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Pacific Coast Highway

North of Santa Barbara and south of Monterey lies one of America's most beautiful stretches of road, the Pacific Coast Highway. The road hugs the ocean along the mountainous coast, offering breathtaking vistas of foaming sea and rocky tor. Small seaside towns with cozy inns such as the "Spyglass" and "Fogcatcher," occasionally dot the shore, but for miles it is only you, the twisting highway, the seals, wildflowers, fog, and ocean.

Shell Beach, Cambria and Hearst Castle

After leaving Santa Barbara and the Santa Inez wineries, we turned back to the coast, and stopped at the Spyglass Inn, near Pismo Beach, for lunch. There we had a cozy meal for two all alone on a patio overlooking a cliff-lined bay.

After working up an appetite sampling central coast wines, we pulled off the highway to take in the ocean breezes and fog-shrouded views at Shell Beach, where the Spyglass Inn caught our imagination. It was a good choice — romantic table by the ocean, tasty food, mellow wine, and a cliff-side view made the afternoon meal a delight.

Views from the table

The cliffs...
...and the ocean


A small New-England town transplanted to the west coast is how Cambria felt. Dinner with the locals at the quaint West End Family Restaurant was followed by a stroll through the shops in town, a walk along the bay, a relaxing swim and hot tub dip at the Fogcatcher Inn, and a quiet evening in the room overlooking the ocean, where we left the windows open to hear the surf all night, and the fireplace going to take the chill out of the foggy evening air.

Cherie, seemingly a mermaid rising up from the sea, paused for a snapshot on our walk along the coast in the evening
Our room was on the second floor, on the right side, of the aptly named cottages of the Fogcutter Inn
With a view of the ocean, soft fluffy beds, and a warm fireplace

The seals were also bedding down for the night

Where they, too, could listen to the waves crashing into shore
An early morning walk along Moonstone Beach was as close to Eden as this sinner will come
Peace of spirit ... and harmony with nature ... are hard to come by in the material world. But a fog-shrouded stroll along a deserted coastline, with the sound of waves, screetch of gulls, whisper of the wind, and the shussing of water sifting through sand brought a yoga-like meditational trance. Warmth came from bunding in a sweatshirt; the sea-fresh air was chill on my cheeks. The occasional flash of color from a bird or wildflower was all the more vibrant in the monotone mist of the marine layer pressing hard on the shoreline.
California is in many places a coastal desert. Cacti stubbornly root themselves among the dry grasses, offering the occasional spray of color when the seasonal whim moves them

An irridescent pebble-sized shell polished by the surf and sand

Black sandy shores, moss covered rocks, and tidal pools offer glimpses of sealife along the way.
Time slows to a snail's pace when gazing into the undulating life of amenities and sea critters found in rock crevices teeming with life as the tide recedes

Hearst Castle

William Randolph Hearst's little getaway on a mountain overlooking the ocean near San Simeon offers a glimpse of life among the high rollers in the 1930s and '40s. The mansion, guest houses, and out buildings flow over 127 acres of gardens, pools, fountains, and terraces—a monument to wealth in times of general hardship in America.

Cherie: Welcome to my humble abode

The 38-bedroom, 41-bathroom Casa Grande towers on the mountain-top. It has its own movie theater, a Hogwart's-worthy dining hall, wood-paneled sitting rooms decorated with world-class art pieces — in short, all the luxury and fine craftmanship a capitalist of the '40s could buy

Stunning vistas surround you, any way you look

A romp in the pool isn't confined to nice weather —
the gold-gilded tiles and lamps in the indoor pool area will brighten any day

But if the weather is nice, join Johnny Weismuller in the outdoor Olympic-sized and themed pool

Big Sur Country

Cherie's car, a wide stance, powerful Pontiac Grand Prix was simply made to drive along the winding, mountainous, rising and falling Pacific Coast Highway. Me and the machine were one — both hands on the wheel, foot on the pedal, eyes on the road (and, well, sometimes on the ocean, on the mountains, on the clouds, on the bridges in the rear-view mirror, oops, yikes, back on the road).
The sun came streaming through the sun roof when the fog didn't cover it, and when it was warm enough, the sound of the surf pounding on the rocks came through the window. Man, if this isn't the prettiest road in America, then I'll turn in the Ponitac for a Hyundai.

Mountain as lyrical as poetry
on one side
Ocean as musical as symphonies
on the other
And along the way, coves where we stopped to stretch the legs and contemplate on the beauty of California

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