Once our stay in San Francisco was over, the only thing left to do was to drive back to LA airport via a trail of interesting destinations. We left our San Francisco hotel at 6am so that we could make it to the early morning whale watching boat in Monterey (pronounced “mon-a-ray” by Americans, rather than “mon-ta-ree” which is what I had been calling it for weeks.) Whale watching was one of the things James was most looking forward to about California and it was nice to have something so special planned for our last full day, to fend off the end-of-holiday blues. After coffee in a charmingly retro beach-side diner, we hopped on the Princess Monterey boat and sped off into the ocean past the puffins and seals guarding the harbour.
Monterey bay is an underwater canyon and the closest-to-shore deep ocean environment in the US, which is why it is so good for seeing whales and dolphins. It was cold on the front of the boat but worth it to be that bit closer to the whales, so James and I braved it (unlike most of the other tourists – we must have been toughened up by Scottish winters). We saw lots of humpback whales but also a beautiful pair of fin whales – the second largest animal in the world. When they come up, the top of their backs curve out of the water so that you never see the whole whale at one time. It was extraordinary to watch them but not easy to catch on camera so after a while I stopped taking photos and just enjoyed the view.
We grabbed a quick bite at the Chipotle in Monterey and headed down the quicker-but-less-picturesque Highway 101 to get to the Madonna Inn at San Luis Obispo. We had considered spending the night but decided instead to splash out on our hotel in Palm Springs earlier on in the trip, since the rooms here are kinda pricey. A big part of the decision was that between the steak house and the pastry shop, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to eat anything other than french fries. If we had stayed I would have liked this or this gloriously pink room, or perhaps this caveman themed one. The Madonna Inn is so tacky and kitsch it’s almost classy. I didn’t get any pictures of the insides because of the low level orange lighting, but everything is covered in pink floral wallpaper and fake rocks. The dream! Thank you to the sweet older couple that offered to take a picture of me and James outside the Inn – this happened a lot when James was taking insta photos for me but I’m so grateful to have these photos of us both!
After crawling back down the coast to LA we had one more night in California, which we spent in a tree house-esque cottage in Laurel Canyon, just North East of Beverley Hills. The cottage was on the grounds of our Airbnb hosts’ huge mansion – it was strange being amongst these properties obviously owned by millionaires, even for a night. Despite being in LA, the hills are so separated from the hustle and bustle you feel as if you’re in the countryside. You can hear the animals rustling in the trees at night, and there are no shops within walking distance. This proved a problem when I woke up on the morning of our flight home with completely debilitating menstrual cramps and – being the only driver – no way of getting to a pharmacy for painkillers. Luckily our Airbnb host saved the day with his enormous collection of medication.
We had thought to explore Beverley Hills and the Walk of Fame on our last day but chose instead to return to Venice Beach for one last dip in the sea and one last meal at Thai Vegan before our plane. I’m sad this is the last of my California holiday posts, but thank you for reading along with me. Here’s a gif of one of the whales we saw in Monterey for good luck.