Mitchel Waite © 2020

Category : Travel, Places & Events

Driving Down California’s Pacific Coast Highway & Our One Day Hike In Yosemite National Park

I’ve just returned from the trip of a lifetime; a two week road trip driving down and around California’s Pacific Coast Highway.

California Route Map

Over two weeks our stops included (in order):

  • San Francisco (part I)
  • Santa Cruz
  • Monterrey
  • Carmel-by-the-sea
  • Santa Barbara
  • Los Angeles
  • Coarsegold
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Napa & San Francisco (part II)

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We covered over 1,000 miles and every stop had a different vibe. We drove from the crisp and foggy 20°C/68°F sunshine of San Francisco (SF) to the dry 35°C/95°F scorching heat of Yosemite National Park. So quite the contrasts, and my Roots hoodie definitely came in handy in SF. June is actually quite cold and the hotter months aren’t until around October.

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Naturally, we visited Alcatraz. Book tickets in advance; if you decide to just show up it’s very likely you’ll be unlucky, as these sell out quickly. I’d recommend taking a windbreaker or a sweater as it gets quite breezy on the boat trip.

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Two phrases will come in useful for visiting SF and ensure you don’t stand out like a complete tourist;

[quote text_size=”small” author=”Mark Twain”]

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

[/quote]

[quote text_size=”small” author=”Tammy (our Airbnb host!)”]

I left my heart in San Francisco….and my jacket!”

[/quote]

Even along the Pacific Highway coast, passing through Monterrey, Carmel and Big Sur, the chilly Pacific breeze was felt until we hit the beach of Santa Barbara.

Monterrey_In_The_Surf

Coming from Europe, long distance driving for me is anything longer than 2 hours! The thought of driving 5 hours on the monotonous UK roads didn’t sound fun. However, the novelty and scenic roads of North America made it much more appealing. Tip: listen to everyone when they say, “Check out the aquarium in Monterrey.” Our Airbnb host let us borrow their members pass for free entry, and it was totally worth it.

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Big Sur (highway 1) is a coastal scenic highway. So it’s best not to take this route if you’re in a rush (definitely allow for more time than Google plans out). Highway 101 is the alternative and will be quicker. Once in Santa Barbara and LA we finally soaked up some sun on the beach.

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Palm trees, EVERYWHERE! 🙂

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Naturally, we had to visit Hollywood Boulevard.

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Be sure to check out the view from Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles too. Get there early evening if you want to see it at night, as parking can be a slow nightmare. We arrived at 21:30 (the Observatory closes at 22:00) and ended up driving back down to the exit to find a space.

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We left LA and drove a few hours North through Bakersfield and Fresno to Yosemite National Park. The temperature felt like it sky rocketed when we hit Bakersfield, pushing a scorching 40°C/104°F!

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We hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls. Started off at 10:00 and it took around 3 hours for us to hike to the top.

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Some tips that we can pass on for other people wanting to visit for the day:

  • We entered the park via the south gate though Fish Camp; the parking near the Yosemite Falls hike is around an hour’s drive from there. Fill up on gas before entering the park, as there’s only one near the gate and the ongelating roads will guzzle it up.
  • Take plenty of water on this hike. Yosemite classify it as “strenuous” and recommend 4 litres per person on the 5-7 hour round trip. We managed to carry 10 x 50cl bottles and guzzled through them (around 7 on the way up and 3 on the trip down, which luckily was shaded in the afternoon).
  • Food-wise, we prioritised water and just stocked up on semi-dried fruit and Clif energy bars (the nutrition of the Clif bars are debatable!). I never really felt hungry during the hike, just constantly thirsty from the heat.
  • Wear appropriate footwear. We purchased some cheapo mid-length hiking boots from Decathlon for £12.99, did the job just fine.
  • Do not wear jeans…wear some loose fitted shorts. On the way down we advised people wearing jeans and carrying nothing but a single bottle of water what they were in for!
  • Right at the top of the Falls there’s a natural pool that you can swim in. However, accessing it is not for the faint of heart. You have to detour from the path over and across sloped rocks; it’s not a designated path. Once you are there though, diving in to the cold water is so refreshing.
  • Sunblock, which is a given.
  • The views are stunning at every level, so charge the camera!

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After Yosemite we drove back to the streets of San Francisco before our return flight to London. With the car upgraded to the Mustang we drove north over the Golden Gate to Napa for some fine wine. No jackets needed here.

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California, until next time!

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Hockey!

Over Christmas and New Year I visited Canada for the first time, and caught my first hockey game at the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto. The Toronto Maple Leafs faced off against the New York Islanders. Here’s the footage from my Sony RX100-II cut together in iMovie. Go Leafs Go!

Istanbul Trip

Istanbul…..what can I say? An amazing city? Great people? Beautiful architecture? One of most mesmerising sunsets I’ve ever seen in the world? Delicious food? Memory-searing scents?

Yes!

London Shots

Happy (belated) New Year! Christmas was certainly a busy time seeing family and catching up with friends. However, I managed to escape into London with the camera and finally head up to the top of The Monument (near Bank), Borough Market at London Bridge and then around City Hall by Tower Bridge.

The full album which I continuously update is available to view on Flickr.

Returning To Paris [2014]

At the end of August I took a few days holiday to roam the streets of Paris with my camera. I’ve been to Paris before, so didn’t feel the need to spend my time queuing for the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, etc. So instead I set off each morning from Bastille and just walked…..snapping away at Parisian street life. My first port of call is to scale to a high point of a new city when I first arrive. I decided to head to the viewing gallery of Tour Montparnasse (for amazing night time views of the Eiffel Tower) and The Sacre Coeur (for panoramic daytime views of the city). Montmartre has become one of my favourite spots in Paris alongside the Notre Dame area (The Shakespeare & Co. bookshop is a must see).

The rest of the album can be view over on my Flickr profile.

Secret Cinema Presents… Back To The Future

Back To The Future, to me, is undoubtedly one of the best trilogies to come out of Hollywood. It has comedy, action, an eccentric scientist, time travel disruption, and car sounds effects that anyone would want in their Renault Clio. On Amazon I saw an in car flux capacitor that lights up when plugged in to the cigarette lighter, and I needed it (immediately skipped over “wanted it”). As a kid I had white Nike’s with a red swoosh because they were a character as much as the DeLorean. Ultimately it’s a film that captures its time, and it still holds up in 2014. So when Secret Cinema announced summer performances of the Back To The Future (part I), I had to try and find myself a new pair of Nikes….

Right from the outset, this sounded more ambitious than prior Secret or Future Cinema events. I previously attended ‘Secret Cinema presents The Third Man’ in Barbican and ‘Future Cinema presents Ghostbusters’ at The Troxy. So I wasn’t really shocked by the opening week cancellations. I suspected this to be down to ticking the right boxes for health & safety sign-off, being in the Olympic Park grounds at Stratford and all.

This was more akin to the Future Cinema events, as you knew what film you were purchasing a ticket for. There were none of the cryptic email clues of Secret Cinema, which is really good fun during the build up. But, there has to be trade offs if you are paying £55 a ticket. Prior to the day itself I checked out the Hill Valley Store in Shoreditch, and you could buy a complete 1950s outfit there and have your hair styled too. I bought a £10 T-shirt and a pair of 3D glasses instead! (hey, I already had the Converse, rolled up jeans and leather jacket). On the day, I have to say we did go in too early. We passed through the queue at Peabody Farm in under 10 minutes, and after that we were walking up through the empty Hill Valley ‘burbs. It had an eery abandoned theme park feeling to it. None the less, within the hour, the head count quadrupled and Hill Valley was a bustling town. A gas station, travel agent, TV store, high school and of course, a bar. The film screen was in front of the clock tower centre piece, and everyone congregated on the grass in front of it to watch the film. Actors in character were working the crowds, and we had the pleasure of being labelled ‘slackers’ by Mr. Strickland.

Come performance time, the atmosphere in the crowd was booming. The screening was accompanied by actors playing out key scenes. There were cheers when the DeLorean screeched through town, Marty scaled over Biff’s car and George McFly’s punch. The highlight was Doc Brown zip-lining from the top of the clock tower in the final act.

Overall I absolutely enjoyed it. It’s a crowd of people that actually want to be there and have an equal appreciation for the film. No distractions from talking or texting, the simultaneous live performances immerse you so much it felt like watching it again for the first time. Even on the journey home, the grin was still sprawled across my face. Then the next day, the Part II and III DVDs were fired up! The only disappointment was the quality of the disposable cameras that were on sale (so most of it will stay a secret!).

Vietnam Trip [2010]

Whilst digging through the photo archives recently, I rediscovered the shots from my Vietnam trip. I travelled there back in 2010 at Easter time for about 18 days. I met up with some friends of mine that were travelling around South East Asia for 6 months, and tagged along on this portion of their trip. I arrived in Hanoi, then with our backpacks we made our way on sleeper buses down to Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and then finishing in Ho Chi Minh.

It was an amazing trip and a fantastic way to see the country. My only regret was missing out Ha Long Bay (due to the volcanic ash cloud grounding all European flights at the time), but I guess that means I need to go back at some point! The full set can be viewed over on my Flickr profile.

New York City

After rummaging around the the extensive archives of my photography hard drive, I rediscovered my shots from New York in 2009. One of the main highlights was being present in Time Square for President Obama’s official inauguration into The White House. With the shots being taken on a Sony Cybershot digital camera, it’s safe to say they needed a bit of a post-production boost.

You can view the rest of the album over on my Flickr profile here.

The Diner, Soho

The Burger Chronicles

“Big Kahuna Burger?…The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast!”

At some point in June 2012, my friend Luke and I made a pact; to find the best burger in London. What is it that so satisfying about a good burger? The meat? The glazed bun? The relish and salty sides that accompany it? Or is it the nostalgia of every bite that takes people back to their childhoods? Many bloggers have taken on the task before in search of this holy grail, but what’s the fun in reading about it all?* Move out of the way, clowns and kings! It’s time to follow our taste buds!

*With the exception of this particular blog.

This is not necessarily in ranking order or by any approved scoring system; just in sequence of where we visited, and literally, our gut feeling.

 

1) Byron Burger, Northcote Road, Clapham SW11 (Score: 9/10)

Burger: Californian (6oz beef patty, dry cured bacon, guacamole, pickled red onion, glazed bun)

This is a special seasonal burger that Tom Byng brought back from his time on the west coast of the US. This was the closest I think I have been to tasting what I imagine the “Big Kahuna Burger” to be. The meat was medium pink, juicy and god damn good! The bun is still the best bun I have ever tasted on a burger, it doesn’t dry out the flavours. It filled a hole, and maybe it was the taste buds going into overdrive, but I still had a few more bites in me.

Byron Burger

 

2) MEATliquor, Welbeck Street, West End W1G (Score: 8/10)

Burger: Bacon cheeseburger (Beef, cheese, bacon, red onions, pickles, lettuce, mustard with a side of Philly cheese steak fries)

This very nearly takes the trophy away from Byron. The burger was juicy and cooked medium, and the Philly cheese steak fries add to the gut-buster experience! It was the 60+ minute queue in the cold on a Wednesday night that knocks it down a point.

MEATliquor

 

3) The Diner, Ganton Street, Soho, W1F (Score: 6/10)

Burger: The Diablo (8oz patty made from rib, sirloin, filet & chuck topped with bacon and cheese)

It was a decent burger, but the sides let me down here. I ordered a chocolate malt milkshake which got served in the same silver-tinned pint as GBK and Byron, only to be 2/3 full. Come on guys, an extortionate £4.70 deserves a full one.

The Diner, Soho.

4) Honest Burgers, Soho, W1F (Score: 7/10)

Burger: The Honest Burger (Beef, red onion relish, smoked bacon, cheese, pickled onion, lettuce)

This place gets very busy and they don’t take bookings, but they can call you back if you want to wait in a nearby bar. The burger was perfectly chargrilled on the outside and pink in the middle, and the rustic fries were crispy. The menu isn’t expansive; chicken, beef or veggie (which has been outlawed by this researcher), and I was disappointed with no milkshakes. Be sure to ask about the specials board, and double up if it’s on there!

Honest Burgers

5) The Shake Shack, Covent Garden, WC2E (Score: 8/10)

Burger: SmokeShack Double (Cheeseburger with bacon, chopped cherry peppers and shack sauce. Crinkle fries on the side)

The Shake Shack double stack was a tasty burger! We were lucky enough to get served on it’s opening night in Convent Garden, and the wait was worth it. It has a different set up to other gourmet burger chains that are popping up; it has a fast food service set up. This seemed like a true American burger as it was quite difficult to finish along with the crinkle fries and chocolate milkshake!

The Shake Shack burger

So there you have it for now. I think MEATliquor’s burger was the tastiest, but Byron offered the better overall meal along with sides, milkshake and a good beer. The quest doesn’t stop here though, there are others out there to be found!