California, cont.: heading south on Route 1

In the 19th century, Fort Ross was run by Russians…some material remnants of their church

By Caitlin Kelly

My next stop south after Santa Rosa was the small town of Monterey, which I liked a lot…very easy to get around and I soon found the gorgeous main post office with its tiled WPA murals and a very good French patisserie next door! I mailed home some stuff I’m not using or wearing. I loved my pretty, large hotel room and the hotel restaurant (Casa Munras) served excellent tapas.

I really liked Monterey’s legendary Aquarium! Simply stunning, although not cheap — $50 admission and wayyyyyy too many children, infants and strollers. I immediately threw on a mask as the crowds were noisy and intense.

But what wonderful sights! The place is very large, with two floors, and everything from a HUGE octopus to jellyfish to sea turtles to sea otters, puffins and penguins. I loved that we could watch their three sea otters then stand on the balcony and use their powerful telescopes to watch them in the wild, floating nearby in kelp beds.

I also heard some distinctive bellowing — sea lions! It’s such a thrill to see these creatures in the wild…at the harbor.

I spent a few hours in Carmel, an extremely elegant small town with amazing shopping and the prettiest residential streets, many shaded by old-growth trees; a 10 minute drive from Monterey.

I loved this tiny room! So pretty, even though very very small, at Deetjen’s.

The Santa Lucia Mountains of Big Sur, late afternoon.

I then drove south on Route 1 — extremely twisty hairpin roads on very steep hills! — to Big Sur and Deetjen’s, a small hotel/inn created decades ago by a Norwegian man who made everything there out of wood. I absolutely loved it and my minuscule room, maybe 40 square feet?, called Petite Cuisine…as in, yes, it was a former kitchen so half the room was an old sink. But the room had plenty of charm, with three floral paintings, soft curtains, a quiet and efficient fan and the prettiest duvet. I shared 2 tiny bathrooms in that second-floor section with four other rooms.

It was all worth it and was (at midweek prices) the least expensive room ($100/night) of this entire trip. I loved everything about Big Sur and have only seen such astonishing beauty in 3 other places: Corsica, Ireland and Thailand.

The Santa Lucia Mountains slope very steeply there to the turquoise Pacific, crashing against jagged rocks beneath wind-twisted cypress trees. There are dozens of roadside mailboxes…residents living very high above the road or very low below it. Lucky them!

Here are some of the many hikes and beaches locally…I visited two of them and hope to do others on a return visit.

I treated myself to an elegant and delicious lunch just north up the road at the Post Road Inn, where rooms are –yes — $1,000 a night. And another night I had nachos and beer at the Taphouse, and tried to avoid the predations of the Stellers’s jays, who are both very distinctive and quite confident!

It’s hard to explain how deeply seductive and alluring Big Sur is…like the other landscapes that have moved me to tears, it feels utterly timeless and wild. You simply cannot go fast! Road signs warn that if you have five vehicles behind you you must pull off into one of the many “turnouts” and let them pass — like a school bus and the garbage truck! Two local elementary schools are named (!) the Apple Pie School and Captain Cooper’s; older students have a long (gorgeous!) bus ride south to Cambria or north to Carmel.

On the road south I pulled over to see a beach covered with sea elephants. Amazing!

I’m now in Santa Barbara for three days, then back to Morro Bay hoping to see whales, then the final leg — Laguna Beach and Pasadena. Can’t wait for the Santa Monica Airport flea market the morning of June 26! The one I’d hoped to visit near San Francisco was rained out. The two sights here I plan to see are the Botanic Garden and the Santa Barbara Mission — then a visit to nearby Montecito, home to wealthy celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Harry and Meghan.

I was last in Santa Barbara as a university student, visiting my late great-aunt whose lovely house faced the ocean on one side and a lemon grove on the other.

I’ve also been tending to basic maintenance after 17 days on the road: doing all that sweaty laundry at a laundromat, and getting a haircut and a pedicure. Feels so good!

On the road in coastal California

By Caitlin Kelly

Thanks to my late mother’s generosity, to celebrate a landmark birthday, I’m able to afford a trip I’ve dreamed of for decades.

My husband is at home in New York, working, so I’m on my own — my first solo road trip in five years; my last big trip, in 2017, was six weeks alone in Europe, visiting six countries.

Not a great shot — but a typical SF home — ornate and gorgeous colors

The Asian Art Museum is terrific

San Francisco’s Chinatown is legendary and historic

I flew into San Francisco, where I was fortunate to have a friend to stay with for six nights and a fellow Canadian there hosted us for my birthday, June 6. It was lovely — four of us in a tree-shaded backyard eating Indian food and a birthday pie (the grocery store had no cake...?!)

I started north out of San Francisco across the Golden Gate bridge, shrouded in fog, with three pelicans hovering nearby in formation.

I stayed two nights at a gorgeous inn, with only seven rooms, an imitation of an English inn, called The Pelican. From there, it’s an easy 15 minute walk to Muir Beach or an hour’s drive to Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The drive there was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen — but scary! Extremely twisty, with very steep potential plunges into the ocean.

Driving these very narrow roads without shoulders is challenging enough — but you’re also sharing them with slow cyclists and fast motorcyclists and very impatient locals.

The landscape of Marin County is legendary: golden rolling hills, ocean waves breaking across ragged gray rocks. I watched a group of very young kids, all in wetsuits, pile into the water for their surfing lesson.

In Novato, I caught up with another old friend whose home I had never visited, and admired her enormous, beautiful hillside garden.

The beauty here is simply stunning — lush vegetation with Spanish moss hanging from trees, tall eucalyptus, bright wildflowers. I saw two deer, two herons and a coyote.

The views at Inverness were beyond…truly a dream. So I Googled “homes for sale” and all were $1m plus. Of course!

I drove through Dogtown — population 30 — and had a powerful memory of seeing it on my last visit, really just a roadside sign. It’s so isolated that residents are taken to the hospital by helicopter.

Me and Charlie Brown! In Santa Rosa there is a Charles Schulz Museum. So fun!

An astonishing cliffside/oceanside road, Route 1, brings you to Fort Ross, from the early

19th century — a site built by early Russians who made their fortunes here.

My itinerary moved north to Santa Rosa to visit a friend there, then I’m really on my own, heading south to Monterey, Big Sur, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach and Pasadena where I’ll start meeting up again with pals in L.A..

I’ve been to San Francisco five times (last visit 2012), Los Angeles maybe twice (last visit 2000.)

Unlikely but true — my last visits to each city were on assignment and fully paid (SF, a story about Google for The New York Times) and in L.A., a profile for the in-flight magazine of Southwest Airlines, Southwest Spirit, of New York designer David Rockwell, who designed the highly theatrical interior of the Dolby Theatre (where the Oscars are awarded); the story never ran.

I visited Santa Barbara when I was still in university in Toronto — and was so impressed by its beauty. I went to stay with and get to know my late great-aunt, whose house faced both the ocean and a lemon grove. I have always wanted to return…It’s home to many celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey and Harry and Meghan.

My goals this time?

No work!


I already have a dinner date at an L.A. classic, Musso & Frank — also featured in my favorite cop show, Bosch. I’m hoping to make a Bosch dive bar tour, but we’ll see. I admit, having binged all seven seasons of Bosch, and the first season of Bosch Legacy, a visit to L.A. started to feel more compelling — the show is filmed there, much of it on location.