Another driving day, as we headed off down the beautiful 101, which wound through forest and down the California coast. We were now in our last state, and keen to enjoy our last few days of our adventure. We had quite some distance to make, so for most of the day it was a case of cranking up the music and driving down the iconic highway.
Avenue of the Giants
There was one absolutely stand out part to the day: the spectacular redwood trees at the Avenue of the Giants. I am sad that we didn’t have time to head over to Yosemite (another time), but am so happy that I did get a chance to see some majestic redwoods. And they were even better for coming as a complete surprise.
As we were driving, we saw a sign directing us to the ‘Avenue of the Giants,’ a ‘scenic byway.’ Well, I never met a scenic byway that I didn’t love, and the name was enchanting, so down we went. And well. Wow. We were greeted by a parade of impossibly tall, impossibly old redwoods, standing in majesty on either side of the road.
That was it. I was out of the car, and off into the forest. As a child, one of my favourite books was Enid Blyton’s ‘The Magic Faraway Tree,’ and this forest felt like I’d stepped into a world full of enchantment – I could imagine Moonface, Silky and Mr Whatsitsname just stepping out from the branches. I think at one point Van was imagining that she’d just have to leave me there.
A quick Google revealed that the Avenue of the Giants is part of Humboldt State Park, and this is certainly another place I’d love to come back and visit more thoroughly. It was ridiculously beautiful, completely unexpected, and just one of those wonderful ‘wow’ moments.
After I eventually tore myself away from the Avenue of the Giants and back into the car, we made our way into San Francisco, which involved driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing is supposed to cost $7.50 for a two-axle vehicle, and if you are driving a hire car you need to remember to log on and make a one time payment. We actually did remember, but couldn’t get onto the website (it kept freezing), and later found out we’d been invoiced over $30 by Alamo, who had evidently been sent a Toll Invoice and had added on an administration charge. Ugh.
We’d found a really central hotel on Lombard Street, but parking the car was an exercise in extreme patience. I am not the best at parking, and was confronted with the one remaining, tiny space, which was nestled between a wall and a pillar at a horrible angle. To my relief, I eventually managed to get the car safely cocooned without bumping it – and it would be Van’s job to get it back out in a couple of days!
As we’d arrived in the evening, we decided to wander over to the Golden Gate Bridge to try to get a nighttime view of the city. This was a rather longer wander than I remembered, but did take us along the beautiful shore of the bay. Sadly, when we arrived we discovered that the bridge closed to pedestrians at nine pm, so we didn’t actually get to step foot on it. Definitely a ‘should have Googled before we left’ moment, but we did get to have a nice walk – and at least we’d been on the bridge itself earlier in the car.
We ended up having a lovely Asian-style seafood meal at a small restaurant near the Bay – no idea what it was called, but I was again impressed by the quality of the food on the West Coast.
Highlights: Avenue of the Giants – it was simply stunning! Returning to San Francisco nearly ten years after my first visit.
Lowlights: Wandering over to the Golden Gate Bridge to find it closed, having to park in a hideously confined space.
Up next: A garlic restaurant, barbershop quarters, and a colony of seals.