I always wanted to drive on the routes 1 and 101 but I never managed to make it. I was in California twice before but always had other plans. I took advantage of a necessary layover in that state on the way back from Hawaii to eventually make it. My friend Sarah flown from NY to meet me in San Jose (right under San Francisco) and we drove all the way down the coast to San Diego over nearly a week.
Our first stop was around Salinas to buy some fresh fruits. We were attracted to a sign saying “whale watching cruise year round” and decided to see it for ourselves, thinking it had to be some kind of scam. The beach was a long stretch of deserted sand, lot of birds, some small boats far away… And one, two, three, many whale spouts and tails! We couldn’t believe it, the whales were there and they were close enough that we would easily see them from the shore! There were two small boats or maybe even kayaks extremely close to them, it looked quite dangerous but I guess those cruises are worth it if you’re looking for some thrill. We stayed there for a while and then drove to the next pretty beach. At that stop, we spotted a huge pod of dolphins playing in the waves. So much luck was unbelievable, but later that day we also saw sea otters and elephant seals!
For 3 days we camped to save money and make the most of our time in California, we stopped on a lot of beautiful beaches, saw amazing wildlife, sunrises and sunsets and crazy landscapes. We were supposed to end the road trip by 2 days in Los Angeles and 1 day in San Diego, but after such an amazing time immersed in nature (especially for me, being back from Hawaii), we were not that excited to be back in big cities. We slowly arrived in LA after quick stops in all the famous places on the way to downtown LA (Malibu, Santa Barbara etc…). Once in town, we simply couldn’t find anything interesting to do. Not impressed, we decided to use the next day as a beach day. I’m sure LA is a great place to party but that was not the point of our trip and there didn’t seem to be that many activities for day time. Mulholland drive is offering some not so pretty views, Hollywood boulevard looks very tacky and Venice Beach seemed more like a cheap mall than a freak show. I’m glad I saw it for myself and maybe I’ll go back to enjoy the nightlife, but LA is not for me. On the way to San Diego, La Jolla gave us some more crazy encounters: a lot of pelicans and elephant seals were right there, we could have touched them. We got to see many colonies of seals, even one entirely composed of babies! San Diego was much better for us than huge LA. We walked in Balboa Park, a stunning park with antique buildings, then to North Park, the hip area, and eventually historic San Diego, where the oldest houses of the city were built.
When we got to the airport, Sarah went her way to get to her flight to Maine and I went my way to catch my flight to Europe. I was very sad to leave the country… But apparently, the daily San Diego to London British Airway plane is constantly overbooked, and they offer a nice hotel room with 3 paid meals + $800 to volunteers willing to stay 1 more day. For the first time I had nothing to do the next days, no job to go back to, no mandatory assignment of any sort, so I took the bullet! I enjoyed the swimming pool, the room service and the extra day to explore the city a little bit more. It was so unexpected to end those 6 weeks of budget travelling, camping, cereal bars and ramen noodles with such luxury that it actually felt right! I was not sad to leave anymore, as I was once more reminded that life was full of wonderful surprises to look forward to! Cheesy I know, but true 😉