Not Europe, but California

I just wanted to thank those who gave me advice for our California trip. It was wonderful...mostly. We so enjoyed San Francisco (3 nights), most likely because we were on foot and explored more. We spent a day and a half seeing Yosemite, but then the government shut down kicked in and we couldn't go to Sequoias or King's Canyon (boo!). After our forced vacation during our vacation was over (2 nights), it was back to the coast to see Monterey (spent a night, meh) and Carmel - which I wish I had known how charming it was - we would have spent more then just a morning there (I am a dog lover and Carmel seemed so dog friendly). Down the coast highway with stops at the scenic look-offs, and a visit to Hearst Castle (stayed in San Luis Obispo)- which was pretty cool. One quick over night in Santa Barbara (go see the courthouse!) then it was LA for 2 nights (about 2 1/2 days as we didn't hit Anaheim til late) - of which my impression is...traffic, traffic, traffic. And Anaheim for 2 nights - to do Disney - our only rainy day out of 19. Then San Diego for 3 nights and the entertaining Safari Park, SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo. We really enjoyed the shows at seaworld - very entertaining - especially the pet one with the dogs/cats/rats/pigs...you name it!

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

The highlights were def SF, Carmel, SeaWorld, Yosemite. I don't feel we really got to explore SD too much as we spent most of the days at the zoos. The lowlights - well, our flight was cancelled out of Halifax to Toronto (mechanical) and we had to wait 8 HOURS til they could get us on another as the flights were all full (and I'm assuming that when you use your air miles, you are way at the bottom of the list below the preferred status people for any empty seats). And we arrived a few hrs early...so 10 hrs wandering around little old Stanfield International. Snore. So of course our connecting flight from Toronto to SF was delayed...instead of getting to SF at 3pm, it was almost midnight (at least that plane was only half full so we could stretch out)...and by the time we got to our accoms, it was almost 2am (which felt like 6 am to us)...what a joke. At least the flights home were all good. ...and of course the gov't shutdown...we didn't really want to drive all the way to Fresno to find something to do, so we hung around Exeter and Visalia for a day and a half. But we picked a great time to visit - the temps were wonderful and hot (but not too hot)...until we got home and had to scrape frost off the car at 2 am! LOL. Thanks for all the suggestions, and trying to decide on next year - whether to rent a car and see more of France (after wetting our whistle last year) or to do England/Scotland/Ireland...decisions, decisions...

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

Thanks for your trip report Nicole. I'm happy to hear you mostly enjoyed California. I may be biased, but IMO Northern CA has more to offer than So Cal. You didn't make it to Lake Tahoe or up to the Redwoods. Not to mention the Napa/Sonoma Valley areas, which rival Tuscany. Well, for wine and scenery anyway. No cool old hill towns. I'm sorry the shutdown adversely affected your trip. Now I'm inspired to write about my trip to D.C. and surrounding areas since I got so much help from people here.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

There's more to Venice than the waterfront walk - just like there's (much) more to LA than just traffic. It's 10+ million in population with lots of drivers and poor/limited public transit. I'm not sure if tourists like everything squeeky clean and upscale, but I actually like some grit and don't mind it (yes there are tons of homeless people even in rich areas like Santa Monica - it's just part of the fabric of life in a large city with a temperate climate). Having a local show you around would have been preferable too, I think. They don't think twice about traffic and they can take you to some of the best ethnic food in the US IMHO. Even in unassuming, ugly strip malls. I like to call Venice bohemian...some call it tacky and seedy. It's truthfully all 3 but then again you didn't see Main Street, Abbott Kinney district or the canals which are all fantastic.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

We did get to Muir Woods, so we got a sampling of the redwoods - which were pretty impressive! One reason we didn't head up north was because we really are not interested in wine at all - I know it is more then just wine up there, but that seems to be a major attraction - neither hubby nor I are drinkers. If we ever return in the future tho, I know I'd love to head up north. Other then the shutdown, other major disappointment was Venice Beach - mostly because we only walked along the waterfront - which, IMHO, was very seedy. I think there are other parts we should have explored but I forgot to check the guide book that morning and we wanted to get to Sony Studios for a tour (and La Brea, and...and...)

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

Too funny Nicole! In August we went down to San Diego to meet up with our brother-in-law from Houston who was there for a conference. When his conference was over we headed up to Orange County. He wanted to go to the beach, and I suggested we go to Newport Beach. It's my favorite! He wanted to go to Venice. I've been there many times (not by choice) and explained that it is in Los Angeles County and there was nothing special about it to go out of the way for. He insisted, so we went. I guess people see it in movies and on TV, and want to experience the 'fun' themselves. He was not impressed and after an hour or so of checking it out he was willing to go to Newport Beach with us. He loved it and wants us to rent a beach house with him next August after his San Diego conference! Muir Woods is great, but usually crowded. When you get further north to the real redwood country it is definitely more impressive. When you drive up the Avenue of the Giants (off Hwy 101) and stop to hike back into the redwoods you are generally alone. There are other nice places in Nor Cal that have nothing to do with wine.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

Yes - between the tacky tshirt shops, the very 'legit' looking get your medical marijuana license shops and the people on the street hustling their cd's and whatnot....just, ugh (we were there early and vendors were just setting up, no 'buskers' or anything - just lots of homeless people). Maybe if we had gone to actually relax on a beach, more fun. Muir woods wasn't too crowded - we actually used Grey Lines and went with them...we didn't rent the car til leaving SF. Also did an hour in Sausalito (not enough time of course - enough to wander and get an ice cream ) and the view of GG bridge. We did a harbor cruise on Sat out under the GG and around Alcatraz...we had purchased the CityPass booklet - used everything we could! Spent lots of time at Balboa Park, saw the Painted Ladies, browsed the vendors near the ferry building, Cali Academy of Science, gardens at balboa, Exploratorium (that place is crack for kids - wow!)...was fun.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

Yes, I'm kicking myself for missing the canals...I really should have checked my notes on what to see in that area...and we did see more in LA then just traffic, it only seemed that way. We met up with a former couchsurfer (who'd stayed with us) in LA who took us out for a nice meal...we did see La Brea, Sony Pictures Studios, Griffith Obs (tho it was closed) and the Hollywood sign, the walk of fame and Graumans, Rodeo Dr, the Bradbury building (hubby is a Blade Runner fan - tho he didn't know about the building til I took him in - he was wowed), the Disney Concert Hall, Santa Monica Pier, the California Science Center (and spent most of that at the Endeavour Space shuttle display, another hubby fav)...

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Thanks for your report, Nicole! Makes me miss San Francisco all over again. I visited the Muir Woods in early June 4 years ago and found that the deeper into the woods you go, the less crowded they are. Two summers ago I stayed at Lake Tahoe for a night. Parts of the lake have an unearthly beauty, with the mountains, pine trees, and deep blue water and sky. It was 100 degrees at sea level but at the lake, temperatures dropped to the 60s. It's a funny place because part of the lake is in CA and part is in Nevada, so as soon as you cross the border into Nevada, casinos appear. I've never been to Southern California so I can't compare with Northern, but I feel like a NoCal gal through and through.