Southern California

19 November – 3 December 2015

The Big Sur, the coast road of California, had a surprise in store for us in the form of some strange wildlife. It was growing dark as we passed them. “I'm sure we just passed a field of zebra.” Were our eyes playing tricks on us? No, they belonged to Hearst Castle, our destination for the following days.

Completed in 1947, basically as a party house, by William Randolph Hearst, the imposing Spanish style mansion and it's extensive grounds stand proud on a tall hill above the coast. Harvey was relieved that he was parked at the bottom of the steep hill and our tour started with a bus trip up to the house.

The grounds were gorgeous, the house contents a rather eclectic mix of antiquities brought over by the collector from Europe mostly. One of our party, who shall remain nameless, described it as a potted history of the rape and pillage of European and Middle Eastern artifacts.

Driving on the Big Sur

Hang on a minute!

Hearst Castle

The rest of our tour group 'oohed' and 'aahed' at the old stuff but we found it hard to be so impressed with antiquities relocated to this relatively modern setting. I guess when your local pub is over five hundred years old and the castle in your hometown nearer a thousand, old is in a different context. We were left with the impression of a rather garish random hotchpotch. Still, we wouldn't have minded the pool at our place!

Hearst Castle

Now this I like!

There is always a danger when you tell the crew of Anju, 'If you are ever passing Carpinteria, call in at our micro-brewery,” that thirteen or so years later they will do just that. This is what happened to a friend we met in Venezuela who was headed home to work at the family business.

Mark had quite a surprise when we showed up in the bar asking if he was around. Sure enough he was. He gave us a tour of the brewery and joined us out front for a pint, sending us away with a souvenir glass and samples.

Hey, remember us?

Good stuff!

Excellent stuff!

Our next destination the following day was San Clemente. We were sure to arrive early to get ourselves a campsite at the seafront campground, which is often fully booked months in advance. We were lucky, midweek November was not so popular apparently. We were there for an important reason. Christine's second cousin, Helyn, lived in the town and the two had never met, so dinner was arranged.

We spent the afternoon exploring the attractive town on our bikes and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset from our ocean front site before heading out, as only Europeans would, on foot, to find Helyn's house a mile away.

Exploring San Clemente

Harvey enjoying sunset

There was plenty of catching up, as the pair had little knowledge about each other, but soon it felt like they had always known one another.

We headed out to a Mexican restaurant for a lovely dinner before Helyn and Rod came back to the campground for the extensive tour of Harvey.

It turned out they were quite interested in such things as their hobby was renovating classic travel trailers and taking them to shows.

Rod, Helyn and Christine

Cousins united.

The time of our flight home from San Diego was drawing close and Harvey wanted to make a call at his favourite mechanic before we left. Diane and Graham had kindly invited us to stay, even though we'd been before, so long as we were there for Thanksgiving. Kate, John and Oliver joined us for the celebration.

Harvey got his wish and spent quality time at Dave's Lamont Street Motors being taken care of. The first proper attention he'd had since his previous visit four years earlier. He came out good as new, we came out considerably poorer!

Siblings working on dinner

Harvey under the knife


The remainder of our time in San Diego was spent pottering around, enjoying daily bike rides at the beach, what the city had to offer, and sunshine, before flying back to the UK in December.

At the breakwater

At the beach with Graham and Di

Kate and Oliver enjoy the park at Embarcadero

On our bikes again

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