Santa Cruz and Monterrey, California

After hopping back on board the Bart train in central San Francisco we made our way to the airport. Instead of boarding another flight however, we very excitedly made our way to the car rental depot. Miles and I have rented cars in the past, but always the cheapest option we could find, probably a Fiesta of a VW Golf in Scotland – but not this time. This time we were picking up our convertible Ford Mustang and beginning our journey down one of America’s most famous coastal Roads – Route 1, The Pacific Coast Highway aka. the great American Road trip mecca.

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After picking up the keys to the car we headed to the garage to pick up the beast (as we affectionately referred to it from that point onwards). Despite a shaky start (we couldn’t work out how to actually start the car) we were soon off and looking for the signs to join Route 1.

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After a short drive (mostly spent getting used to the car – it was huge!) we made our first pit stop at Half Moon Bay. Half Moon bay is a really cute beach side town with nice shops and cafés lining the main street. It’s quite a busy town, although I think that’s simply down to it being at the mouth of Route 1 from San Francisco. We had a wander through the town and picked up a road map of California from the bookshop. By this point we were both quite peckish and decided to make a lunch stop before hitting the road again. We noticed the San Benito Deli right off the main street with a snaking line of people queuing to get inside. We decided to join the queue and both grabbed the most enormous sandwiches we have ever seen. Our plan was to have an impromptu picnic on the beach, but on entrance to the car park we realised we would have to pay for the privileged so instead stayed in the car and had our picnic at the wheel.

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Shortly after finishing lunch we hit the road again and were treated to the most amazing views across the rugged Californian coastline, with some elevations reaching 5000ft above the glittering pacific ocean. It was literally breath taking. We kept wanting to stop to take photos as just around every bend the view got progressively more beautiful.

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After a little while on the road we made our second pit stop at the city of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz has an atmosphere similar to that of Brighton. It’s main feature is the huge ocean lining boardwalk littered with roller-coasters, Carousels and there’s the constant sweet smell of sugar wafting around. Although we didn’t stay too long, and certainly didn’t pay for any attractions, it was interesting to have a wander up and down the main strip, watch the surfers in the distance and take in the ‘holiday vibe’.

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When we had sufficiently seen all we wanted of Santa Cruz we hopped back in the car and drove the remainder of our day’s journey to Monterrey where we would be spending the night. First job on the agenda – find accommodation. Luckily this was easy enough and we found a room at the Monterrey Bay Travel Lodge. This was our first experience of a proper motel and actually exceeded our expectations. We had a huge room with views out over the pool – it’s a shame we weren’t staying there any longer than the one night!

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After a quick costume change we made our way into the centre of Monterrey. Monterrey was once the sardine packing capital of California and the old factories around the main street (aptly known as ‘Cannery Row’) make for a really quaint industrial feel. Nowadays the old factories have been turned into bars, restaurants and shops – its brilliant for having a wander. That evening we went to Hula’s Island Grill for dinner which, even though it sounds like a tourist trap, served delicious authentic Hawaiian meals – it was delish! After filling up on ceviche and cocktails we wandered through the town and headed to the Cannery Row Brewing Company where we tasted the various beers on offer and watched the basketball – it was a lovely chilled evening.

We had a fantastic night sleep at the motel ready to hit the road again the following morning!

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