Day 25 – Santa Barbara to San Clemente vía Malibu and Santa Monica
Day 4 of our Pacific Cost Highway Drive
We had a lovely breakfast at our hotel (west Coast Inn) sat by the pool. We shared a table with an American couple. The lady used to live in Yorkshire and said how much she loved the people and that they were very friendly, but thought the food was awful. It turned out she had never had a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding so I don’t know what she had eaten. I wonder if she had eaten American style food, which over 20 years ago when she lived there was not very good. I commented that I was really enjoying the fruit salad over breakfast (we hadn’t had much of it it the US) and her husband said ‘well I guess you don’t get much fresh fruit much over there!!!’ I didn’t know what to say!
We drove alongside the Santa Barbara beach before we joined US1 and we commented about how many beach volleyball nets there were. Santa Barbara is a pretty City with mountains and greenery coming down to the beach. All the hotels and apartments were no more than three stories high. There were no bars or busy beach resort restaurants or shops to spoil the landscape.
We drove through a district of the city (Montecito) which was full of upmarket shops, I believe this is where some celebrities live in this city. It was a very clean and pleasant place as you can imagine.
We made our way on the US101 (as this particular section of road didn’t have a specific US1) to Ventura, near to Emma Wood State Beach Park. The road was right on the beach and the lay-by was full of large RVs (Motorhomes) all parked up – they had a great spot. Once again this stretch of beach was natural with no large buildings to spoil the natural vista.
We then passed the military town of Oxnard which has a big naval base before making our way to Malibu. Well I used to love the drink so I thought we better see this famous surfing town of the same name!
21 miles of beach lines the Malibu area and it was full of golden sand and not many people apart from the few surfers dotted around in the water.
More volleyball nets – 12 on one beach, showed us how popular this sport is over here. Malibu has some beautiful houses, but many others we couldn’t actually see, as they were fronted by long driveways and massive gates. The gates gave us an insight into the sort of properties that lay behind them and I don’t think they are ‘three bed semis’ style, (as we say in England to describe an average house!).
We came into Santa Monica and for the first time saw some high rise flats and apartments overlooking US1. The Beach side had generally lower buildings with the high rise contained to the opposite side of the Beach road. Santa Monica pier is the end of Route66, which like our big USA tour started in Chicago. The pier is full of R66 memorabilia and the classic end of the road sign. The pier itself is an eclectic mix of old fair ground activities, fast food outlets and people fishing.
After a walk around the pier we were back into the Mustang, back onto the Pacific Coast Highway again. I noticed we were still following the signs for the Caminito Del Real which is an original trail the Spanish made to the different Missions in California.
For the first time our journey started to become pretty boring, as we passed block after block all looking the same with numerous shops or business on the way. Also, we were hitting the outskirts of Los Angeles and as we wanted to stay on the US1, the traffic was starting to increase. We kept stopping at so many traffic lights and realised it would have been quicker and easier to go onto the San Diego Freeway (motorway), but we wanted to keep on our goal of driving US1. We hoped the coast would appear soon!
The sea did come back into our horizon and the US1 PCH took us past famous California Beaches Manhattan, Hermosa Amd Redondo.
However, it was such slow going and the sat nav was telling us it would be an hour and a half to Huntingdon Beach, which was only about 20miles away, we changed tactics. We were travelling nowhere fast in the city traffic and had visited this area before. So for a short spell we drove on the San Diego Freeway, the I405 and turned off for Laguna beach ready to pick up the last of US1 to Dana Point.
The 6 lane either side I405 was a bit like ‘wacky races’ with people overtaking in any lane and cutting across cars to turn off or join be intersections. At one stage we drove alongside LAX (LA airport) as a plane was coming into land right alongside our road. I have to say as a passenger it was the worst bit of our 4,000 miles of driving. I think it was made worse because we were lower down in the Mustang and it felt so small, compared to the big SUV (4×4) we had for so much of this trip.
We turned off onto the US133 to Laguna beach and the traffic calmed down and the scenery became more rural. The high rise office blocks were replaced with hills and greenery, it was nice to see after the built up city of LA which just seemed to go on for ages. We did LA a few years ago and having done the sights then were not in a hurry to go back – we just want to get through it, ideally on a coastal road!
So turning back to the coast we arrived in Laguna, a nice surfing beach resort. Parking was either metered or in car parks and appeared to be limited. The resort was built up, and we wanted to stop on a bit more of a scenic beach so we carried on driving.
We stopped in south Laguna at a lovely place, Aliso Beach park. It was a beautiful spot for lunch and had one of the very few beach bars right by the sand that we had seen. The area was not too busy, there was a few people body boarding, surfing, walking or just sitting relaxing. I could have spent hours there watching the beautiful surf roll in against the rocks and onto the sandy beach. It was idyllic.
We drove onto Dana Point, which is where the US1 officially ends. It stays as the Pacific Coast Highway but becomes the Interstate 5 to San Diego. We stopped at Dana Point to take in the view of the lovely marina and coastline.
We moved onto our last destination for the day, San Clemente and checked into our hotel. A quick relax by the pool and then we made our way along a 20 minute walk coastal path to the Pier. Watching the sunset as we walked it was lovely. We found a nice bar on the pier for a couple of much needed drinks before heading off into this quaint old Spanish/Mexican town for dinner.
Walking back to the hotel at 9pm we felt we were in a ghost town as most people seemed to have eaten so much earlier than us and obviously retired for the night. It was not the first time we have been amazed at how early the Americans eat dinner.
One bizarre finding in the old town was a replica British Police phone box, which is better known as a ‘Tardis’ in Dr Who. There was also a replica ‘dalek’ from the same TV programme. I know one person reading this blog will be amazed to hear this!
Tomorrow we head out for our last day of driving on the mainland to San Diego, another city with a heavy Spanish influence.