The Pacific Highway part 2: Napa Valley
to Los Angeles. (July 2015)


From Highway 1 we travelled inland to Napa, the Napa Valley and San Francisco, before returning back to Los Angeles.

We had visited so many craft breweries and brewhouses that we felt Thea deserved a little bit of wine culture.

The Napa Valley is regarded by many as the home of fine wine in the USA. The first commercial winery was opened near the outskirts of Napa by John Patchett in 1859. However around 1836 there was a private vineyard, built by George C Yount. This was before California became part of the United States.

When we arrived in Napa we wondered why there were so many buildings being renovated.

We then discovered that there was a magnitude 6 earthquake on August 21, 2014. One person died, 200 were injured, with an estimated damage bill of 1 billion dollars.

Twelve months on there was still a lot of evidence of the earthquake. The brick buildings seemed to be the ones most effected.

It’s little wonder that most of the houses in Napa are timber.

The next day we headed for the Napa Valley wine region.

Our first stop was the Robert Mondavi Vineyards. It was Robert Gerald Mondavi (1913-2008) with his technical and marketing skills that brought fame to the Napa Valley. He introduced the practice of naming wines by their variety and not generically.

This has since become the standard for New World wines.

Just down the road was Hall Wines, a contemporary concern with a wonderful mixture of wine, art and architecture. The vineyard contained some whimsical sculptures, the frolicking rabbit and grazing sheep were the standouts.

To complement their trendy approach, Hall Wines are certified organic.

Beringer is the oldest, continually operating, winery in the Napa Valley. They managed to survive the prohibition years 1929-1933, by making sacramental wine and selling it to churches.

It has been owned by Nestlé, the Foster’s Group and now the Melbourne based Treasury Wine Estates.

There are some elegant old homes on the Beringer Estate, such as Rhine House and Hudson House. The Rhine House was built by Frederick Beringer in 1884 and is a classic example of ornate Victorian architecture.

In a way prohibition still exists in the US, however this one is inflicted by Ford, GMC and Chrysler. The large auto makers in Detroit were strong proponents of the idea of decentralisation, making people reliant of the car.

The cities and even small towns are so spread out that you need to drive everywhere. You daren’t drink and drive as the laws are strict; and the public transport system so poor, again thanks to Detroit, that you have no alternative but to use your vehicle.

The automobile has also been blamed for social isolation, urban sprawl, urban decay and the rise of obesity.

As a general rule people in the USA don’t walk.

I am in no way religious, in fact I believe that religion, or the blind following of a faith, has caused more problems than it’s solved.

However when I see a good line, I can’t help admire it – no matter what cause it is promoting.

This line was outside a church on Highway 1, in California.

“You don’t have a hope in hell without God”

We spent a short time in Napa before driving to San Francisco. This was mainly an opportunity to get some snaps of this sleepy valley town.

As soon as we sighted the Golden Gate Bridge the sky changed from blue to grey as the San Francisco mist rolled in.

About the worst view of the bridge, in all of San Francisco, is ironically at Vista Point.

We therefore decided to walk over the bridge to the south side. There was a much better view from just near the Round House Cafe.

The Golden Gate Bridge was designed by Irving Morrow, Joseph Strauss and Charles Ellis in the Art Deco style.

It was opened in 1937 and connects San Francisco with the San Francisco Peninsula, bridging US Route 101 with State Route 1. It was an essential link in opening up the northern Pacific coast.

At the time of its construction it was a feat of modern engineering, with each tower held together by over a million rivets and the 93cm wide suspension cables containing 27,572 wires. It is famously painted in International Orange, which was originally the colour of the sealant. The US Navy wanted it to be painted with black and yellow stripes to make it more visible in the infamous San Francisco fog.

Not far from the bridge exit on the city side, is the Palace of Fine Arts. This was designed by Bernard Maybec and built for the 1915 Panama-International Exposition. It’s a rather strange structure, based on a Roman ruin that looks very out if place in a modern city. It was rebuilt in 1965 with renovation of the lagoon being undertaken in 2009.

The ‘New World’ seems to have a fascination with antiquity with a lot of architecture inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.

Capitol Hill in Washington is a prime example.

Armed with our US guide book we spent three days site seeing around the ‘Frisco’ area.

The Painted Ladies near Alamo Square are a number of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian houses. These have been lovingly detailed, in soft pastel colours, to enhance their architectural features.

We walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and then took a ride into Union Square on the cable car. The iconic San Francisco cable car  is the world’s last manually operated system. There were originally twenty three lines, now only three remain with the vast majority of the seven million passengers being tourists.

In total disregard for OH&S you can cling to the outside of the cable cars as you ascend and descend the famous San Francisco hills.

Just like in the movies.

After our essential cable car ride we spent the rest of the day walking, which is a test of knees and thighs, given the terrain.

San Francisco is a truly international destination, full of tourists from around the world.

We spent a lot of time playing ‘Pick the Accent’.

The one we heard more than any other was English. They probably came to California for the summer weather. So how disappointed they must have felt when there was nothing but mist, low temperatures and cold winds.

You can tell the tourists in San Francisco, they’re the ones with shorts, T-shirts and bewildered looks.

The locals know better.

We passed the Chinatown gate, the ferry building clock tower and terminal and even got to see the Bay Bridge from near Pier 14.

Not far from our hotel was Lombard Street which is regarded as the world’s ‘crookedest’ street – it has eight hairpin turns in a one block section.

Another very popular tourist attraction is Pier 39, which is at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf and close to North Beach and Chinatown.

After a very pleasant but energetic time in San Francisco, we continued or trip south on Highway 1 to San Simeon. This small seaside coastal village isn’t far from the Hurst Castle and is approximately half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hurst’s monument to his wealth is about the only attraction in or near San Simeon.

Our morning coffee stop was at Santa Cruz, a much larger and more impressive beach resort than San Simeon.

A lot of the the time Highway 1 travelled inland but when it did hit the coast the views were spectacular. However, to my mind, the best part of the coast was still north of San Francisco.

After overnighting in San Simeon we drove the final stretch into Los Angeles.

Our coffee stop this time was at the Old West Cinnamon Roll coffee shop in Pismo Beach. The coffee was dreadful. Which isn’t surprising as most people were consuming large quantities of the cinnamon rolls and not there for a caffeine hit.

Our motel in LA was a strange place indeed. It was situated in a very dodgy part of the LA but it was close to the airport – this was it’s only attraction.

We have found that you can judge the socioeconomics of an district by the number of fast food restaurants.

We were surrounded by them.

Just to indicate the tone of the Crenshaw Inn Motel, there was a sign in reception indicating that no prostitution was permitted on the premises.

It did have some standards.

We were also surrounded by churches. I guess they were there to save the poor souls at the Crenshaw Inn Motel.

As we had to drop off the car, which was the only reason to stay where we did, we drove to LAX. Knowing that there were no suitable places to eat near the motel we took the hotel shuttle to the Sheraton, and in total contrast to the Crenshaw Inn, we dined at the Paparazzi, the Sheraton’s restaurant.

What we saved on the motel we paid for in the restaurant.

The Crenshaw Motel was probably the worst place we stayed at on our entire trip. In the morning I awoke to discover that Thea wasn’t my only sleeping companion.

The place was riddle with fleas and as I am a magnet to anything that bites, I had been mauled during the night.

I now understand exactly what people mean when they describe a place as a ‘Flea-Pit’.

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