Finally, the third and final installment of our fabulous honeymoon. You may want to review parts one and two to get back up to speed on our honeymoon as this post is going to pick up where I left off in the 2nd part.
This installment covers our time in Yosemite National Park, the Monterey area and back to San Francisco.
Yosemite National Park
As I said at the end of the last part, the length of our next drive was heavily dependent on the weather, particularly that of the night before.
On our way down to Mammoth Lakes, we passed the turn off for Tioga Pass. This road is closed for most of winter and when there's been heavy snow fall if not in the winter season yet. On our way down, Tioga Pass was closed due to the snow the night before and we were really hoping it would be open the next day. The reason: Tioga Pass is the road that takes you right into Yosemite National Park from this side of the mountains. If the road is closed it's a very long drive round the park to get in, which we really didn't want to do.
Thankfully, the weather was on our side. We woke up to a crystal clear day with beautiful sunshine, however it had snowed a bit overnight so we were still a little anxious that the pass may be closed. We had our continental breakfast - bagels with cream cheese and coffee (remember, it's the American continent, not European, so no croissants or pain-au-chocolat here) and headed on our way.
Luck was on our side: Tioga Pass was open, traffic was light, and the weather gorgeous so we made or way up Tioga Pass with the occasional stop for pictures and soon reached the Tioga Pass gate to Yosemite Park. From this point on, it was down hill with lots of stops to take in the amazing scenery.
We very slowly made our way down stopping to take in Lembert Dome, Pothole Dome, Tenaya Lake, Olmstead Point (which has got to be one of the most amazing views in Yosemite) before stopping at Toulumne Grove to go see the huge sequoia trees, including the "Tunnel Tree". It's a tree so big, a tunnel has been carved out the middle of it and the path goes straight through it.
It was then back into the car to continue our progress down the hills towards the Yosemite Valley village for a bit of late lunch, with a stop at Bridalveil Falls - one of the few waterfalls in Yosemite that flows pretty much all year round - en-route.
We had some lunch in the main village, had a wonder around and then made our way back to the car. It was starting to get late and we didn't know how much further we had to go to get to our accommodation for that night. We knew it wasn't in the park itself, but weren't too sure how far outside it was. As it turned out, it wasn't too far at all - probably about 30 minutes gentle drive beyond the El Portal Road gate.
Our room for the next two nights was at Yosemite Bug which "... is a classic rustic resort with stilted high cabins and lodge hovering in the black oak groves ..." on the hill side. A lovely setting and not a bad place to stay, even if it does have a bit of a hippy feel to it. Our room was also very extra-ordinary. I think they literally lifted the decor and furniture from a very old hotel that had shutdown or gone through a refurb. I'm not sure what period the furnishings come from, but it was a long long time ago and was a lovely unique touch.
The next morning it was back to Yosemite for a bit of walking and taking in the scenery in the valley around Curry Village. We parked at Curry Village, grabbed a coffee and then headed off on our walk. We didn't have time to do one of the major walks like up Half Dome so we stuck to the lower levels and made our way up Tenaya Creek towards Mirror Lake.
This was a lovely walk, but sadly, Mirror Lake wasn't doing much "mirroring". It's a seasonal lake that is filled by water from the melting snow. As we were just entering winter all the water had evaporated and drained away leaving a sandy river bed which isn't very good at reflecting anything. It was a lovely walk none-the-less and we saw loads of great scenery. Sadly, no bears despite all the signs warning us about them.
We did however encounter something just as scary: the crows. They're HUUUUGE and would have no problems eating the average cat for tea, and then still ask for more!! One of these enormous chappies also had a fancy for mayonnaise as we soon discovered. Whilst sitting in the decked area in Curry Village having a late lunch/early dinner, we watched a huge crow fly up to one of the take-away counters and help himself to sachets of mayonnaise from a basket. He did this on several occasions. He's well known by the staff and apparently only goes for the mayonnaise, and there's no scaring him off either.
Tuesday morning was another driving morning as we now had to make our way back to the coast and to the lovely Monterey area. The drive was a pleasant but hot one. Thankfully the air-conditioning kept us nice and cool for the trip and we were soon in Carmel-by-the-Sea having lunch at the Hog's Breath Inn, famous for once being owned by Clint Eastwood.
Once our bellies were full we took a mosey around town and then headed for the beach for a short walk along the front (to see all the huge posh houses) and then back along the beach. This didn't take long and we were soon back on the road heading for Monterey, or more specifically Pacific Grove, where we would be staying for the next two nights.
Our hotel for the next two nights was actually a motel - the Sea Breeze Lodge - but it certainly didn't feel like the one we stayed in in Napa, nor did it have that "My Name is Earl" feel either. It was actually very nice and only a short walk from the beach. We took full advantage of this that evening and had a lovely stroll along the beach front as the sun set.
Wednesday was a purely "no car day". We walked everywhere. We got up nice and early while the temperature was still quite cool, grabbed our continental breakfast and headed for Cannery Row. Though quite a long walk, the walk from Pacific Grove to Cannery Row and then onto Monterey is definitely walkable and very enjoyable at that. We spent most of the day in this area taking in Cannery Row and Monterey, though we were a little disappointed to find that not much of what is mentioned in John Steinbeck's book actually exists in Cannery Row anymore (if it ever did), though the area obviously still thrives on the attention the book brings.
Oh yes, here's a tip: if you want a nice cheap lunch, head to Monterey pier at about lunch time with a bread bowl of your own. Nearly every restaurant along the pier offers free samples of their clam chowder in an attempt to lure you in. If you collect all these free samples into your own bread bowl, I'm sure you'd be able to get a hearty lunch for nothing ;-) . We opted for a sandwich instead as we didn't have our own bread bowls and weren't much in the mood for clam chowder or another huuuuuuuge lunch. Dinner was a quiet affair back in Pacific Grove.
Back To San Francisco
The next morning we popped over to reception (across the road) to get our continental breakfast. We filled up on bagels and coffee and stocked up well on muffins for the journey along the coastal road back to San Francisco. This was a nice quiet drive with nothing major to report: traffic was light, Santa Cruz was closed for the season and it was another nice sunny day, though a bit nippy in places. We stopped a couple of times en-route to see the sights and get a few pictures of Golden Gate bridge (with the Blue Angels practicing over the Bay for Fleet Week) from the other side of the bay entrance, before heading back into the middle of town to hand back the car and make our way to our final hotel - Hotel Carlton in Lower Nob Hill.
What a great hotel. It's located on the edge of Nob Hill and the Tenderloin, and given the Tenderloin's reputation, it's a way nicer area than I was expecting. I was expecting more Tenderloin than Nob Hill, but I was pleasantly surprised. The hotel is a bit of a schlep (6 blocks) from Union Square, but well worth the extra walk as it's very well decorated with friendly staff and free wine tasting (residents only) in the lobby in the early evening.
Anyway, once checked it we headed down to Union Square to get in some last minute shopping (including Levis from Macy's for me - don't forget to get your 11% tourist discount card first) and to finally try the cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory right at the top of Macy's. In a word: WOW!!! What lovely cheesecake, and in doorstep size slices too. It's not just the cheesecake that comes in large sizes: the waitress warned us that ALL of their food comes in generous portions. We opted for a huge slice of cheesecake and a bevvy each and sat back and enjoyed the the view and reminisced about our fantastic honeymoon.
I'm sad to say folks, that's about it. Friday morning we dashed back into the middle of town to grab some last minute sweeties for the folks back at work, packed our suitcases and headed back to the airport, away from the sunshine and back to cold, wet, soggy Blighty (on our delayed flight) :'-( .
All in all, we had a fantastic time and would recommend such a holiday to anyone with the time and inclination.
As with the previous posts, a slideshow of all our pictures from this leg of our honeymoon.