Great Drive Series – 17-Mile Drive in California

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I have been to San Francisco once or twice for very short visits but have not gone further south than the airport.  That last year when I went to visit friends in San Jose, California. Even though the visit was only a few days, I wanted to see the famous coast in the area.  Additionally, I was hoping to see legendary Silicon Valley and just to get a sense for how this part of California feels.

Leaving San Fran – Caltrain!

I left San Fran on a Wed afternoon by taking the Caltrain down for the hour ride to San Jose for $9.25!  Note that the hour ride is for the “express” train that makes less than half a dozen stops between the two cities.  The express only runs at peak times which in the afternoon means from 4 PM until the end of rush hour.  I killed some time at the station to avoid taking the non-express with all the annoyance that that would bring with all the stops.  The 4PM was not packed but was pretty well “attended” with commuters from school-aged kids going home to worker bees heading back home.  The train is a double-decker so plenty of space.  Except I did not find a spot for suitcases so I had to place it on the seat next to me.  Maybe that was better as it was with me the whole time?

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The only photo I have related to the train… sorry! And the shades were given to me at the conference.

17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach

I am not a golfer but I knew, of course, about Pebble Beach.  To be honest, I really did not know where it was.  At least I had heard of it.  But I had never heard of 17-Mile Drive.  We left San Jose and drove through eucalyptus forests and passed by sand dunes as we approached Monterey.  Monterey has an awesome aquarium but I preferred to add Carmel to the itinerary so the aquarium will be for another time.

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The drive through the eucalyptus forest

Starting on 17-Mile Drive

Upon entering Monterey (or its outskirts), we took a left hand turn to enter the route that would take us to 17-Mile Drive.  We hit a gate where we paid $10 for the right to enter “The Drive”.  The drive seems to be in private property, hence they get to charge for driving through it.  It is not a park but the setup looked like one.

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The route of 17-Mile Drive

There are quite a few stops along the way by the ocean which is quite nice.  You can get out of the car, eat something, walk on the beach, or watch the sea otters (or perhaps a whale?).

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The Pacific Ocean roaring against the rocks; we saw some seals

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Instead of boring you with the actual shot, how about 2 of me getting ready for it??

The water is frigid so there will not be any swimming but I had to dip my toes just to feel it!

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Into the cold!

Cypress Point

The most spectacular stops were Cypress Point Lookout and Pescadero Point.  The place was first spotted (that we know of) by a European as far back as 1542.  Over 200 years later, a missionary gave Cypress Point its current name.  Supposedly the cypress tree growing on the rocky point is like 250 years old – they are trying to get it to stay alive until 300 (according to the sign).  Wonder what they plan to do if it gets to 300.  Chop it?  It sure makes for a beautiful sight.

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The Lone Cypress

During the drive we ran into Cypress Point Club and latter the Pebble Beach courses.  What a setting for golf!  Not that I play but if I did…

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Cypress forest native to the area

I did not get to snap any good shots of these so I will leave you with some “sea art” from the Pacific coast:   no one does it better than nature!  From here we went on to Carmel and visited its famous Mission – you can read about that part here!

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Marine vegetation imitates art?

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My favorite shot

It is neat when travel unexpectedly shows you something you had no real understanding of – or perhaps even knowledge of.  This visit qualifies under both – an unexpected enjoyable side trip!

 

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The Carmel Mission: Quiet and Beautiful

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During a recent business trip to San Francisco, I made a visit of a few days to friends who live near Campbell, CA.  I took the Caltrain down to San Jose – an easy and relatively cheap (at around $9 one-way) way to get out of San Fran towards Silicon Valley.

While their kids went to school, my friends and I made a trip to the coast where, among other things, we visited the town of Carmel.  No Clint Eastwood sightings – bummer!  But we decided to check out the Carmel Mission after having lunch in the charming downtown area.  I had been to the Santa Barbara Mission over a year ago so I was curious on how this one would compare.

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Entering the mission grounds

As luck would have (is it really luck??), this was two days after the canonization of Fr. Junipero Serra who worked, died and is buried at the Carmel Mission.  The timing was definitely great; I only wish Pope Francis had canonized him where he is buried!

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Fr. Serra is buried along with others in the altar area

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St. Junipero Serra looms large!

The Carmel Mission is smaller than the one in Santa Barbara but by no means less charming or interesting.  As with probably most missions, the center of the mission is the church with a cemetery next to it.  Usually there is a vast space or courtyard in the mission and buildings, many of them much newer used for different functions.

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Rudimentary graves

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Along the church’s wall

As you enter, you are properly warned that you could be at risk for an earthquake.  Only in California would the obvious need to be stated in the form of a warning!

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Be warned!

As you can see, it was a clear, beautiful day (I assume this is typical for California) and I am so glad we got to enjoy visiting the mission at such a historical time!

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Glorious skies!

Views of San Francisco from My Hotel

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On my trip to San Francisco this week, I picked the Marriott Marquis on 4th and Mission as my hotel while I attended a conference in the city.  It seemed well situated and nice, at least on the website photos.  I did not miss with this property and you can read my review in TripAdvisor (where I am very active as a Top Contributor!).  I did not have time to explore San Fran some more but I did get a couple of good eats at RN74 and Venticello.

I got a room on the 28th story and it was a corner room so I had views south and east (best I could tell).  Here are the views from my room at different times of the day.  They are not the best photos as the windows were quite dirty on the outside but they get the point across (I hope!).

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The Moscone conference center is the massive building lower left

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The San Francisco Giants stadium

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And below here are two pics of the same general view at different times of day – love the difference the sun’s position can make on a photo!

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The Presidio: A Different View of California. Thank goodness.

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I have been to California a few times but mainly to the areas around San Francisco and, less so, around Los Angeles (plus a business trip to Sacramento).  This past summer, though, I got to sample some of the “other” Californias.  I got to spend a few days in lovely Santa Barbara.  It captivated me and makes me want to explore other places in California that I have always heard of or read about but never make the time to visit.

The Old Mission, of which I already wrote, was an incredible sight and site.  Another one that was less imposing but just as powerful was the Presidio.

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The church

The Presidio was built in the late 18th century as a military facility (not sure if “fort” is too strong a word).  The original site was a large square but now only half of it remains.

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A street runs through it now…

The center has a model that helps envision the total original site and it pains me that the part of it was lost.  The good news is that one of the remaining structures is the second oldest building structure in California.  The entire site is now a California state park so it is protected – and that is good.

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Looking from the street towards the visitor center

We met a gentleman who works at the site who gave us a quick overview (for free!) of the site before we paid and walked in to explore the site.  Of course, a lot of restoration has taken place.  The decades can’t be kind to a building made in those days and with those materials (and given the frequency of quakes in the area).  But I walked around, it all felt as it must have been so long ago.

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The grounds around the Presidio

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The grounds behind the church

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Room in the Presidio

The outer walls of the precinct are thick and there were private spaces for the homes of the more senior members of the staff, even with space for small gardens.  Along with the typical military spaces (like the military parade grounds), there was also a church located well inside the square.  The church is plain but has been nicely restored at some point as you can see in the following pictures.

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The church’s altar

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The back of the church

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Looking towards the front of the church

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Detail of the wall and ceiling of the church

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Baptismal font with a plaque of ceramic with names of those baptized in the mid 19th century

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I have to say that with all the glitz and glam that California has become synonymous with, and the accompanying Hollywood trash, it is refreshing to experience a different California, one that makes evident how this land was explored and how it was settled by a European power.  Yes, I am a history geek!

I Have a Mission for You: in Santa Barbara!

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Among the many beautiful things to enjoy in Santa Barbara, California, one of my favorite ones is the Old Mission.  Its architecture, its setting, its history all make it a neat place to visit but what I like the most is that it is still in use by the monks and the locals; in other words, it is not just a museum.

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Approaching the Mission on a beautiful California day

The Santa Barbara Mission is located on what seems to be the outskirts of town but it really takes no time to reach it from the center of Santa Barbara (a very easy place to get around with a car or a bike).  It was established by the Franciscan monks around 1768 as one of the last of a series of missions founded along California by the order.  As with most places where Europeans (or people of European descent), there was contact between the new arrivals and the locals; in this case the Chumash Indians.   The Santa Barbara Mission represents the longest continuous presence of the Franciscans in the United States.

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The Mission is more than the church and the museum; also a mausoleum and retreat center

The structures that have been on the site and are now have gone through changes and repairs, especially due to damage from earthquakes over its lifetime and after a period of civil administration of the site when the structures were not maintained.  Not today:  the structures look well kept up and on a beautiful day (which seems to be every day in Santa Barbara), the Mission is perfect for photos!  Admiring the facade of the mission is not hard.  The ample space outside allows one to step back and soak the whole structure in.

Once inside, one can enjoy the beautiful inner courtyards and outdoor “hallways” of the mission.

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Inner courtyard at the Mission

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I could sit on a rocking chair here and rock away all day!

At some point, one enters the cemetery area on the side of the main church before entering the church itself, following the sequence proposed in the self-tour which, at $7, was a great deal!  They also have led tours which seem would be best to better grasp the history and meaning of the Mission.  Unfortunately, we had less time than the tours require so we did the self-guided version.

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The cemetery outside of the church, near the mausoleum

The church itself has the feel of what makes a place of worship one where I could focus and reflect and pray.  It is simply beautiful.

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Main altar at the church

The Mission is not just a place to go check out if you are in Santa Barbara:  it is one of the reasons you should GO to Santa Barbara!

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The church

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