Note: This blog is taken from an excerpt of an article I wrote for NC Living at ncliving.com. This was an amazingly fun trip to put on your bucket list and this is a fun read.
With the top down, the cool wind plays with my hair and sunshine illuminates my face. My husband happily sits behind the wheel ready for our adventure. We both breathe in the gorgeous scents that permeate the air- salt, eucalyptus, pine and an elusive fragrance of pepper, cinnamon and allspice that we can’t name. We later learn this heavenly aroma comes from the bay laurel tree. California, almost a country of its own, never ceases to surprise me with its vast beauty, diverse landscape, and flora and fauna.
As our convertible cruises south from the San José airport toward Route 1, glamorously referred to as the PCH a.k.a. the Pacific Coast Highway, I manage my expectations as we travel closer towards the highly regarded and much anticipated destination of Big Sur. A bucket list item for some time, we look forward to taking in Carmel, the wine country, Pebble Beach, 17-Mile Drive and the remote landscapes of Big Sur. Our trip reveals this and so much more.
As we drive south, the mosaic topography slowly unfolds with deep canyons, xeric foothills, massive mountains, thick conifer forests, and copious fields of artichokes. The vistas remind us of the Scottish Isles with their dramatic cliffs, the Spanish Rioja with the golden mountain ‘scapes, and Tuscany with conifers like cypress, the occasional palm, and of course vineyards. But here, if you are not looking out, looking up provides a pretty nice view too with the vast blue sky, golden sunshine and the occasional endangered Condor, North America’s largest land bird.
Our four-day, three-night trip is purposely planned in late October to steer away from the crowds that traditionally flock to Monterey County and majestic Big Sur in the summer months. We base ourselves in the small charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea known for its artists and writers. It sits snugly between Monterey and Big Sur enabling us easy access to our points of interest.
The charming street scene in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Our bespoke itinerary plans for us to be outdoors walking among the giant redwoods, the tallest measured tree species on Earth, hiking in coastal state parks, strolling on the beach admiring the natural sculptures of driftwood, and taking in a sunset or two. Aside from seeking the natural eye candy, we find art gallery hopping is almost a sport in these parts. And the same can be said for visiting vineyards in Carmel Valley or their tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Of course, dining on the freshest of local seafood and capturing the allure of the quaint towns are on our checklist.
We imagined the drive to Big Sur, but nothing can compare you for the journey. We marvel at how the PCH tightly hugs the coastline (thank goodness for the guardrails) as enthusiastic waves pound the enormous jagged cliffs below. Big Sur’s remote landscapes take our breath away with photo ops at every turn. How did they cut a road through here in the 1960’s?
Crossing the Bixby Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1)
By day four, we are rewarded with beautiful memories and adventures to share. Our souls are fed, expectations exceeded and a future trip is planned to venture further south past Big Sur to Santa Barbara.