Magnificent Big Sur

In my previous post, Two Days in Kauai, I shared about the first part of our big celebration trip back in May.  However, I failed to mention exactly what all we were celebrating.  We opted to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary a month early, as well as my birthday and Mother’s Day which fell during that same week.  On my actual birthday, we ate breakfast by the ocean in Kauai, ate dinner in San Francisco and saw our daughter and son-in-law again for the first time in several months.  Even though my 56th birthday was shortest one ever, due to the time we lost crossing time zones, I have to say it was probably the best one ever!  Now, back to the second part of this fun trip!

This second part of our celebration trip took us on a fun weekend excursion through Big Sur with both of the kids.

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Map of Big Sur Area

 On that Friday, our flight from Lihue, Kauai to San Francisco International Airport, arrived about 9 pm.  Thankfully, this flight was the total opposite of our flight to Kauai a few days earlier, as I shared in a previous post, and with a good tailwind behind us, we actually arrived almost an hour early.  This gave us time to grab a late dinner at the airport before the our daughter and son-in-law arrived to pick us up and take us to our hotel for the night.  It all worked out perfectly, and we had a great visit in the car on our thirty minute drive to the Hilton hotel near their apartment.  I couldn’t have asked for a nicer way to end my birthday than to see my girl once again.

The next morning after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we all headed directly south to Monterey via Highway 101 from the San Jose area.  From there, we continued to head south on scenic Highway 1 through Carmel and on to the Big Sur area.  On previous trips to the area, we spent quite a bit of time in Monterey and a little bit of time in Carmel, as well as driving the famous 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach.  I love this beautiful area, and this was our first time to venture further south from Carmel.  The kids frequent the Big Sur area on weekends to hike and to go backpacking, so we had two very knowledgeable tour guides, for sure.

 Our plan for the weekend in Big Sur was to basically drive the entire length of Highway 1 to Ragged Point, which is at the southern end of Big Sur, have a nice dinner, spend the night there, and then begin our drive back to San Francisco on Sunday with a few stops on the way.  It was a perfect itinerary and could not have been nicer.  The views around every turn in the road were picture postcard perfect and did not disappoint.  This was also the first time that the kids had driven all the way to Ragged Point, so the southernmost end of Big Sur was new to them as well.  While I found our overnight lodging in Ragged Point, our son-in-law was in charge of planning most of our sight-seeing stops, and he did a great job!

Our first stop on Saturday was in Monterey for lunch, and our favorite place to dine in Monterey is Fisherman’s Wharf for seafood.  Sadly, I cannot specifically recall the restaurant where we dined, but the food was wonderful once again, as was the company.

After a quick stop in Carmel to get gas for the eighty-mile drive each way through Big Sur, we then stopped at the Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant in Big Sur.

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Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant

We just wanted to grab a quick cup of coffee, and the others also had a little sweet treat.  I was good and passed on the sweets, although it was quite tempting to indulge right along with them.  It was worth a stop here just to see all of the beautiful landscaping at this quaint little place, too.  It is not a big restaurant, but the landscaping is amazing, and I could have spent even more time just taking in all of the unique plants growing there.

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Beautiful landscaping at the Big Sur Bakery

We then drove to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where we parked on the side of Highway 1 and walked along a scenic trail to view the famous McWay waterfall on the beach, where we were certainly just one of many groups of people doing the exact same thing.  This is such a gorgeous sight that is not to be missed when in this area, and we very much enjoyed the short hike to the overlook where it can be best viewed.  Click on the picture of the waterfall below to see it larger, too.

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Driving through Big Sur on scenic Highway 1
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McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

From there, we continued driving south on Highway 1, pulling over occasionally to take pictures and taking a few short walks at sites the kids had previously visited and wanted us to see.  We also crossed two scenic bridges, including the famous and frequently photographed Bixby Creek Bridge, and also passed through a newly completed tunnel along the way at Pitkins Curve, too.

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One of the scenic bridges along Highway 1 through Big Sur

Around 6 pm, we finally arrived at our destination for the evening at the beautiful and quaint Ragged Point Inn, where thankfully, we had reservations for Saturday night.  We discovered a couple of months prior to this trip that reservations for lodging are an absolutely must in the Big Sur area, as almost every lodging option there sells out on weekends.  While Ragged Point Inn is a bit more expensive than some other places, we were thankful to get reservations there for the night, and it was well worth the price, in our opinion.

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Sunset at Ragged Point Inn

Ragged Point Inn is a gorgeous place that sits right on the edge of the cliff.  Pictures just cannot do it justice.

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View from the front door of our room at Ragged Point Inn
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Beautiful landscaping at Ragged Point Inn
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A neat picture spot at Ragged Point Inn
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Secluded pond at Ragged Point Inn
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Garden walkway at Ragged Point Inn

We enjoyed dinner at the hotel restaurant that night just after sunset as a belated birthday dinner for me from the kids.  The food was absolutely fabulous, too.  The kids also gave me a beautiful pair of emerald earrings, which was very special, since emerald is my birthstone.

The next morning, we all met back at the restaurant for yet another great meal together, then daughter and I stayed behind with our coffee cups as hubby and son-in-law hiked the steep trail down to the beach below.

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Restaurant at Ragged Point Inn
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The hike down to the beach below at Ragged Point Inn is quite steep!

It was so nice to have an hour alone with my girl, and we had a great chat.  I would have loved more time alone with her, but as this was just a quick weekend trip, that would be our only time to visit together alone on this trip.

After the guys finished their strenuous hike and after daughter and I finished our nice chat, we all headed back north through Big Sur, retracing our drive from the previous day back to San Francisco.  We stopped for about two hours at a Limekiln State Park, where we hiked two stunningly beautiful trails through some nice sequoia trees to a waterfall, then to the old lime kilns.

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Creek in Limekiln State Park
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Our hike took us through the sequoia trees and beside babbling creeks in Limekiln State Park.
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Plaque on a bench in Limekiln State Park – a great quote by John Muir
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Hiking through the sequoia trees at Limekiln State Park
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One of the old lime kilns at Limekiln State Park
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Waterfall at Limekiln State Park
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Waterfall at Limekiln State Park

The trail crossed the creek several times, which is something I’m not used to on a hike, for sure.  Thankfully, son-in-law let me borrow his hiking stick, or I would probably have landed right in the water more than once.

After we finished our hike on the beautiful trails, we walked down to the beach and just enjoyed a few more minutes there, sitting on the big rocks, listening to the waves, and visiting with a fisherman who had just come in from a fishing trip.

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Beach at Limekiln State Park
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Beach at Limekiln State Park

After our wonderful hike at Limekiln State Park, we made one last stop for a late lunch at Nepenthe, which is a great place to dine outside while experiencing the fabulous view along the coast.  While we waited for our table, we enjoyed shopping at the Phoenix gift shop on the lower level and found some unique souvenirs.  The food was great, and we would definitely stop here to dine again when we go back to this area.

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Menu at Nepenthe
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The view from our table at Nepenthe

Sadly, Nepenthe was our final stop of the trip before the kids dropped us at our hotel near the San Francisco airport around 7 pm.  We had to catch a very early flight the next morning, and the kids still had to drive back to their own town and get ready for work the next day.  Hubby and I ate a quick dinner at the hotel, repacked our bags for our flight home, and headed to bed.

Our celebration trip to Kauai and Big Sur was such great fun for us.  While we were a bit concerned about being on the move so much during the week, we both found it to be a non-issue this time.  Our weekend RV trips give us plenty of opportunities to get away and just relax for a few days, so our week-long on-the-move sightseeing trip proved to be a nice change and a memorable experience, for sure.

We also celebrated our actual 35th anniversary here at home on June 16 by dining out at one of our favorite local steak restaurants for dinner together.  I just could not ask for a nicer anniversary celebration this year, and I will always treasure these special days of celebration together!

P.S. – I just found this great link for a one-week itinerary to travel the grand circle of San Francisco, Yosemite and Big Sur that would be a fabulous trip!

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Wordless Wednesday – Big Sur Sunset Silhouette

Big Sur Sunset Silhouette

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A Wonderful Vacation

We returned from our vacation yesterday afternoon and wasted no time in picking up our special four-legged family members who were very glad to see us after being gone for a week.  In a small way, seeing the excitement of our special pups once again made coming home a little easier to tolerate after such an incredibly fun and memorable vacation.  The trip started off a little rocky for me, due to an upset stomach on the day we flew to Kauai, but thankfully, it passed quickly.  I won’t deny that I was quite miserable on our flights that day, though.

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Big Sur near Ragged Point

The weather was gorgeous every day of our trip in both Kauai and California, and despite the fact that we stayed in six different hotels in seven nights, we really had a great time and don’t feel too terribly tired now that we are finally home once again.  We made the most of our time in both places, while still enjoying some nice down time in Hawaii, too.  My birthday was last Friday, and it was fabulous to spend the first part of the day in Hawaii, then fly to San Francisco where my daughter and her hubby were waiting for us at the airport that night.  We all made a road trip to Big Sur on Saturday and Sunday, which was a lot of fun.  We stayed at a beautiful place on Saturday night that had some outstanding views of the ocean and cliffs, and we also celebrated my birthday with a gourmet meal that evening.  We even got to hike for a couple of hours at a beautiful state park there on Sunday afternoon, which we all definitely enjoyed.

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Nenes (endangered) on our lanai in Kauai

As always, good vacations are just too short, and this was definitely the case for us on this trip.  I would really love to just spend about a month in Kauai and now have that goal as a little “bucket list” thing that perhaps we can do after we retire in years down the road.

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Beautiful Hanalei Valley at Princeville

I will try to share more information about our trip and some of the beautiful sites soon.  Kauai was not a new destination for us, as we have now been there three times, and hopefully this will not be our last time either because I dearly love Kauai.  However, Big Sur was a new destination for us and one that we truly loved, too.  Our daughter and her husband go there often, and it was nice to have such knowledgeable “tour guides” to drive and tell us all about the area.  But more than that, it was just nice to simply spend some quality time with them again.

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