For our last official road trip, we travelled down south to Monterey Bay and Big Sur state park. Since our last class for the week ends on Thursday, we left on Friday to spend a long weekend along the coast.
After a 2 hour drive to the Monterey Bay area , we were greeted by its chilly air and foggy sky. Even though the cold was expected since we were near the coast, this weather still caught us by surprise. It was very different from the warm summer we had grown used to in the past 6 weeks. As with other roadtrips, we made sure that our first stop was at Walmart to stock up on our roadtrip essentials: Reese’s and m&m chocolate chip bar, a packet of oreos, and an alternative savoury snack for variety.
Our next stop was lunch. Thanks to Elizabeth, our reliable good food finder, we found a restaurant that offers authentic Vietnamese cuisine at more than affordable prices. At Chopstix, we got our much needed Asian fix, as we slurped down sizeable portions of pho, fresh spring rolls and boba.
With our tummies full and satisfied, we finally made our way to Monterey Bay Aquarium, a place we’ve really looked forward to visiting. Although the tickets were a little pricey despite a student discount, it was well worth it. The aquarium featured a wide variety of sea creatures in exhibits that looked well like their natural habitat, albeit man-made. Some of our favourite enclosures include the penguins, puffins, jellyfish, and the main aquarium which featured a whole host of sea animals. Made for all ages, there was an exhibition targeted to attract kids (splash zone) that adults could enjoy as well, aside from the regular exhibits. Every exhibit was filled with information/educational, and some were even interactive- stamping bookmarks at different stations, touching harmless sea creatures and formations such as the stingray, hermit crabs etc. It was certainly an experience as we all crowded around to get a feel of the velvety sting ray!
Time passed by quickly as we were having so much fun, and suddenly we were jolted from our reverie by the announcement that the aquarium was going to close at 6pm and we were only 15min away from the closing time. Do take note if you plan to make a trip there and leave ample time to visit all the exhibits and gift shops! Unfortunately, there were still many exhibits we wanted to see, and various gift shops which we had yet to peruse. We quickly prioritised, rushing to see the hypnotic jellyfish. Its fluid motions were magnetic, and strangely therapeutic. Some of the jellyfish even looked like they had running LED lights! What a marvel of nature.
After dinner, we headed back to our Airbnb accommodation, a rustic yet cosy house. Although our house did not provide wifi and cellular reception was terrible, the host had a VHS player, and an extensive VHS collection of classic movies. We watched blade runner while we did what work we could without internet access before turning in for an early and restful night. (8 hours of sleep!!!)
The next day, we drove around a scenic route, visiting touristy and iconic sites like Highway 1 (Bixby Bridge), Pfeiffer Beach and McWay Falls.
The first thing that greeted us, and signalled the start of the scenic coastal highway drive is the iconic Bixby Bridge. There were so many tourists who stopped there for a photo, we had to stop quite some distance away from the actual bridge as there were no parking spots. But, the bridge was truly an engineering and architectural marvel with its arch, and supporting beams. Its design was extremely elegant, yet simple. The area near the bridge also provided us with lovely views of the beach down below.
Next, we wandered along to Pfeiffer Beach. Known for its purple sand, and beautiful views, Pfeiffer beach sounded like an ideal place for us to have our picnic lunch. The purple hues of the sand that are caused by different minerals (concentrated garnet, unlike the usual quartz) present in it and the crashing sounds of the waves contributed to the calm, soothing and therapeutic atmosphere of the place. We watched the waves crash against the rocks, played with the dogs of others, and just soaked in the atmosphere. We even attempted to take a nap (although this isn’t recommended unless you want a face full of sand as it’s super windy). Fascinated by the purple sand and seashells with galaxy-like patterns which dotted the beach, we decided to bring some back to Singapore to remember our time here! There was also a tiny hill from which you can get a birds-eye view of the entire Pfeiffer Beach. The climb isn’t too hard but the spectacular views were quite something, watching the expanse of sand and sea.
Continuing on the highway, we approached McWay Falls, an 80 foot waterfall. However, unlike the beach, and Bixby Bridge, this was not readily accessible to us, and we could only view it from afar. The vibrant greens and blues of the water were truly remarkable, add on to that the fact that the entire falls was bathed in the golden hues of the sun, this is an image that will stay with us for a long long time.
As we had some time before sunset (which we wanted to catch from Bixby Bridge), we decided to grab some dinner. We were feeling pretty fancy that day so we headed to Big Sur Bakery for some duck confit pizza, and mushroom ricotta pizza. The complex and rich flavours were exquisite, the ingredients were all very fresh with the mushrooms being very juicy, and the duck not tasting gamey. The pizza base and crust was also the perfect thickness, and not too doughy. Overall, it was a lovely experience. While it was more expensive than what we were used to, it was well worth the price, for the ambience, atmosphere, service, and just sharing this memory with each other! It was definitely a treat yourself type of meal.
After a thoroughly satisfying meal, we drove back towards Bixby Bridge to try to catch the sunset. Unfortunately, the sun started setting while we were on the way there. Although we did check online for sunset timings, we neglected the fact that there was a line of fog where the sky meets the sea at the coastal area, and once the sun went past the fog line, the sunset would essentially be over. Thus, the hues and glows of the sunset are best captured before the actual sunset timing. It was quite a pity, but we still managed to get some pictures from the car, and the last sliver of sunset at the the bridge.
On our last day, we visited the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is famous for its oldest surviving amusement park in California. After taking a quick survey of the rides in the park, we shortlisted a couple of rides that we wanted to take. One thing about this amusement park that sets it apart from the other amusement park corporations is that it was more like a funfair/carnival. There was no need to pay any entrance fee and you only pay as you ride. It was more convenient and efficient because we did not have to spend additional time queuing to purchase tickets and, we could decide how much we wanted to spend at the park rather than spending a fixed sum, and trying to justify the price by taking every ride.
One ride that we knew we could not miss out was the iconic sky glider. It basically serves to transport people from one end of the park to the other, and acts a bit like a ski lift/ gondola. Each chair was cutely coloured, and the colourful ride stood out to us immediately due to its elevation above ground. It was a relaxing ride, and respite from the more thrilling rides, while also giving us a view from above of the entire boardwalk.
While there were many rides to choose from, we had limited time and money to spend, so we homed in on a few specific rides.
To end off the day, we decided to go for a relaxing stroll in the Henry Cowells Redwoods State Park. We enjoyed cool temperatures and met a lovely couple who happened to be guides, and they introduced us to trees like the giant sequoia (Instagram pic) and movie famous tree that was featured in Bumblebee. We even stepped into the thick/wide trunk of a tree that could fit over 80 people. Amazing nature aside, we also saw the decay and destruction of certain forest areas.
Finally, we chased the beautiful sunset yet again and watched the day end at natural bridges state beach. This time we were more successful. We learnt our lesson and turned up quite a bit earlier in advance just in case an issue cropped up, and we duly made up for the missed sunset from the day before.
written by: jamie