18 Jan Trips within a Trip
I was fortunate enough last year to visit California twice….the second visit at Christmas was more about relaxing and hanging out, although did get a chance to take some great photographs while I was there, especially of the sky over the Golden Gate and a lot of hill walking!
However, during the summer, the two weeks I was there seemed to go on forever and I’ve come to the conclusion that when you have trips within a trip it seems like one long string of holidays all rolled into one…I guess that’s when you are tripping…
It started out with the usual arrival into San Francisco and a tired jet lagged visit to Yoga Zazen the following morning for an Ashtanga Yoga practice. Zazen is no ordinary shala with a loft room complete with a huge open fire at one end which is always roaring at 6 am to warm you up for practice.
I love champagne and took my first visit to the stunning Domaine Carneros Chateau nestled in the beautiful Napa Valley. Lunch time champagne and scorching sunshine are a great combination for a fuzzy head, but I felt like I had just fell out of Orange County Housewives and so didn’t mind too much.
In England if you asked for a taster menu you might get a miniature champagne glass or maybe a shot glass or two. In California you get four or five bottles and a full sized champagne glass that just keeps getting refilled! Not that we were complaining of course!
One of the things that I love about California, apart from the sunshine, is the azure blue sky. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, I don’t think anywhere can claim blue sky like California can and the scenery was pretty stunning too!
San Francisco Summers
San Francisco has weather that doesn’t quite fall in with the usual California hot summers. In fact summer in San Francisco is in the top 50 coldest places to visit during June, July and August! Mark Twain (although there is some debate it was his quote) said, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Despite it being a tad chilly, San Francisco is like no place on earth and has a cool (we aren’t talking weather now) and laid back, peaceful vibe going on where everyone is healthy, friendly and basically wears yoga gear all the time – definitely my kind of place.
The walking with all those hills is amazing and there is just something to do every time you step foot outside. Alcatraz and the Golden Gate are not to be missed!
Calaveras State Park
Leaving my heart in San Francisco…not really but isn’t that how the song goes? I headed up to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, stopping in Cameron Park, which is in the Northern California Gold Country and located 70 miles west of Lake Tahoe.
After arriving we visited Calaveras State Park which is home to two groves of giant sequoia trees. I feel pretty privileged to have gone then because at the time of writing this the giant ‘Pioneer Cabin Tree’ also known as the ‘Tunnel Tree’ fell in a storm just a week ago! The tree was believed to be over a thousand years old and hollowed out in the 1800’s by a private land owner so that people could pass through it.
Viva Las Vegas
This was my first trip to Vegas and probably some years (ok 20!) too late in terms of needing to use the saying, ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ but watered down or not, the experience was definitely one off the list. Hot doesn’t quite cover Vegas in July. Try putting your entire body in a fan oven on the highest heat and that might do it. I can see why people forget what time of day it is, and probably what day it is too because once you are inside it is as though you will never find your way out. One casino links to another, and another and then if you do get out you find yourself in the fan oven (on the strip) with thousands of others and the only way to get some relief is back into another casino…where by the way there is no water and a small bottle will set you back at least $7! It’s no wonder you have to gamble!
We stayed in Mandalay Bay and hung out in it’s sister hotel, the 1970’s glam, Delano (would definitely revisit that place, I loved the vibe!) before taking in the ama
zing Michael Jackson One show by Cirque de Soleil which definitely lived up to being the best show in Vegas. Sunrise and sunset in the desert is pretty stunning too!
The Grand Canyon
A visit to Vegas would not be complete without a trip to the Grand Canyon and we did it in style…well a posh Mercedes bus with a driver who knew more about the big GC than you can shake a stick at! There isn’t a word that really can describe the size of the Grand Canyon. I tried to think of them all but they don’t cover it….so all I can say is, it’s awesome and mega-normous – no not a word but there isn’t one that covers it. I also got talked (serious fear of heights) into going on the sky walk, which I bravely did. Although may have been crouching and clinging for dear life at certain points, as well as telling a boy discreetly between gritted teeth that he needed to stop it (!!) while he danced around far too energetically next to me while we waited in line on the first part of the walk for the photographer.
I loved the Grand Canyon. My favourite part being when we met Daniel, a Native American guide who talked to us for a while, and whose name wasn’t really Daniel – this picture shows Eagle Point – named because of the way the rock is formed like an Eagle. The Sky Walk took years of planning and working alongside the Native American Chief who helped choose the right area for a whole myriad of reasons. It sits just to the left of Eagle Point and has views that literally take your breath away!
I think they must have shipped all the water out to the Grand Canyon – well the fact of the matter is the Native Americans care more about your welfare in the heat than the Vegas Strip Casino owners do….there were barrels and barrels filled with water bottles being handed out to everyone and anyone around the Grand Canyon. I guess falling over would have far greater consequences here!
Our tour guide figured it would be a better option to stop at the Hoover Dam on the way back and do the Grand Canyon in the morning – we are not sure whether he factored in the 120 degree heat that was about to hit us. On our way we stopped for gas (yes it’s petrol but when in Rome!) – this would have been Arizona – the most bizarre gas station I have ever been in! It was a cross between a gas station, mini restaurant, store and amusement arcade with a whole lot of weird thrown in. When we walked in it was as though everything stopped – everyone turned to stare at us and I actually wondered if we would get out alive!
If that wasn’t scary enough, the tarmac was so hot that it started to melt our flip flops.
Hoover Dam was literally that – a hoover – a 120 degree hoover sucking the life out of you! You can’t go to Hoover Dam and not walk up there and so we did just that and made it up there, somehow without passing out, took a few photographs and made it back to the van.
So in 3 days, 3 states covering Vegas, the big GC and Hoover Dam and 4 flights later we returned to California.
One of my favourite places in the world is Lake Tahoe. It’s just so random to me having water, gorgeous hot sunshine (although they have great snow in winter!), blue skies and white sand that makes it seem like you are in the Caribbean but then you turn around and you are surrounded by the Sierra Mountains – just fantastic and I love it. I am no longer a paddle board virgin or a Bloody Mary virgin either for that matter!
Half Moon Bay
After a tearful goodbye (my brother lives in Cameron Park), the last leg of my trip saw me back in San Francisco and every time I travel back along either bridge (in this case the Bay Bridge) the view never disappoints. My sister (who lives in San Francisco) always says she never tires of the view no matter how many times she sees it.
My decision to visit Half Moon Bay came from the movie, Rumor Has It (2005) with Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Mark Ruffalo and Shirley Maclaine. Love that movie – there is a scene where Sarah wakes up in Beau Burrough’s house which is high up above Half Moon Bay – so he tells her when she wakes up anyway (she was drinking the night before!) and the view is just breathtaking. I knew Half Moon Bay was not too far from San Francisco but as we’d never got the chance to visit on previous trips, we made a point of scheduling one in. On the drive there, however, thanks to the power that is Google, we discovered that the producers of Rumor Has It just threw in a great whopping lie – the movie may indeed have fooled its viewers into thinking that the breathtaking view from Beau Burrough’s house was in fact overlooking Half Moon Bay, but the fact of the matter is, the scene was actually filmed in a house in Palos Verdes within South Western L.A. – of course at this point we were already there.
Interesting place though, Half Moon Bay. Small, quaint seaside town where it felt like something odd was going on but you couldn’t quite figure out what. Things just weren’t quite in the places they were when you walked past them the first time and although we couldn’t put our finger on it, we decided there was some magic going on…well, rumor has it..
I say home, but my heart is always in California, so I guess that’s home as much as England is….until the next time.