Eureka

Right on the coast, Eureka is the largest town in Humboldt County California. This is the heart of redwood country. It is typical of so many towns along the US West Coast. There’s ‘Old Town’, a zoo, museum, stunning sea vistas and clear-sky sunsets plus other curiosities to amuse us tourists. But, for me, its standout feature was the architecture of many of its wooden houses; particularly the mansions. And of those mansions there’s one that outdoes them all by a country mile.

Unfortunately, the amazing Carson Mansion is a private club. I’d love to have seen the inside.Carson Mansion copy

Avenue of the Giants

About four hours North of San Francisco, you reach the land of the giant redwoods. The aptly titled Avenue of the Giants is a very pleasant 30 mile drive through dappled light. In fact, there are parts where the Sun barely makes it through these massive trees.

There are equally pleasant cafes dotted along the way. Apart from the necessary coffee and sandwich, you can also choose from a dazzling array of objects honed out of redwood. As interesting as they were, none took our fancy.

By the sea

Everything on the Monterey Peninsula is by the sea.  But the town of Carmel even included the phrase in its official name just to emphasize the fact. Interesting shops, nice people and a generally smart appearance all make Carmel By the Sea well worth a visit.

Just out of Carmel is the ’17 Mile Drive’ which takes you back along the rugged coastline and past some of golf’s best known courses. But it can be bleak.  Even in mid-Summer, the ubiquitous marine layer chills the air. Then strong coastal winds come and clear the mist but do absolutely nothing to assist one’s golf game.

The famous ‘Lone Cypress’ must be the most photographed tree in the world.  It can be seen from several points on the Pebble Beach golf course and from lookouts along the 17 Mile Drive. It’s the registered logo for Pebble Beach and is walled, staked and tied in order to ensure its already long life of 250 years continues for a few more.

Monterey Mystique

The days of Steinbeck’s rough and tumble seafarers have long gone.  But Cannery Row still exists even if it’s only for the tourists.  At one end, a converted cannery has become the world famous Monterey Aquarium. The displays are first class and you could happily spend a few hours there except for one thing.  The crowds are insane.  But that’s Summertime in America.

Driving over the Sea

Much of the scenic road north from Los Angeles literally hugs the coast. At times you’re even out over the sea. There are hundreds of viewing points to stop at. But it’s also quite easy to take in this wonderful view from the passenger’s seat.  Bad luck for the driver of course since he has to pay full attention to the winding and narrow road.

Much of the time the marine layer, or sea mists, present a foreboding backdrop to the wild and windy seascape. It’s a full day; Hearst Castle this morning, Monterey tonight. This afternoon’s drive is just an enthralling way to get there.

Improbable Fantasy

About 250 miles north of Los Angeles is San Simeon, the location of the fantastic Hearst Castle. Now owned and operated by the National Parks Service, it is a must see on our journey northward.

 

Whilst there are bigger and more lavish ‘castles’ in Europe and the UK, the Hearst Castle is a record of one man’s idea of grand living. The decor is really what makes it so interesting. Hearst worked, with his architect, for decades in developing and furnishing this retreat. It is simultaneously bizarre, fantastic, kitsch and oh so obscenely ostentatious. He bought whatever appealed to him. Whole medieval ceilings from Spain, Doorways, gates, lamps, porcelain, furniture  and all kinds of bric a brac from European nobles, churches and others who needed the money.

Yet the famous and wealthy flocked there for weekends and even weeks at a time.  Imagine dinner with Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill for instance They all relaxed by the pools, had a set of tennis and mingled in the many sitting rooms and libraries.

We toured the whole place from top to bottom in a bit of a rush.  There’s so much to take in that you don’t have time to study it. But it’s been well documented so maybe there’s a project for when I get home.