Drive California Route 1 and Visit the Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo State Park

If you fancy yourself a nature lover, there’s a habitat for elephant seals along the California coast that you won’t want to miss.

Visit between December and March

During the December to March mating season, there are docent led nature walks at Año Nuevo State Park where you can learn all about the habits and habitats of one of nature’s most enormous creatures, the elephant seal.

©Travel Photo Interact Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it

The main attraction is always the great northern elephant seals that can weigh 2 ½ tons each, but other visible species include sea lions, otters, and harbor seals.


It’s fun to watch the big bulls fight for dominance on the beach and strut their stuff to attract the bevy of ladies in-waiting. At the end of the party, many of the females — pregnant from the year before — give birth in the sand. Then it’s off to the ocean until next year’s call to revelry.

Interesting history

Hunted to near extinction in the nineteenth century, the elephant seal population dwindled to about 100 animals. Protected by the American and Mexican governments in the early twentieth century, the population has rebounded to some 150,000.

The first elephant seal sightings at Año Nuevo began in the 1950s. The first pups were born on the mainland in the 70s, and by the mid-90s, the number of local births was in the thousands.


This is successful conservation in action!

Other seasons

In March, and after the main group has departed for parts unknown, the pups and several hundred elephant seals remain to rest and recuperate along the beach and molt – not as lively as mating, but still worth seeing.


Be forewarned, on warm sunny days, there is nothing quite like the aroma of a molting elephant seal.

The island


Just off the mainland sits Año Nuevo Island. The barren and wind-swept island is home to the remains of a 19th century lighthouse.  The historic keeper’s house shown above was constructed in 1872, and now provides shelter to an assortment of Cormorants and Sea Lions.

Prepare for a mini-workout


You will walk approximately 3-miles during a tour at Año Nuevo. Wear comfortable clothes, especially shoes, because your guided walk will take you over varied terrain…


including sand dunes, and you know what it’s like to trudge in sand.

Also, wear appropriate headgear because the tours go, rain or shine ­­­-­­ and umbrellas are not permitted.

NOTE: There is an accessible boardwalk via van for those needing mobility assistance. Ask for details when purchasing tickets for the tour.

For more information about visiting with the fascinating elephant seals, check out the park’s website here.

There’s also a worthwhile Marine Education Center located within the park boundaries with interesting animal, plant, and geological exhibits, along with information about the colorful history of the area.

If you go

Año Nuevo State Park is on California Route 1, approximately 20 miles north of Santa Cruz, 35 miles south of Half Moon Bay, and about 60 miles south of San Francisco.

Treat yourself and your family to a visit with the magnificent elephant seals. We recommend it. The scenic ride along iconic Highway 1 is icing on the cake.

Happy travels!

“Get out there, but be prepared.” 

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Advertisements

On Your Next Drive to Yosemite Park the Ahwahnee Hotel Signs May Be Gone

The grand Ahwahnee Hotel

The Ahwahnee Hotel photos by Judy Bayliff

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it.

Because of a legal dispute over trademarks, some of the best-known places in Yosemite National Park may soon change their names. If something is not done, the historic and world-famous Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

This is not simply a name change, it is another gross humiliation for the people of America. A case where an ineffectual federal government squanders 100 years of American history and heritage through incompetence and maladroit negotiating.  The people who love our national parks are rightfully angry.

An extraordinary feat and justifiably celebrated name

Stephen T. Mather was the first Director of National Parks in the United States. He accepted the position in 1915 when there were only 16 national parks – today there are 58. Mr. Mather used the iconic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley to propel the success of the entire National Park System. Here’s how it all happened.

The Ahwahnee History

Mather built the Ahwahnee Hotel in his favorite park in Yosemite, California in 1927. It was to be the Crown Jewel of National Park Hotels, and for a very good reason.

Interest the rich and benefit the masses

Stephen Mather wanted his Yosemite hotel to be a wilderness destination for the rich. Not because he wanted to cater only to the wealthy, but because he knew that if he could interest influential people in the National Park System, he could build better parks for everyone. His plan worked beautifully.

The Ahwahnee was built with the best of everything, from newly invented electricity to bathrooms in each guestroom, and an elaborate kitchen that would provide extraordinary dining to the hotel’s privileged guests.

Two electric elevators were installed and manned by staff operators.

Noise reducing plaster was applied to interior walls to assure that guests were not disturbed by the roar of nearby Yosemite falls.

The siding and beams appear to be wood but are actually cement

The Ahwahnee Hotel structure looks to be made of rock and timber, but in reality the primitive looking exterior siding, balconies, and beams that appear to be timber are actually constructed from cement castings superbly stained to match the surrounding redwoods and pines. We have visited the Ahwahnee Hotel many times over the years, but until we did the research for this article, we had no idea the exterior walls were indeed made of cement.

Building the Ahwahnee Hotel was a monumental undertaking

It was the largest such task for the burgeoning young American trucking industry of the 1920s. Trucks ran on dusty roads day and night, seven days a week for over a year to bring materials to the Ahwahnee worksite.

All building materials for the six-story hotel were imported from outside the park. That meant hauling nearly 700 tons of steel I beams along with 5,000 tons of building stones, and 30,000 feet of lumber and logs with early model trucks along bumpy dirt roads. Add to that the many tons of hotel furnishings, and the kitchen and maintenance equipment necessary to run a luxury hotel. It was a huge undertaking for more than 250 drivers, workers, and artisans to create the timeless lodging masterpiece that we now so revere.

Stephen T. Mather did himself, and America proud.

The hotel had its grand opening on July 14, 1927.

The dining room

Dining was important to the wealthy, and in the Ahwahnee Hotel, the master architect Gilbert Underwood provided Mather with one of the most memorable grand dining rooms in the world.

The dining room stretches 130 feet from the elevator lobby toward Yosemite Falls and spans 51 feet from side to side. Its vaulted ceiling crowned with stripped pine rafters and trusses is 34 feet high.

Imagine the difficulty of trucking the dining room’s 11 plate glass windows that are 24 feet high on early California furrowed roads up to the building site of the Ahwahnee. One can only guess many windows were broken along the way. Consider also that once the windows arrived on site they had to be positioned without the aid of modern moving equipment – fascinating.

The great dining room timbers are huge bare pine columns that support a weighty truss ceiling. Unknown to the observer is that the pine columns are actually hollow concrete encased steel pillars. Once again, the genius of the architect is displayed. The rustic appearance of the dining room echoes the overall woodsy splendor of the plan. The immensity of this magnificent room dwarfs the 350 guests it can seat.

The dining room alcove – a magical place

 Located at the far end of the dining room, the alcove appears as an add-on to the vast main room before it. It has one of the 24-foot high glass windows, and in this instance, the window provides a showcase for the Upper Yosemite Falls and makes for an unforgettable setting.

The alcove has hosted many historic events including a round table dinner with Queen Elizabeth and Price Phillip during their visit in 1983. The Queen and Prince hosted a small dinner in the alcove after attending services in the park’s historic little wooden chapel.

When not arranged for special events, there are a number of tables for two set up in the alcove. The window center table is often reserved by newlyweds. Your authors had the distinction and privilege of having dinner at that special honeymoon table on their wedding night many years ago.

As we did on that night, we have often thought about the destinies of the hundreds – perhaps thousands of newly married couples that toasted and celebrated their future at that very spot over the last 90 years.

The beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel is host to about 200 weddings per year. If you are planning a wedding – it is an incredible venue.

The Ahwahnee Hotel design theme

The Ahwahnee has a Native American theme, and the chosen decorators did a superb job of blending the furnishings with the overall character of the property. Much of the furniture at the Ahwahnee is original with only subtle changes in fabric and design made to please contemporary tastes.

The Ansel Adam years 

When the stock market crashed in 1929, the number of visitors to the national parks dwindled, and the Ahwahnee fell on hard times.

The president of the Yosemite and Curry Company (YP&CC) decided that publicity would boost the Ahwahnee occupancy rate and he hired a young aspiring concert pianist, who was also a part-time photographer, to photograph and promote the hotel and the Yosemite experience. The young man’s name was Ansel Adams. The rest is history. His work, like that of John Muir will live as long as there is a Yosemite Valley.

Adams was in love with the beauty of Yosemite from an early age. He finally moved from San Francisco to Yosemite in 1937, and although he created visual masterpieces in other parts of the west, he remained intimately connected with the valley and the Ahwahnee Hotel for over 40 years. He retired in 1972 and died in 1982. He left behind a treasure trove of photographs of natural wonders.

The war years

The US Navy appropriated the Ahwahnee Hotel to be a convalescent hospital for sailors in June 1943. Before it was returned to the YP&CC in December of 1945, more than 6,700 patients had been treated at the Ahwahnee.

When the Navy vacated they left behind many buildings including a bowling alley, gymnasium, machine shop, pool hall, and foundry. The buildings were quickly dismantled and the salvage was put to good use in the valley.

Other changes through the years

The guest elevator was automated in 1963.

A small swimming pool was added in 1964 in a non-obtrusive space next to the bar.

Air conditioning was added, and all the windows in the guestrooms were replaced in 1976.

There was a golf course, but it was removed before 1980 in order to preserve the primordial nature of the surroundings.

TVs made their first appearance in the guestrooms in 1989.

The Ahwahnee Hotel was put on the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1977.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has designated the Ahwahnee a Four Diamond Hotel.

If you would like to read more detail about the Ahwahnee Hotel there are two short, but excellent books on the subject. . The Ahwahnee – Yosemite’s Grand Hotel, by Keith Walklet and The Ahwahnee – Yosemite’s Classic Hotel, by Shirley Sargent. Both books are available from Amazon.com.

If you go

Road to Glacier Point

There are several entrances to Yosemite Park and you can choose your route from the park website.

As you drive through the park, watch for signs to the Ahwahnee Hotel. A magnificent stone gatehouse at the entrance to the hotel gives the visitor an exhilarating sense of arrival. The leafy, tree-lined drive beyond the gateway increases the anticipation, and the Sequoia lined parking area provides a warm welcome to all visitors.

You are privileged to be about to enter one of the grandest rustic hotels in the world. Whatever it is eventually named, it will always be the “Ahwahnee,” to many generations of proud Americans.

Happy travels.

*************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Motoring on the California Coast and Mendocino’s Crab, Wine, and Beer Days

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it – click to enlarge.

We love off-season travel because of the reduced crowds and bargain accommodation rates. Last winter we drove from San Francisco to Mendocino to attend the annual Crab, Wine & Beer Days – a fun family experience – especially if you favor the taste of freshly cooked Dungeness crab.

Getting to Mendocino

Starting at San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge on highway 101, the drive to Mendocino takes about 3 hours. The last half of the trip from Cloverdale along highways 126 and 1 will take you back to a time when all rural California roads were scenic and fun to drive.

It was a beautiful day, and we zipped along 126 dashing between tree cover to sunshine, and constantly pointing out new exciting sightings in the ever changing panorama.

IMG_7596We arrived in Mendocino around 3pm and drove directly to the Brewery Gulch Inn just off picturesque highway 1. This highly recommended B&B would be our home for the coming event days.

Our welcome

IMG_7947The appearance of wild turkeys next to the gravel parking lot was a nice touch, and a precursor to the unusual rustic luxuries we would find during our stay at the this AAA Four Diamond inn.

IMG_7982When we plan to write about a place we stay, we look for the little details that will help us define the property. In the case of the Brewery Gulch Inn there was an old wheel barrow near the inn’s entrance, and a seen-better-days motor boat in the side of the parking lot. Both these unusual accoutrements got us wondering about the inn’s reputation for richness, but any misgivings on first appearances vanished upon entering the building and experiencing the homey reception and the elegant, designed for living, Great Room.

IMG_7700We were greeted at check-in by owner/innkeeper Guy Pacurar. Guy purchased the inn in 2007 to fill a “Bob Newhart” fantasy. Guy is a congenial host and the go-to-guy for information about Mendocino and the Brewery Gulch Inn.

The accommodations

IMG_7955The Great Room is the focal point of the Brewery Gulch Inn. At its center is a magnificent four-sided steel and glass fireplace enshrined in a room of towering wood and 13-foot high redwood French doors.

IMG_7655The doors open to a spacious deck with sweeping views overlooking the ever-changing Pacific and Smuggler’s Cove. This is an architectural design perfectly suited to its setting.

IMG_7628Add a measure of overstuffed leather chairs and 1930’s style oak dining tables, and you have the makings of the ideal gathering and dining room.

The Pelican Room

IMG_7617Climbing the stairs to our second floor guestroom, we noted the inn was much larger than we anticipated. You can choose from eleven sleeping rooms to suit your taste along with an unattached cottage.

IMG_7609All the rooms and suites elegantly avoid being trendy or too thematic. All are finely appointed with a warm touch of appropriate place and kind furnishings.

Time for dinner

We had heard rave reviews about the inn’s complimentary evening “light” buffet. Don’t believe the “light” description. We enjoyed two great dinner meals at the inn’s casual buffet. Additionally, this every-evening event is carefully calibrated by the management to assure a sense of comfort and informality.

Served with a variety of wines, beers, and soft drinks, the inn’s nightly all-you-can-eat spread was more than enough for any evening meal, and it was delicious.

First night menu

IMG_7644Tuscan Ragout of Beef in a Deep Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Tri-Color Marble Potatoes with Horseradish Sour Cream

Crab-Cocktails, with Meyer Lemon Slaw

Balsamic Glazed Grilled Endives

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Sweet Chili Sauce

IMG_7987We finished off with a delectable Cinnamon Banana Brioche Bread Pudding

So who needs to eat elsewhere!

Dreaming about tomorrow

After a restful night on luxurious bed linens, and a delicious breakfast (more about that later), we headed out for our first adventure.

100_4239It was a crisp morning and perfect for exploring the many sites of Mendocino. After walking around town and checking out the boutiques and shops, we headed for the Point Cabrillo Light Station.

IMG_7751Still working off our hearty breakfast, we were grateful for the opportunity to walk the half-mile from the parking lot to the Light Station.

IMG_7712The clean salt air was brisk and the walk invigorating.

IMG_7744We chatted with the light station attendant in the museum/gift shop, and spent a good part of our sunny afternoon walking along the headlands and gazing out over the vast Pacific. On our day, we saw hundreds of whale spout sightings far off in the distance.

IMG_7604Returning to the inn just in time for some complimentary wine — and an opportunity to rest our weary feet — we settled into two of the easy chairs on the inn’s deck overlooking Smuggler’s Cove.

IMG_7774Time passed quickly, and it was once again the hour for another of the inn’s extraordinary “light” buffets.

IMG_7989If it all looks good, it was! A perfect ending to a wonderful day.

The following morning

IMG_7681Light streamed through the tall glass windows illuminating the rich interior of the Great Room with its period oak tables and upholstered furniture.

The breakfast at the Brewery Gulch Inn is magnificent.

IMG_7672On this morning we had our choice of a crab and avocado omelet,

IMG_7664or cheesy eggs, and blueberry pancakes – both of which were mouth-watering delicious. They also served “Millionaire’s Bacon,” which is a thick slice of lean bacon seasoned with hot peppers. Actually, not our cup of tea, but other guests raved about it.

After breakfast we headed for the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

IMG_7938Even in winter, the Mendocino Gardens are worth a visit.

IMG_7924There are ample species of flowers to enjoy, and the trails to the ocean are a terrific way to pass a sunlit afternoon.

IMG_7819Be sure to take along your best buddies, because the gardens are pet friendly.

IMG_4233It took us several minutes to walk to the ocean where we sat and once again watched the distant whales frolicking on their way to the warm waters of Mexico.

Time for crab tasting

IMG_7760Because these were Crab, Wine, and Beer Days we were anxious to sample the best of what the local restaurants had to offer by way of crustacean delights. We decided to have dinner at a highly recommended establishment, the Little River Inn.

IMG_8036The Little River Inn is well known for excellent crab cakes, and we were in the mood. The Brewery Gulch inn and the Little River Inn are just a short distance apart.

IMG_8000Dining at The Little River Inn restaurant is comfortably elegant. The atmosphere and service were outstanding, and the menu was designed to reflect the location. We found the menu choices to be sophisticated, yet approachable.

We made our selections from the Crab Specials Menu prepared especially for the days of the event.

IMG_8005Our starter was a Dungeness Crab Cocktail with home-made cocktail sauce, celery, and crackers. There’s nothing quite like the delicate taste of chilled and fresh Dungeness crab to excite and delight the palate.

IMG_8002We next tried the inn’s award winning Crab Cakes. We can’t describe what makes these crab cakes best in class, but we can report that they were definitely some of the best crab cakes we have tasted anywhere in the world. If you go, do not miss this delicious delicacy!

IMG_8016Keeping with the symphony of flavors, our next foray into Crab Days was the Dungeness Crab Pot Pie baked under a flaky crust and teeming with leeks, celery, onions, potatoes, and sweet peas. Exquisite!

IMG_8025Everything crab was topped off with an Olallieberry Cobbler,

P1020005and a Hot Fudge Sundae.

Having feasted to fatigue, it was back to the Brewery Gulch Inn for another night of snuggly slumber.

All too soon

We found the Brewery Gulch Inn to be an idyllic place for discriminating travelers, and we wish we could have stayed longer, but before we could say “more crab, please,” it was time to head for home.

There are so many interesting things to see and do in Mendocino that we are already looking forward to our next visit. Guy and wife Sarah have some super site recommendations; look here for their description of a perfect getaway to Mendocino and the Brewery Gulch Inn.

100_4254One of the activities they recommend is the 2.25 mile hike to Russian Gulch Falls. We did it and it is spectacular. Be sure to put it on your list.

IMG_7627In 2016 the Mendocino Crab, Wine and Beer Days will be held on January 29 and 30.

For more information and reservations at the Brewery Gulch Inn click here. Book now, and avoid disappointment.

IMG_8040Happy travels!

*****************************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Take Amtrak to Santa Barbara and Leave the Car at Home

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it – click to enlarge.

02-13-13-13-P1010404We had not been on a train in years, so when invited to experience a weekend getaway on the rails that was “drive free,” we jumped at the opportunity. The adventure entailed making our way to the Diridon Train Station in San Jose, California, and boarding the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight train bound for Santa Barbara. Here’s how it all went:

Checking baggage

01-01-01-01-P1010388Coast Starlight passengers are allowed to check two bags each, with similar baggage restrictions to those of the airlines. However, our visit was a short getaway so we planned to carry our two small bags to our compartment.

Off we go

03-14-14-14-P1010405Our Amtrak Coast Starlight train departed on time at 10:07am. We booked a “roomette” accommodation in what is called a Sleeping Car. The roomette amounted to a small compartment with two facing cushioned chairs that recline into a bed. There was also an upper drop-down bunk bed enclosed in the ceiling for the use of a second passenger. We had a nice window to enjoy the view, and there were curtains and a door to shut out the world if we so desired.

We found the biggest advantage of a roomette over a set of less expensive coach seats during a day trip is the privacy for conversation and making phone calls.

Travel comfort

Train travel can be bumpy, but the bouncing around is part of the fun and experience.

The Coast Starlight is one of the longest ocean-view train rides in America. There are a number of venues from which to watch the numerous passing landscapes between San Jose and Santa Barbara.

33-6-6-P1010477We spent most of the day in comfortable swivel chairs in the upper-level Pacific Parlour Car. Wide windows gave us first-class views of the abundant scenery.

This car also has a lower-level theater where first run films are featured.

Eating on the train

32-1-1-P1010471Sleeping Car passengers receive complementary meals and can reserve eating times in either the Pacific Parlour Car, or Dining Car. The train’s *menu* is more than adequate and includes sandwiches, fresh fish, salads, several daily entrées ­– including their famous steak in the Dining Car.

07-022-022-022-P1000402We tried a number of offerings from the menu, and highly recommend the Angus burger – it’s full-flavored and delicious.

Hello Santa Barbara

11-048-048-048-P1000435Our Amtrak train arrived at the Santa Barbara station on-time at 5:55 pm. The station is small, and was quiet upon our arrival.

It was a short distance to our downtown lodging at the Santa Barbara Hotel on State Street. It felt good to stretch our legs and walk the four blocks from the station to the hotel.

The Hotel Santa Barbara

15-42-42-42-IMG_4951Centrally located in downtown, the Hotel Santa Barbara is a quaint boutique style hotel with an interesting history. Originally built in the late 1800s, the hotel was destroyed in the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake. It was quickly rebuilt and became a luxury accommodation for the likes of Clark Gable and Carol Lombard who were frequent guests.

16-49-49-49-IMG_4958Slowly losing traction over the years, the hotel was again revitalized in 1996 when the 75 room establishment became the elegant focal point for the renaissance of downtown Santa Barbara.

14-23-23-23-IMG_4932Today, the quietly sophisticated hotel offers small groups a place to stay and meet while visiting the many attractions of the city.

12-053-053-053-P1000440After settling into our comfortable and spacious guestroom, we took a walk along State Street and window shopped the many specialty retailers that line the cosmopolitan thoroughfare.

Our full day in Santa Barbara

13-06-06-06-IMG_4915It was a typically beautiful Santa Barbara morning, and after a filling Continental Breakfast provided by the hotel in their spacious Mediterranean lobby, we began to think about the best use of our day.

As part of the Car Free program, the hotel provides tickets for the scenic Santa Barbara Trolley Tour, but a friend had suggested the best way to see the downtown area of Santa Barbara, and to enjoy some of the local cuisine, is by foot on a food tour. It was a good suggestion.

The Santa Barbara Food Tour

We signed up for the Lower State Street and Funk Zone Food and Culture Tour offered by Savor Santa Barbara Food Tours. Our tour started in Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant on W. Montecito Street.

18-067-068-068-P1000456Claire Ihlendorf-Burke, our congenial guide, handed us a menu of delectable south-of-the-border treats. We chose the beef tacos.

19-072-073-073-P1000461Not expecting a large amount of food on a tour, and certainly not expecting the biggest and best ever tacos, we tucked away all of the plenty that was offered in short order. The only problem was that this was the first “tasting” on the tour, and we had no idea how we could possibly eat anything more that day – but, somehow we managed.

17-23-23-23-P1010415We were able to scrape the bowl of delectable lobster bisque at the Enterprise Fish Company,

20-28-28-28-P1010424and enjoy the grape’s bounty at the Santa Barbara Winery in the hip, but understated Funk Zone section of Santa Barbara.

28-141-142-142-P1000538What saved us from intake overload were the short walks between the seven sample foods and beverage stops. The entire tour takes a little over three hours and covers about two-miles.

23-115-116-116-P1000509Claire knows her city well, and she showed us the interesting back streets, urban wine trail, and fine examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, for which the city is famous.

22-46-46-46-P1010445Our tour ended at McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, an artisan creamery with delicious sweets.

25-123-124-124-P1000518We highly recommend this tour as a great way to learn about Santa Barbara, sample some great food and wines, and get some non-threatening exercise.

Our final day in Santa Barbara

26-50-50-50-P1010450Before boarding our train to return to San Jose, we took a walk to see the Santa Barbara Courthouse and Sunken Gardens on Anacapa Street. It is worth a visit…

30-152-153-153-P1000550and the view from the clock tower is breathtaking.

29-65-65-65-P1010467We also enjoyed the colorful farmer’s market that literally took over State Street the morning of our departure. The market provides residents and visitors an opportunity to purchase farm fresh produce of the highest quality.

For the economy minded traveler

04-009-009-009-P1000389In terms of space and seats aboard the Coast Starlight, coach accommodations are akin to First Class space aboard most domestic airlines.

A nice accompaniment to the Amtrak Santa Barbara Car Free getaway is the many establishments that provide discounts to Amtrak ticket holders. Get a list of who is participating from www.SantaBarbaraCarFree.org. The website also provides insight into what is available to do while in Santa Barbara.

There is so much to do and see in Santa Barbara and we could only scratch the surface within the confines of this article. You will just have to check it all out for yourself. You will be glad you did.

If you go 

The Coast Starlight runs daily between Seattle and Los Angeles.

Airport connections are available from Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles.

Amtrak offers free city guides and walking tours, which you can find *here*

For more information about what downtown Santa Barbara has to offer click *here*

Look *here* for information about the Hotel Santa Barbara.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

The “New” Long Beach, California is an Easy Drive from Los Angeles

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it – click to enlarge.

Recently, we had an opportunity to experience Long Beach, California, in depth – the transformation of this city over the decades is nothing less than astonishing.

17-35-066-182-IMG_4805What was an unremarkable middle class town has magically morphed into an exciting convention and vacation destination that rivals the best of what other Southern California beach towns have to offer.

Note: Everything you will read about our Long Beach holiday is available for your enjoyment. We have provided links to each topic. Just click on a link for more details about the subject.

We started out at SFO

49-87-035-137-P1010331Our Long Beach adventure began with a flight from San Francisco on Jet Blue airline. This was our first experience on the airline and it certainly will not be our last. We found that on our flight, the extra leg room in standard economy was enough to make Jet Blue our new coach-class favorite over the ever-shrinking, sardine-like seats we are all too familiar with on our United and American flights out of SFO.

Additionally, we liked the fact that there was no charge for our checked luggage.

As long as Jet Blue provides these benefits we will be “True Blue,” when it comes to flying coach.

LGB is a delightful airport

50-88-036-141-P1010335We relish flying into small town airports, and although Long Beach is certainly not a little town, the LGB airport has a small, open, easy-going vibe.

Stay at the Westin

47-85-033-126-P1010320Within minutes of our arrival at LGB we were relaxing in our room at the Westin on Ocean Boulevard.

01-01-084-028-FSCN0063The hotel is close to the Queen Mary and many of the other attractions on our itinerary.

02-07-090-083-DSCN0124After getting settled we were off for a tour of the Queen Mary led by Honorary Commodore Everette Hoard, followed by dinner aboard…

06-19-053-102-IMG_4721at the Sir Winston’s restaurant.

07-20-054-111-IMG_4733What delicious French Onion Soup!

08-22-056-117-IMG_4739Our main course was classic “Surf and Turf” that was cooked to perfection.

About the Queen

14-31-060-141-IMG_4763The city of Long Beach went into promotional overdrive in 1967 when it acquired the iconic RMS Queen Mary.  Like the city itself, the Queen has known good times and bad, and through it all has become a symbol of pride and enduring strength in America.

Highly visible in Long Beach Harbor, the Queen Mary humbly accepts daily accolades for her beauty and durability, and for those who know, for her valiant courage.

When launched in 1936, the Queen was the fastest ship afloat. During WW2, she made 72 wartime crossings of the treacherous Atlantic and was the prize never won by Nazi U-Boat captains determined to sink her for the Fatherland and Adolf Hitler.

During the war, Winston Churchill said he felt as safe aboard the Queen Mary as he did in Parliament.

IMG_1005Churchill’s comfortable suite on board the Queen is now part of the array of staterooms available by reservation at the Queen Mary hotel. A stay on this venerable ship is an extraordinary historical privilege.

A few years back, we stayed at the Queen Mary hotel. If you would like to read about that experience on the famous ship click here for the story.

Morning on the water

12-27-057-124-IMG_4746The following day we toured Long Beach Harbor on the Triumphant of Harbor Breeze Cruises.

18-36-067-189-IMG_4812This is an excellent way to see all that the waterfront of Long Beach has to offer. Harbor Breeze also offers whale watching cruises.

19-39-071-194-IMG_4817Next we strolled around Shoreline Village with its many interesting shops, boutiques, and attractions.

16-34-064-178-IMG_4801Our walk ended with a seafood lunch at the famous (and delicious) Parkers’ Lighthouse.

Afternoon at the Aquarium

21-41-073-209-IMG_4832Our afternoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific proved it to be a family attraction we could highly recommend.

22-42-074-210-IMG_4833Exhibits were both entertaining and educational.

23-44-075-216-IMG_4842Great fun for all ages.

Final day

The following morning we had breakfast at The Attic on Broadway. The cuisine was unique and tasty.

28-52-098-321-DSCN0392How about a Bloody Mary with bacon and a pickle?

Tour with Pedego

29-54-100-329-DSCN0400It was a beautiful Long Beach morning so we signed up for an electric bike tour along the ocean bike path. Our host was Pedego Electric Bikes.

55-95-043-BOBS BEACH BIKE 1This is an excellent way to view the 5.5 miles of manicured sand and shoreline residences along the beach.

33-63-008-043-P1010229The bikes were all in super shape, and depending on your shape, you can pedal or leave the pedaling to the Pedego.

53-92-040-Electric Bike GroupThe outing was great fun, and there was an enjoyable group of participants.

Time for culture

36-71-016-072-P1010260There are plenty of indoor activities in Long Beach and in the afternoon we left the sun to visit the Long Beach Museum of Art.

34-66-011-052-P1010238We were captivated by the exhibition Baroque Sensibilities by Sherrie Wolf.

35-67-012-056-P1010242The museum changes exhibits regularly, so keep an eye on their website.

Back in time

A quite unusual attraction that is not highly publicized is Long Beach’s 4th Street, a.k.a. the “Retro Row.” It is comprised of several blocks of funky little boutiques, antique, and pre-owned clothing shops that will take you back to mother’s time – or maybe your time, if you recognize lots of the habiliments. Locally owned restaurants and wine bars add to the joy of meandering.

39-74-020-081-P1010272The Rows landmark 1920’s Art Theatre hosts events such as contemporary and vintage films and live concerts.

A little touch of Venice 

Our next Long Beach adventure had us back on the water.

41-77-024-087-P1010279Gliding along the waterways of Venice, Italy is one of our fondest memories, and we had an opportunity to reminisce in Long Beach on a romantic gondola ride thru Naples Island with Gondola Getaway.

43-79-026-102-P1010295We watched the sun surrender to the Pacific – a perfect ending to an exceptional day.

Last supper

Our last dinner on this getaway was at the Boathouse on the Bay. The water oriented restaurant was busy on a balmy Long Beach evening, and the service and food were as advertised i.e., excellent.

44-81-028-108-P1010301Our entrees consisted of the biggest-ever and perfectly prepared King Crab Legs accompanied by a chopped cucumber sprinkled with dill and drizzled with a light vinegar – a brilliant pairing of tastes.

45-83-030-113-P1010307We can also recommend the tasty sea bass on potato mash amidst a savory sassy mix of carrots, peas and green beans. Delicious!

Things to know before you go

Long Beach boasts 345 days of sunshine and it is cold at 50 degrees in January, and hot when it’s 83 degrees in August and September. How great is that!

The outdoor activities in Long Beach are numerous and include fishing, harbor cruises, kayaking, rollerblading, biking, horseback riding, tennis and of course, golf. If that weren’t enough, windsurfing, scuba diving, parasailing, water skiing, whale watching, and sailing are also available. Whew!

There are over 5,000 hotel rooms in Long Beach, and 17 hotels that have complete meeting facilities. The public transportation is unsurpassed, and with all the available activities, Long Beach is a spectacular convention town.

As evidenced by its many nightspots and hip restaurants, the city has become an exciting destination for younger tourists.

There’s a lot to do and see in Long Beach. We recommend a visit. You will not be disappointed.

For additional information check out www.longbeachcvb.org

If you go

48-86-034-134-P1010328Long Beach is 22-miles south of downtown Los Angeles and is well serviced by the airlines and the California Freeway System.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Take a Short Drive from San Francisco and Visit Exciting Cannery Row on Monterey Bay

Cannery Row on Monterey Bay is an easy 2-hour drive south of San Francisco. Two good reasons to add Monterey to your northern California holiday are that it is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Golden State, and it is far less commercial than San Francisco. It’s a great place to enjoy some quality down-time during your vacation.

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it – click to enlarge.

A brief history of Cannery Row

csr7Oil made whales the Monterey prey of choice for fisherman until Kerosene was introduced in the late 1800s. At that time, the local fishing industry made a quick turn to sardines, and the first cannery opened in 1902 along Ocean View Avenue – now Cannery Row.

From that date until the 1960s the fishermen and businessmen of the “Row” didn’t realize it, but they were systematically fishing themselves into oblivion by overtaxing the schools of mature sardines needed to reproduce and replenish the early abundant harvests.

IMG_0727The last sardine catch and pack on Cannery Row took place in 1964 on the site of the now famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Inspired by John Steinbeck’s celebrated story, Cannery Row is visited annually by scores of vacationers from around the world, and it is well worth a prominent place on your vacation schedule.

It’s fun to share the planet

IMG_0927Cannery Row is not only a tourist’s mecca, it has also become a conservationist’s Disneyland. There’s the spectacular Aquarium, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which can be enjoyed by tour boat, sail boat, kayak, or row boat.

crb4On land, tourists can comb the waterfront, whale watch, otter watch, seal watch, bird watch, and people watch. Cold water SCUBA divers also get to fish watch. There are a whopping 26 species of marine mammals, and 345 species of fish residing in the Monterey Bay Sanctuary.

Also in the area

pg1Golfing and touring at Pebble Beach, Carmel, and Pacific Grove are minutes away,

l1and the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove is open to the public and is a great place to get a feel for a lighthouse keeper’s life in earlier times.

pl9Point Lobos State Reserve with its fantastic views of the Pacific is also in the neighborhood.

t IMG_0464In the area, we also visited the fabulous Holman Ranch and Winery, and *here* is that story.

Where to stay

h2IMG_0777There is no shortage of great places to stay on and near Cannery Row. We chose the Monterey Bay Inn right on the “Row.” It is the first hotel on the water when driving east.

IMG_0737The Inn’s appeal includes being slightly away from the center of the hub-bub, where most of the tourists congregate. Yet, it is just a short walk to all the interesting shops that line the Row.

IMG_0621The views from the Monterey Bay Inn are impressive – especially if you are lucky enough to reserve an end room with a balcony over the water. We recommend room 320 if it is available. (that’s 320 just under the roof canopy above)

pa1The Inn is adjacent to San Carlos Beach Park, where visitors can picnic and stroll the beach. The park is also an excellent entry point for kayaks and SCUBA divers heading for a swim with the fishes among the ever-swaying orange and brown kelp beds.

Cannery Row eateries

sf4The area is awash in excellent restaurants, but there is one in particular that deserves a feature story, and that is what we plan for the legendary Sardine Factory on Wave Street.

The Sardine Factory is a world-class restaurant that is also an uplifting All-American success story. It’s about two ordinary guys that started with nothing almost 40-years ago, and today are recognized by presidents, the movers and shakers of industry, and scores of celebrities in the restaurant and entertainment world.

It’s also a tale of tradition, values, honesty and integrity – subjects that are too often forgotten in our confused times.

sssf3So look for our story about the Sardine Factory in the near future. It is good press that will inspire you – it did us.

IMG_0720The Monterey coast and Cannery Row are California treasures that should be explored and enjoyed by all lovers of the sea,nature, and fine food – definitely worth putting on your getaway list.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos © Judy Bayliff
You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com

It’s Just a Short Drive from San Francisco to Pacifica and Well Worth the Time

Interesting little towns located very near big vacation destinations like San Francisco often go missing from the holiday planner’s radar. In the case of Pacifica, California, that would be most unfortunate.

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it – click to enlarge.

04-04-50-IMG_2398Just 15-minutes south of San Francisco on famous California Hwy 1, Pacifica is a great place to enjoy a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of a City vacation. It’s a place to stretch out and watch the waves, and experience the community life of a small Bohemian style California coastal town that marches to a decidedly different drummer.

Gaspar discovers the Bay

A 1200 foot ridge high above Pacifica was the place from which Gaspar de Portola discovered the San Francisco Bay in 1769.

We discover Pacifica

SEG ocean x590Being a short distance from our home, we have driven past Pacifica on many occasions, but only stopped once to research a story about the town’s amiable Segway tour operators.

IMG_2165Our Segway experience proved to be a pleasant day’s outing along Pacifica’s rocky coastline known for great scenery, and we told ourselves that we must return. Recently, we decided to explore what this charming town below San Francisco had to offer by way of other activities, accommodations, and restaurants.

Finding a hotel

05-05-60-IMG_2408The first thing we looked for was a hotel room where we could hear the pounding surf on the sand. We found the perfect room at the Pacifica Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel, which happens to be the only full service hotel on the beach.

09-09-82-IMG_2430Marty Cerles, the cordial hotel manager suggested mini-suite number 127, and that is the specific room that we recommend if you want the best up-front seat for the smashing surf show.

32-35-315-IMG_1754We left our window open all night and reveled in the relaxing sounds of the churning ocean and sea birds.

18-IMG_1926-001If you are in budget mode, try the nearby Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel operated by Hostelling International.

17-IMG_1922You can stay in former Coast Guard quarters on this historic lighthouse property that boasts panoramic views that a major brand hotel would die for.

Check out the great video below. It pictures the hostel campus and its extraordinary views, and includes many things-to-do while in the area.


More about things-to-do

36-40-348-IMG_1790Pacifica features everything from world-class surfing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, scuba diving and hang gliding. This beachy-peach is an ideal getaway for anyone interested in just relaxing or enjoying an invigorating outdoor vacation.

11-IMG_1821There are a bevy of quaint shops in Pacifica ranging from specialty shops to service establishments – it’s a great town to meander about and window shop.

19-IMG_1938Check with the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce to see when the next outdoor Farmer’s Market will set up shop.

Best restaurants

Our research led us to three restaurants.

12-14-063-IMG_1500Nick’s Seashore Restaurant at Rockaway Beach was recommended for ocean front breakfast dining.

08-IMG_1800Nick’s has been family owned since 1927. As soon as we entered we knew we had found the local favorite for dining and dancing.

07-IMG_1802Our home-style breakfast at Nick’s was a great start to our day.

07-07-72-IMG_2420Puerto 27, has a relaxed beach community atmosphere. It was a particular delight for our first dinner in Pacifica. It offers something we had never experienced –Peruvian cuisine.

27-30-299-IMG_1738We took a taste adventure recommended by Head Chef, Jorge Tupac.

22-25-272-IMG_1711We ordered the Pescado a lo Macho, a whole fish marinated with Aji Amarillo and crispy fried. It was served with a Seafood Cream Panka Parmesan Sauce with mussels, clams, scallops, and calamari. Not something we would have chosen without Chef Jorge’s suggestion. Turns out, it is off this planet scrumptious. We recommend it highly!

20-23-257-IMG_1696By the way, be sure to try one of their Pisco Sour Cocktails. We had the Clasico made with 3 ounces of pisco quebranta, 1 ounce of key lime, 1 ounce simple syrup, ½ ounce of egg whites, and a touch of angostura bitters – for novelty, a “27” is neatly frosted on the surface. Yum!

IMG_1497The Moonraker Restaurant is immediately adjacent to the Best Western Lighthouse Hotel and shares superb views of the Pacific just a few yards away.

21-IMG_1959For a dinner entrée, we recommend the Coriander Seared Scallops covered in a sweet corn sauce and served with mashed potatoes and baby carrots.

31-34-311-IMG_1750After a delightful meal, we enjoyed a savory cup of robust decaf coffee and watched the far away sun slowly slip into the sea. Soon it was dark, and the end of a beautiful day in Pacifica.

Pacifica Pier

06-IMG_1468Located at Sharp Park Beach, the 1,140 foot Pacifica Pier opened to the public in 1973.

01-01-20-IMG_2368It has provided decades of family fishing fun with annual summer runs of salmon and striped bass, and crabbing for delectable Dungeness crabs is allowed during the winter season. The pier is also a good place for spotting whales during their biannual migration.

05-IMG_1450The pier is open all year from 4am to 10pm except during stormy weather. AND – no fishing license is required!

Fit in Pacifica beaches

13-IMG_1873Pacifica boasts seven miles of multifarious surfing quality beaches in plain view of the dramatic Pacific headlands where hiking and biking trails lead to scenic overlooks of the crashing surf.

17-20-172-IMG_1609These same cliffs are coveted by experienced para-gliders who ride the thermals like so many raptors spiraling in the gentle currents.

34-38-343-IMG_1785There’s also an Alister Mackenzie designed golf course, public tennis courts, an archery range, horseback riding, biking, bowling, and a free skateboard park with ocean views. Phew!

If Pacifica reads like a great place to prepare for your next marathon, decathlon, or for just getting into better shape, it’s all true.

If you go

18-21-202-IMG_1639Before you complete your plan, be sure to check out www.visitpacifica.com. The website will provide you with up to date information about what is happening in Pacifica along with a simple map.

Happy travels!

©Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

© Photos by Judy Bayliff