Great Drive Series – 17-Mile Drive in California

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

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?

Caltrain, train, transportation, travel, San Francisco, California

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.

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

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.

map, Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

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?).

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

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

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

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!

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

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.

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

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…

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

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!

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Marine vegetation imitates art?

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

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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Photos of the Week: Ships Awaiting Canal Crossing – from the Air

Panama Canal, ships, photo, sea, ocean

The Panama Canal, of which I have written about before, is a marvel of engineering.  Not only the lock system but also the massive works required to create the channel and the man-made lake that serves as the holding pond for the ships in the middle of their passage.  Ships await passage in either side of the Canal, in the Atlantic or Pacific, as well as in that holding pond of a lake.

An uncle of mine was able to take two amazing pictures that capture “the scene” of ships waiting.  The ships look like ants – or tadpoles!

Panama Canal, ships, photo, sea, ocean

(Photo courtesy of M.J. Pabón)

Panama Canal, ships, photo, sea, ocean

(Photo courtesy of M.J. Pabón)

What do you think??

 

 

Reaching the End of Africa…

We started the day by going to the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town as the Ocean Volvo Race was expecting its first arrivals on the first leg of this round-the-world regatta that morning.  They were expecting the Ericsson team to be the first to arrive from Europe and, sure enough, when we got there, the crew was already packing up sails, etc.  It was neat to see them getting with their families after however long they had been in the ocean.  It was then time to leave to go see the famous Cape of Good Hope which is NOT the southernmost tip of the continent (I felt taken in!).

Leaving Cape Town and heading south passes through beach areas that I only wish I could have enjoyed!

Heading out Cape Town on our way south to the Cape of Good Hope

Heading out Cape Town on our way south to the Cape of Good Hope

Driving from Cape Town to Cape of Good Hope is a neat drive.  The peninsula is rather small so the distances are short.  There seem to be 2 main roads going down, one along the west coast and another further east.  We decided to go down one and come up another.  As we trekked down the beach towns south of Cape Town, we greatly enjoyed the views of the bays, mountains and beaches along the way.  The drive around Chapman’s Peak has to rank up there among the most beautiful coastal drives in the world (http://www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za/).  Unfortunately, the final part of the drive for us, south of Hout Bay was closed to traffic (not sure why but maybe rock slides?) but the views were breathtaking and we even got to see whales pretty much near the rocks at the bottom of the cliff we were standing at.  It was a beautiful day to be driving around (early November).  Due to the crossing we had to back track up to Hout Bay but that allowed us to drive by Constantia which seems a neat area to visit some time.

Coastline south of Cape Town (near Hout's Bay and Chapman's Peak)

We decided to head straight to Simon’s Town and stop there for lunch.

Simon's Town on the way of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

Making a stop in Simon’s Town on the way of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to see the penguins

We also realized it was known for the penguins so we decided to take a look at them too.  We had lunch at a great hole in the wall called the Salty Sea Dog [good eats] where we had fantastic fish and chips.  There were many choices on the fish and it was all very fresh.  The penguins were, as promised, perched on the rocks but I felt, as the tourist restricted to a wooden pathway, as the wildlife under observation!

Penguins in Simon's Town, South Africa near the Cape of Good Hope

Penguins in Simon’s Town

The landscape south of Simon’s Town got more beautiful the more we drove.  We saw different types of wildlife along the way.  We entered the park and soon found ourselves at the Cape of Good Hope.  At first, it seemed just a big old pile of rocks.  However, soon the colors from the late afternoon soon, the wild waves, and the hike up that pile of rocks began to yield truly magnificent views.  We hiked up and set up our own rock pile atop the Cape where others had done the same.  As soon as we began walking further at the top, it started raining so we had to make a run back down in the rain.  Too late, we were drenched.  Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold!

We then drove over to Cape Point, right next door and probably a walk over had it not been raining, and STILL not the southernmost point of the continent (Cape Argulhas is) though you are informed it is the southwesternmost point on the continent (I wondered about whether such a distinction is necessary; what is the southeasternmost point?  maybe Port Elizabeth?).  We hiked up Cape Point and then all the way down as far as you are allowed above the lighthouse.  Cape Point was far more spectacular than its more famous neighbor in terms of the views.  You can look north and see the peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on the west and False Bay on the east.

Cape Point near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

Reaching Cape Point

Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

Looking at the Cape of Good Hope from Cape Point

More info on the capes at http://away.com/features/south_africa_cape_point_1.html.

As we drove back up the west coast after nightfall, one of my favorite views was a lighthouse that we looked down upon from the road we were driving on.  It was between Kommetjie and Scarborough, I think.  Due to a road accident that killed 5 in Kommetjie, we had to backtrack a good way and ended up driving up the east coast (got to see the lighthouse again!).After a few misses in small towns north of Simon’s Town, we finally found a town that looked like it had places to eat (it was Sunday night so maybe many places were closed, hence those towns looked like there were no eateries…).  In Kalk Bay we found an eatery called the Brass Bell right by the train station on the water.  It was a pub/seafood place – it was great!  Basic as it was, the food was quite good, the setting pretty cool, and the beer nice and cold!  Maybe we were just too hungry??

After dinner we just went due north past Muizenberg to our hotel to get ready for our visit to wine country in Stellenbosch.

Does anyone know of interesting towns in the peninsula or good places to eat in that area?

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