As I wrote in my last post, my friend T and I recently spent some time on the US west coast to compete in the Big Sur Half Marathon together. After spending a few days in San Francisco, we finally headed down to Monterey Bay where the race would take place. Ensue excitement!
Day 6: Carry on my wayward son
After our lovely brunch at the Hollywood Café in San Francisco, T and I checked out at the hostel and then picked up the rental car we’d drive 3 hours south to Monterey. We were going to stay at a lovely cottage in Pacific Grove, right by the sea. After the stuffiness and noise of the hostel, having our own little place was going to be grand.
We had decided to follow Highway 101 (instead of the inland Highway 1) since we weren’t in any hurry to make it to Monterey. T drove the first half of the way, which gave me plenty of opportunity to take in the gorgeous scenery along the coast.
The first 1.5 hours of the drive were certainly prettier than the second half. Or maybe I just didn’t notice as it was my turn to drive. Poor T. She had to endure my first ever tentative tries driving an automatic. As you might know, manual cars are much more common in Germany. It took my left foot a while to understand that no matter how often you stomp it, the clutch will not magically appear. 😉
Once we made it to our little cottage we were blown away by the beauty! We stayed at Andril Fireplace Cottages and had a wonderful time. Our private little cottage had a kitchen and a small private patio. There was a BBQ and hot tub for all guests that we absolutely loved. The beds were comfortable and the premises was quiet. During our stay, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful.
T and I relaxed in the afternoon, shopped some groceries and then enjoyed a home-cooked BBQ. Lovely.
Day 7: Pre-race frenzy
On Saturday, we slept in. Even I managed to sleep longer than 6:30. I got such wonderful, deep sleep. What a lovely change from the hostel in San Francisco, where the stomping and door slamming would start at 6 in the morning. After breakfast, T and I headed to the race expo to pick up our bibs and the race day swag.
The expo was decent-sized, so we spent some time browsing. T bought a lovely running skirt while I had to restrain myself really hard not to buy anything. So many great things! After the expo, T and I spent some more time relaxing before we took a walk along the nearby beach. The weather was beautiful, so we might as well get some fresh air.
In anticipation of the race the following day, the evening was quiet with a nice dinner and an attempt to catch as much sleep as possible.
Day 8: Run your little heart out
I’ll make a separate post about our race, but let me preface that it was an awfully early start. After the race, we spent some time recharging in the hot tub and treated ourselves to another fun BBQ.
Day 9: Sharks and otter animals
The day after the race we headed out to run some errands before we would visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I stopped by a Bank of America branch to close my bank accounts since it’s been over a year that I’ve left the US. I don’t see myself returning any time soon.
When we arrived at the Aquarium, we were a bit shocked by the price tag. Almost $40. That’s quite something. We decided to go anyway and found that there was quite a lot to see and do, so we felt a bit less grumpy about the entrance fee. The Aquarium has large exhibits on jelly fish, octopus, cuttlefish and sepia. You can also see plenty of regional fish and birds as well as three lovely otter ladies.
The Aquarium regularly gives shows about various topics and T and I were able to join the talks about shark and otter conservation.
After the Aquarium, we strolled around Monterey for a while. We sat down at a Starbucks and I had another strong coffee craving. I really can’t wait to reintroduce caffeine at the end of this week. Geez.
A nice dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant concluded this wonderful time in Monterey. The next day, we’d be leaving for LA. I treated myself to falafel and hummus as a shared appetizer, stayed strong though and clear of the wine.
Monterey was absolutely lovely and our accommodation comfortable and homey. We were extremely sad to leave.
Day 10: Shooo-shooo-shooo – are we there yet?
After all the running and walking we’d done the last 10 days we were excited about the final highlight of our trip: a train ride to L. A. We dropped off the car and hopped on a bus that was then going to take us to Salinas. Salinas was where we’d take the Coast Starlight to Union Station. A whopping 9 hours on the train, some of it along the beautiful California coast. The first few hours of the train ride weren’t quite as scenic as we’d hoped. We rode by acres of farmland. Guess those delicious strawberries have to grow somewhere, right?
Eventually, the route changed and we did get that glimpse of the Pacific ocean:
It was a pity that it turned dark so early. After the sun had set, we still had a couple of hours ahead of us. Time seemed to pass by so slowly. We drove through Santa Monica, but because it was so pitch black, nothing could be seen. The same was true for all the other towns.
We finally made it into LA Union Station. From there we took a subway to find our hostel in West Hollywood. We walked along the Walk of Fame and while there were a lot of people on the street, I felt extremely unsafe. I’m not a fearful person, when it comes to navigating big cities at night, but something felt extremely sketchy. The hostel was loud, but at least it was clean enough. Since we got there late, we only headed out for a quick and delicious dinner at Unami Burger (I got this spectacular Pumpkin Spice burger) and called it a night.
Day 11: Leaving on a jet plane
The next and final day was going to be a long one for me. Not just because of an 11 hour plane ride. T’s flight was leaving a bunch of hours before mine, so we decided to head to LAX together. We had booked a shuttle the night before and in the morning, it came to pick us up at 7:30 AM. Yawn.
T dropped off her baggage first and then we went to find my terminal. I wouldn’t be able to drop it off until later, so after having sat down for a while, we went back to T’s terminal and said our farewells. It was a sad moment having to say goodbye for another year. Plans for 2015 are already in the making, but that’s still going to be a long time. Sigh.
After T was gone, I headed back to my terminal and was finally able to drop off my baggage. The airline staff member made a comment about me being early, which was true. I was at least 5 hours early – despite having been at LAX for a while already. I went through security, scanned the terminal for shops and food places and finally settled for a market place kind of restaurant, where I got eggs, bacon and tomatoes, and then a side of curried cauliflower and roasted beets. I also bought some more food for the plane, in case I needed to leave a lot food on the plate again. I still had a couple of hours to kill so I brought out my laptop and started sorting through pictures. Might as well make use of the time…
On the plane I was lucky. I sat in the first row of the section, i. e. there was no person in front of me. I had a little bit more leg room. I also didn’t have anybody next to me. I hardly slept, but at least I could rest a good amount. The flight took about 10.5 hours and food-wise I was really lucky this time. I got a good serving of vegetables and an omelette in the morning. Even the rice-bread was kept to a minimum.
After landing, with security and then taking public transport, it still took me about 1.5 hours until I was finally home around 3 PM on Thursday. I immediately did two loads of laundry and grocery shopped, because I knew that once I showered and sat down, I wouldn’t be getting back up any time soon. And I was right.
Looking back, I had a wonderful vacation with a lovely friend in a stunning region. I can’t wait for our 2015 adventure!