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Four full days between San Francisco and Big Sur

Four full days between San Francisco and Big Sur

Old Sep 7th, 2010, 06:39 AM
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Four full days between San Francisco and Big Sur

Hi

Trying to narrow down my October "long weekend". I was thinking Paris or London but last year I visited both cities twice. So, I am considering going in the completely opposite direction (on a few levels). This isn't final until I click "buy" but it seems pretty doable with only a few days off work. I was considering New England but I have to rack up my miles to get status this year which means a longer trip.

Most likely I will arrive late Wednesday night and fly home Monday morning. This means four full days (Thurs-Sun).

I want to visit Big Sur, Monterey, Carmel, Salinas (John Steinbeck) and perhaps have one day in San Francisco. The time in San Francisco isn't completely necessary because I've been there a few times and just spending one day isn't going to do it justice so it might just be a gateway city this time around. Or maybe I'll re-do the 49 mile scenic drive for photo opps the last afternoon.

Given the patch of ground I've mentioned above, in four days, would you tack anything else on to that? Or, is there something in that general vicinity I simply must loop in? I am thinking Hearst Castle, or perhaps some of the California missions...

This trip will mostly be about the outdoors, some hiking, lots of photography, and I'd like to fit in at least one marvelous dining experience. Any ideas in that regard are welcomed. I've started the reading... many thanks!
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 09:08 AM
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4 days for the Monterey and Big Sur area is good.

I'd skip SF this trip and just focus on the Monterey/Big Sur area. If you do that, it might make sense to fly into San Jose rather than SFO, depending on the flights you can get. There are generally more non-stops into SFO, but SJC is an hour closer to Monterey.

You might do something like this:

Wed: Fly to SFO or SJC, stay near airport since you will be arriving late

Thu: Drive down to the Monterey peninsula, stopping along the way - the San Mateo coast for small towns and sweeping, rural ocean views, Santa Cruz mountains for redwoods, hiking, and wine, or Santa Cruz and Capitola for beach towns - just depends on your interests. Stay the night on the Monterey Peninsula.

Fri: Monterey Peninsula. Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel - plenty of things to do and see. Stay the night on the Monterey Peninsula.

Sat: Drive down the Big Sur coast, stoping along the way to see the views, maybe take a short hike or two. Late afternoon tour of Heart Castle. Stay the night in San Simeon or Cambria.

Sun: Drive back to SJ or SF via Hwy 101. This is an inland route that will take you through some scenic agricultural land, as well as through Salinas and give you the opportunity to see a mission or two. In Salinas is the Steinbeck center - I haven't been there, but it is on my list. I've heard it is good. For missions, I like San Juan Bautista, which is about a half hour or so north of Salinas. The town is nice and there is a restored/rebuilt town square around the mission. I also like Mission San Antonio, which is about a 15-20 minute detour off Hwy 101 near Jolon. "There once was a man from Jolon..." San Antonio is out by itself, which gives it an eerie sort of quality. It is on military land, but still accessible to the public.

This would put you back near the airport for your morning flight home on Monday. This would give you a good taste of the area, lots of opportunities for the outdoors and photography, but not too rushed.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 09:25 AM
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Just to add to november moon's excellent suggestions:

Although I live in the Bay Area, I went to Point Lobos for the first time this summer, and it is spectacular. We saw otters teaching their baby to swim, which was a delight.

It's just south of Carmel, and easy to miss. http://www.pointlobos.org/ You can see the highlights in a couple of hours, and the photo ops are unique.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 09:45 AM
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Virgin and JetBlue are having some really good sales announced today.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 10:27 AM
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If going to Big Sur, try the Big Sur Inn for a big breakfast. It's just south of Nepenthe. It has no view, but it is cozy, so even if the weather is bad, it is worth a stop. You can walk on the restaurant patio of the Ventana Inn without buying anything, but having a drink or lunch while you admire the view of the coast is also quite nice.

The four pictures starting with this one will give you an idea of both places:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...7624512998387/
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 10:41 AM
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Oh yes - Point Lobos is a must visit. You can either see it as part of the Monterey Peninsula day or on your way down the coast.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 11:35 AM
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Ohhh, thank you! Great ideas. They sound fantastic.

Given time constraints with work (want to limit this to 3 days off, only) I will probably have to do the nonstops to/from SFO and deal with the driving (plus I prefer nonstops). I can drive down one way and back up the other way - it won't be horribly out of the way. It sounds like it's only 3 hours total from SFO to Big Sur, all in one go. I can spread that across four days pretty well.

I see there was another recent post about the coastal scenes, I'll take a look at that as well. Thanks again for the suggetions.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 12:16 PM
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For driving times, plan a couple hours from SFO to Monterey if you take the fast route (Hwy 280/85/101/156/1). Add a half hour if you stick to the coast.

Monterey to Big Sur proper is about an hour. Then another 1.5 down to Hearst Castle (San Simeon). The Big Sur coast is basically from just south of Carmel down to San Simeon, but there is a "town" of Big Sur about an hour south of Monterey - town in quotes because it is literally a wide spot in the road. Cambria is a half hour farther south from San Simeon. These drive times are without stops, of course.

Cambria to SFO taking Hwy 101 is about 3.5-4 hours.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 12:37 PM
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If you like Steinbeck, you may also want to tour Tor House (built by poet Robinson Jeffers) in Carmel. The two men were contemporaries and Steinbeck supposedly visited Jeffers in Tor House. In fact there was a show at the Steinbeck Center titled, Jeffers & Steinbeck: A Habitat of Thought.

Tor House is fascinating, and has great views of the ocean. Reservations for tours is recommended.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 12:43 PM
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OK, thank you. It sounds like a few hours each day in the car, give or take... I'll map it out - appreciate the thoughts!

Steinbeck was my favorite author in high school so I definitely have to check out his home.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 12:43 PM
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Christy - thank you, I will look up info on it!
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 02:02 PM
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Hi

While I am at it:

I tend to go overboard on guidebooks. I am limiting myself to only one, this time (famous last words).

The ones in my Amazon queue are:

1. California Coastal Access Guide
2. Pacific Coast Highway: Traveler's Guide (Photographic Tour)
3. Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures

They all look first-rate and I suppose I can buy all three of them but only take one... haha.

Which is your favorite guide, if you have used any of the above?
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 04:23 PM
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Booked!
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 04:26 PM
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good for you!
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 04:41 PM
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Currently there is an Ansel Adams exhibit in the Monterey Art Museum. It is a portfolio of what he considered his iconic pictures, most of them well known, but some which I had not seen before. The museum was not crowded at all.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 05:44 AM
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3. Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures
__________________________________________________ ___________
Assuming the author is Rob Stob; We've used 'Back Roads of the Central Coast' and have discovered amazing places using it. Just don't tell anyone.
If it's the same author- different book; I am sure you won't be disappointed.
Enjoy!
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Old Sep 11th, 2010, 05:36 AM
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Socaloc, thank you. It wasn't by Rob Stob but that one looks good too.

I just ordered three books (yeah, 3 books for 4 days, my usual...):

A Journey into Steinbeck's California (ArtPlace series)
Susan Shillinglaw, Nancy Burnett

Traveler's Guide (Photographic Tour)
Tom Snyder

Compass American Guides: Coastal California, 3rd Edition
Fodor's, et al

I am debating if I want to go as far south as Cambria.. I might end up skipping Hearst Castle on this trip. Once I get the books I'll have a better idea which part of Big Sur to target as the southern-most point before turning back. Perhaps Nepenthe?

Who knows, I might even stay in Carmel (for example) all three middle nights if I think I can make Big Sur/one or two parks as one long day trip and otherwise concentrate on the Monterey Peninsula. I'll know more once the books come in.

I really appreciate the great advice, it is helping to organize my mind around this.
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Old Sep 11th, 2010, 05:40 AM
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ps. while I am at it... I will be arriving really late the first night (almost 1 AM). I'm going to crash and then get the car when I wake up and zoom.

What hotel would you recommend for both ease of arrival in the wee hours and then upon waking up actually procuring the car and taking off?

Going home will be the same. 9 AM flight, so I'll just roll into town, sleep, drop the car in the morning on the way to the airport.
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Old Sep 11th, 2010, 08:55 AM
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If you do decide to stay on the Monterey Peninsula all 3 nights rather than driving down to Cambria, Carmel has a nice mission and if you are interested in early California history in general, you might consider going to the Monterey State Historic Park just in front of the wharf. The customs house is there and a few other adobes - also there are other adobes in the area that you can tour.

http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=575

Looks like budget cuts have reduced access to these, but the things that are open, are open on weekends.

As for an airport hotel, I don't have any specific recommendations, but there are a bunch near the airport - Crowne Plaza, Marriott, and others.
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 08:49 AM
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If you zoom in on google, heading south from the airport, you can see all the airport hotels - the Clarion and Westin and closest to the airport, but they're all (between the airport and the Peninsula Avenue exit from Hwy. 101) within just a few miles. If you're booking directly (not using Priceline or Hotwire), you might inquire if you can just rent your car right at the hotel.
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