton-inspired cocktail. This is not a sport for poor people, m-kay? The red pavilion in the background is created from shipping containers.

America's Cup pavilion, Pier 33

Some high profile guests from the Cayman Islands. This is not the yacht named "Just Enough"; luckily, this guy knew better.

Once I made it to Pier 39, I took a little boat tour of the harbor. Mostly because I wanted an up close and personal encounter with the seals.... but also because we were told we could catch a qualifier race from the water.

laid back as a glazed sausage one minute, totally in each other's face the next.

this was as close as we got to the racing boat, before it crashed into Alcatraz (just kidding). They go up to 60 miles an hour using only their sail power. The hydro dynamics of these cats are insane.
view towards The Franciscan - a great seafood restaurant.

On to Pier 39 for lunch, after a good amount of elbowing my way through the crowds.

Once Flo joined me in the city, the day was capped off by a lovely evening stroll through downtown, with an artsy mood inflicted by an unapologetically indulgent chocolate tasting at Schoggi, and a yummy seafood dinner at George's.

The Jewish Museum leaning over a Catholic church.

On Sunday, we hopped into our Challenger (we always rent American muscle cars, for some reason), and went for a road trip. This time we headed south on the legendary route 1 towards Big Sur. Driving along Highway 1 is like being inside a really long commercial for something awesome, like a Ferrari, French scarves, or Celebrex. It's just miles upon miles of achingly beautiful scenery, shifting landscapes that veer in and out of the coastline; changeable, inconstant, architectural in the way it interacts with the sea. As an added plus, the weather is totally bipolar this time of year, so you will go from a somber and gloomy seascape to a dazzling, azure beach with seemingly every turn.

5 minutes later...

you can see the clouds just roll in, like tides. This particular cloud had paragliders making good use of it.

We stopped for lunch in a little town called Carmel by the Sea, which was so freaking adorable and perfect in a slightly Stepford-ish way, that we stopped again, on our way back, for dinner in a delightful little French restaurant called Andre's Bouchee, where a flamboyant and rotund Russian sommelier named Dmitriy was rather taken aback by my choice to have nothing but Prosecco with dinner. 

the beach at Carmel

The rest of the day was spent making multiple stops along Big Sur. It took us a good few hours - with frequent stops to gasp, finger-point, and photograph - to traverse the entire stretch. It's a long drive, but it's never boring. There's something new around every bend, from incredible vistas to engineering marvels like the Bixby Bridge, from hiking to running along a deserted beach. The one thing we didn't get to do - which I regret - is take the 17 mile drive, but - there's always next year, amiright??

a little hike through the woods.
everything's bigger in... California

a rather precarious little spot, but undeniably picturesque!

this stop is definitely on the top 10 most beautiful places I've ever seen.
the ultimate tease - this gorgeous beach has the most glorious aquamarine water and even features its own private waterfall - but access to it is absolutely prohibited. You can only observe this pristine beauty from above.
the beach was formed when a massive mudslide on the other side of the peninsula dumped tons of sand into the ocean. tempestuous currents carried it here and created this lovely look-but-don't-touch beach.

looking the other way, you can still see where the mudslide took a chunk out of the cliff side. Route 1 was closed for a year.
a 10 minute drive away, we found an accessible - and completely deserted - beach. The weather gave this one a completely different feel. It's like we went from the Caribbean to Northern Ireland in 10 minutes.

derp derp derp.

"so... we just stand here and wait for the food to wash up ashore?"

I swear I am singing into - and not sexually assaulting - the bull kelp.

The next day we had only a few hours in the morning to explore, so we drove back out to the coast towards Half Moon Bay and Pacifica, where, like veteran corporate pegs we rejoiced way too much in the freedom and salty air of that particular Monday. I rejoiced enough to engage in a suspicious amount of jumping and prancing. How do I get a gig where I get paid to travel? *sigh*

watching students of a surf school take to the waves in Pacifica.

same time, same place - next year! woo hoo!

Epilogue - by Flo!

California is a place that needs little introduction. I could bore you with statistics about its ranking in size among US states, or even how its economy compares to that of whole countries, but that's a job better left to Wikipedia. California, and Northern California in particular, is a special place to me. When I drive around NoCal, I have this weird smile that just wants to take over my face.

To understand that you have to realize this little Frenchie grew up in a really small town far away from much of the world's excitement. Early on in my teens I discovered computers, and I was hooked. Small town boredom gave a lot of room to a growing passion for technology, and a thirst for all matters of news and articles related to it. I didn't have a lot of pop heroes or posters of movie stars on my bedroom walls, but in 1986 I was interested in who Steve Jobs was (even though I would later on disagree with him on a lot of things) and what kind of rivalry he had with Bill Gates. I knew about Larry Ellison's latest outrageous display of wealth and/or eccentricism, research at DEC and Intel's latest processor.

My pop culture was littered with references to these companies and pioneers, and they almost all had an address in Silicon Valley. Mountain View, Palo Alto, Cuppertino, all names that were but mythical in my mind, a sort of magical wonderland of technology where everybody lived and breathed the stuff that helped me get through growing up in a hole.

So nowadays, when I get behind the wheel at SFO and jump on the 101 south (insert SNL joke here) and I look at the signage on the highway, almost every single one of them can be associated with one of those mythical tech pioneers and I just get giddy. I can't help it and I don't care to. And even though the valley itself may not be a very desirable place itself, it sits between one of my favorite cities to the north and my definite favorite drive to the south on Route 1.

So yeah, I smile, a lot.

No comments:

Post a Comment