A September 2003 trip
to California by Slaney
Quote: Our trip took us fron Manchester (England) to Los Angeles and San Francisco. On the journey we survived the heat of Death Valley, the glitzy excitement of Las Vegas and the cool tranquility of Yosemite.
Yosemite was cool and peaceful and full of wildlife - we saw a lynx early one morning.
San Francisco - well that was the jewel in the crown! We dined on Pier 39, Fishermans Wharf and visited Alcatraz. We also spent time at the beach.
Book at least six months in advance to stay in Yosemite and Death Valley - it's worth it.
Take the 49 Mile Scenic Drive in San Francisco - this takes you round all the major sights with view points for photographs.
The place is situated on the edge of Death Valley in the middle of nowhere. Our highlight in the evening was watching lights travel through the valley for about 10-15 minutes before they passed by.
We sat on the verandah eating a lovely meal and listening to the silence of the desert whilst bats swooped round the lights to catch insects and a little mouse ran about looking for crumbs. It probably doesn't sound good, but it was. We thoroughly enjoyed our night there. Further details can be obtained from www.deathvalley.com.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 13, 2003
Panamint Springs Resort
Death Valley National Park 93555
Hotel | "Camp Curry"
The rooms were basic and I wish I could say clean, but it wasn't. There were paper cups, a bottle and a peach stone under the bed. It consisted of two beds a chest of drawers and a sink in the bedroom, with a toilet and shower in a small separate room. Bare lockers are issued to people in cabins and tents, but not in the motel rooms, so we had to empty our car of everything as bears can smell even make-up and wreck the car trying to get to the smell. Consequently, we had food in our room and my husband spent the whole night watching a mouse going to the bag of food. A trap was put down the next day and the mouse caught, we had to discard of the food though. The next night the wolves woke us up at 2.45 am howling, which we didn't mind as it reminded us that we were virtually in the wilderness. The camp is supposed to be quiet after midnight, but we found there was traffic moving all night and it was quite noisy.
I would recommend it only because it is one of the cheapest places to stay in Yosemite.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 15, 2003
Camp Curry, Curry Village
Yosemite National Park
We chose this hotel because it had free parking. As I understood, parking was very expensive in San Francisco, although there are a good many motor inns offering free parking on Lombard Street.
We took a bus from round the corner to Fishermans Wharf at a cost of $1.25 each. As one of the people in our party was ill, we had to take a taxi back, which cost $9. Whilst we were at Fisherman’s Wharf, we noticed two parking areas offering parking of $10 for the day, which was as cheap as the bus for 4 people.
The problem with the hotel was its location. Not only is it on the corner of Filmore and Lombard, which are both very busy, but right across from the hotel on Filmore is the Triangle Bar. This bar is open until the early hours and when it closes, the noise starts and continues for about an hour. One night, there was a fight with bottles being smashed as well as shouting and arguing. This was a shame because it spoilt our stay at this hotel. We asked to be moved to a rear room, but the hotel was full so this was impossible. It would be improved if they invested in triple glazing!!
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on October 20, 2003
Chelsea Motor Inn
2095 Lombard Street
San Francisco, California 94123
Hotel | "Dolphins Cove Resort"
There were plenty of places to eat nearby and we found it a good base for the beach, although it was a long way from Malibu and Santa Monica, but we enjoyed the drive!Best Things About the Resort:The peace and quiet, although not far from two main roads. We requested a unit at the back and it was very quiet and peaceful. Resort Experience:The gardens reminded me of my childhood when we stayed in small hotels in Italy. They had a Mediterranean feel to them, with climbers and trees.
The unit was very clean and well equipped and the staff very friendly and helpful.
We were able to choose between an upstairs or downstairs unit and were issued with a parking permit. There was ample parking space. The unit had two bedrooms - one of them being two single beds one of which had to be pulled from underneath the other, but only one bathroom. There was a TV in the lounge and a sofa bed, a dining table and a small kitchen area with dishwasher, microwave and fridge/freezer. There was also a patio which could have done with pressure washing as it had green mildew under the a/c unit.
We refused a meeting regarding timeshare when we arrived and were not pestered at all during our stay.
We had a problem the last night, which was a change-over day and there was horrendous noise coming from the overhead apartment, which went on for two and a half hours with children jumping off beds, running, and screaming. At 12:30am we rang reception and they sent someone immediately to sort it out and it stopped.
On the whole, we enjoyed our stay and would go again.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 9, 2003
Dolphin's Cove Resort
465 West Orangewood Avenue
Anaheim, California 92802
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 9, 2003
2300 West Oceanfront
Newport Beach, California 92663
+1 949 675 1556
Restaurant | "Mels Diner"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 17, 2003
Mel's Drive-In on Lombard
2165 Lombard St
San Francisco, California 94123
+1 415 921 3039
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 20, 2003
My friend and I had lobster. Mine was undercooked, but not having had it before, I didn't know this at the time. The two men had halibut. All meals came with some sort of vegetable (we didn't know what), which was undercooked. It seemed to be "nouveau cuisine" type. To make matters worse, we had to wait over an hour for a table when they said it would only be 30 minutes and we didn't even get a window seat to enable us to look at the view.
We were disappointed in the mime artist at the Sea Lion and Otter Show because the one in Florida is really funny. This one was a girl pretending to sweep up and squirting water at people as they entered. There was no variety in the act. The otter was in the show more than in Florida though and the walrus appeared for longer, too.
After the film Free Willy, it upsets me to see fish having to perform for people because they are trained instead of because they want to perform in the wild. I do understand, however, that SeaWorld does a lot for conservation. The seal enclosure looked at little small for the amount of seals in it and it didn't have the natural rocks and waves.
The dolphins were wonderful and seemed very friendly, especially when being fed.
I did notice that one man was actually picking the rays out of the water in the stingray area, which I think was totally wrong. The poor things were flapping about, panic-stricken.
Attraction | "Scenic 49 Mile Drive"
You can drive down Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world), go through the Presidio to the beautiful Ocean Beach, passing the Golden Gate Bridge on the way. It takes you up Twin Peaks to the wonderful view points overlooking the whole of San Francisco, through the busy city streets, the residential areas and through Golden Gate Park. The beauty of it is you can do as much as little as you want at any time and there are stop-off places for camera buffs to take wonderful pictures of San Francisco.
49 Mile Scenic Drive
San Francisco, California 94115
Attraction | "Alcatraz"
Upon arrival, you are given a talk on the jetty by one of the rangers and then you stroll up the hill to the entrance to the prison. Inside, you are given an audio player and headphones and your tour begins. The commentary is by both guards and ex prisoners with sound effects when they are talking about riots and cell door clanging shut, and the frivolity of New Year celebrations.
Photographs are allowed along the tour and you are able to go in certain cells. There are wonderful views of the bay from the dining room and you think what a beautiful place to be, forgetting that the men were incarcerated here for serious crimes and the views are probably not quite as wonderful when you are not free to leave. Emerging from the tour you are able to wander round the grounds and of course the souvenir shop!
Along the edge from the jetty is a walkway round the edge of the island and there are night herons nesting, although we didn't see them.
Our trip was booked with Blue & Gold Fleet, Pier 41 Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 20, 2003
Alcatraz Island/The Rock
San Francisco Bay
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco 94133
After relaxing, we walked on the pier to watch the fishermen who were mainly Oriental. The thing I did not like was the way they put the fish they caught into dry buckets for a slow death. Later in the afternoon, there was a commotion on the beach with everyone looking out to sea. We saw large fish in the sea, quite near shore, and we thought they were dolphins until someone else said they were young sharks.
Attraction | "Calico"
Calico Ghost Town
36600 Ghost Town Road
Yermo, California 92398
We arrived at lunch time and had a sandwich at the Subway, then took off to find the beach where the stars live. One entrance was just near the area where we had lunch, but it was gated and guarded, so we headed further out. Eventually, we found access to the beach and parked at the roadside. This end of the private road was no entry, but there was access to the beach so we walked right on the shoreline. Each house had a notice saying to keep 800 metres from the house. Some of the houses were beautiful, some were dilapidated, and some were being renovated. We walked right along the shoreline, but didn't see anyone famous. There is a nature reserve quite near the gated entrance. We took a walk and it was very peaceful. There were a lot of sea birds and also a heron.
It was late afternoon when we arrived here and the beach was almost deserted. There was a large car park at the beachside and we had no trouble parking. We were hoping to see some skaters and boarders, but as it was mid week there were only a few. As of the whole coast, the beach was superb and Santa Monica has a pier at one end with a funfair. The water was very cold.
We found a relatively new shopping area with a car park offering the first two hours for $2. This is situated behind Manns Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The thing is to take this offer up you have to have the ticket validated by one of the shops or restaurants. We walked on Hollywood Blvd, saw the walk of fame then decided to drive up to the Hollywood sign. The road goes up a very steep hill and ends at a car park. You then have to walk a little way to get opposite the sign. No one is allowed at the sign itself. The views over LA were the drive and the climb.
Instead investing in a tour, we bought a map at the roadside for $10 and set off to find the famous homes. We managed to find the house which Elvis used to own, Cher’s old house now owned by Eddie Murphy and various others. The tour would probably have been better, but then when you've seen one house you've seen them all. They were very nice, but didn't seem to be large mansions as I expected.
The different colours in the rocks of Artist Palette left us in awe. We also saw the sand dunes in the distance, which looked like pyramids. I expected this to be the whole landscape as Death Valley is desert.
There are roads and tracks leading off the road to different view points all entirely different from each other. We saw the Devils Golf Course, which didn't really impress us, walked up a canyon of marble which was quite eerie as it was going dusk and there was no-one else about.
We passed Furnace Creek and Furnace Creek Ranch and also Stove Pipe Wells. The latter didn't look much different to Panamint Springs where we stayed. All are in the middle of the desert, with nothing else to do but enjoy the peace and have a few beers before retiring to bed!
After checking in Camp Curry (motel rooms) which was to be our home for two nights, we went for a meal, then a short walk around the camp then a beer and bed. That night, my husband spent the whole night watching a mouse foraging for the food we had to bring out of our car and keep in our room. At 2.45am, the wolves were howling and cars were leaving -- possibly to look for the wolves.
The next morning, before breakfast, we took a walk round the camp hoping to see some wildlife. As we walked on the edge of the camp past the tents and at the foot of Half Dome (where Camp Curry is situated) I looked back and saw a Lynx walking on the path between the tents. I was so excited I forgot to take a photograph although I had my camera round my neck. After breakfast of coffee and bagel with cream cheese from the Coffee Shop, we walked to Mirror Lake, which took about 20 minutes. This is amazing, although there is not much water left now, the it is so still the mountains are reflected like a mirror -- hence the name Mirror Lake.
We then took to the car to see sights further afield. We visited Mariposa Grove and saw the giant sequoia trees -- one has been hollowed out for a footpath to go through. Next was the Wawona Lodge area where we had a sandwich from the small supermarket/gift shop. Then we visited Bridal Veil Falls, which I was surprised to see flowing as I expected it to be dry at this time of year (September). Unfortunately, we did not get to see Yosemite Falls as our time was running out and we had seen so much.
Before our evening meal, we gathered with other people to watch the sunset on Half Dome. This was beautiful as the dome turns pink then red as the sun sets.
The whole valley is really beautiful with superb scenery and views wherever you go and lots of squirrels, chickadees and deer just wandering freely among people. My only disappointment was we didn't see a bear!
The catering also left a lot to be desired. The only choice was a buffet at $11.95 per person or a pizza take-away.
After checking in, we got a map from the reception desk and they pointed us in the direction of the bus to Fishermen’s Wharf. The fare was $1.25 per person -- the journey was about 15 minutes and then a few minutes of walking from the bus stop.
It was like a different world. There were fish stalls selling shrimp, clam chowder (which is delicious) and other seafood, street entertainers, beautiful bay views, and Alcatraz in the middle of the bay.
After buying tickets for Alcatraz for the next day, we took time out for a Coke at a stall overlooking the bay just drinking in the atmosphere and the view. Then we walked to Pier 39 and found the colony of sea lions. There were hundreds, far more than we had envisaged. Some were sleeping, some were playing in the water, some were diving off the rafts and then trying to get back on again. All were making a tremendous noise!
Whilst strolling along the wharf, we noticed two or three car parks advertising cheap parking ($5 or $10 per day or evening) so decided to use the car in the future because it would be as cheap as the bus for four people.
The next evening, we took the car as we were eating at Neptune’s Palace and guess what! Because it was weekend, the car parks had increased their prices to $10 and $20, but as one of our party was ill, it was cheaper than taxis. There is also a multi-storey building offering cheap parking if your ticket is validated by one of the wharf restaurants.
Although we only had three days in San Francisco, I think we saw most of the sights by following the 49 Mile Scenic Drive. We even got to spend a few hours on Ocean Beach and visit the new San Francisco Shopping Mall, which has a curved escalator. We drove down the winding bit of Lombard Street, watched the cable cars go up and down Hyde Street, marveled at the view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks, and walked on the Golden Gate Bridge, but I think the highlight was the trip to Alcatraz.
On our last day, whilst waiting for the time to go to the airport, we sat overlooking the sea watching a seal playing in the water whilst an eagle flew low over our heads and all agreed that although each of our stops on our California trip was wonderful and all different -- San Francisco was the jewel in the crown and we are all determined to visit again soon.
I would mention, however, that San Francisco drivers are the most impatient and bad mannered than anywhere else we have visited in the USA. One lady kept the horn blowing for 10 minutes whilst following us on Bay Bridge as our driver had pulled into her lane although she was a good way behind. There were also two other instances of impatience when we were not sure where we were going -- they do not seem to make allowances for tourists although the state must get millions from tourism.
Sheffield, United Kingdom