The one but last stop on our summer road trip was Yosemite. As we drew nearer the huge rocks started to dominate the landscape and the traffic slowed to accommodate the roads and the numbers of tourists stopping to take snaps. We struggled to make sense of the map but found Curry Village easily despite that. We had booked a tent, which was basically a wooden base and tent sides. Four beds were sardined inside. Light bulb. That was it. The shower block was a hosepipe away. Not bad. We wandered around to get an idea of the facilities – pool, canteen, bar, wifi lounge, enormous car park. Amazingly, after our eat-all-you-can alcohol-free buffet, we slept like a row of logs. After the all-you-can-eat breakfast we hired bikes and toured around the lower levels of the park. We were incredibly lucky to see a two-year old black bear within the first hour of exploring. We’d left the bikes and taken a trail that was blocked further up by a rockfall. Presumably the reason we were alone was that no one else was interested in a trail that was advertised as ending abruptly in a brick wall. Anyway, we were completely alone and turned a corner to find a bear thirty feet away. My husband immediately raised his gigantic lens to capture a great photo, I however was already about-turning everyone. At the time I didn’t know the bear was two and therefore living alone. All I knew was that he was small and therefore could have a mummy nearby, and getting between a mummy and her baby is bad news. In my panic to save my own babies I immediately fell over. Husband didn’t get the shot because I was shouting for him to retreat, a call echoed by my sons, and filling my daughter with terror. An adrenalin start. Next stop, after telling all our American fellow tourists we’d seen a bear and having them all say ‘We’ve never seen one in 25 years of coming’, was Lower Yosemite Falls. (‘Lower’ featured a lot because it was too hot to contemplate ‘higher’.) It is massive. We clambered down and found a pool to sit in, and one by one decided to scale the rocks leading to the bottom of the waterfall itself. Not the best idea. I got nearly to the base and started to panic because I couldn’t see any of the children. The boulders that looked large from the bridge down below were unbelievably huge close up. I was hot, red and breathless and had no choice but to go down, to climb up further was beyond my ability. About halfway back and at least 20 minutes later I found a son. Evidently the children were all safe and had been panicking about me and my husband. He ambled along some time later. Vowed to stay together next time. We had a swim in the pool, grateful to cool down. There are only so many eat-all-you-can meals you can eat, so we opted for the pizza place. It was idyllic actually. We sat in rocking chairs on the verandah of the wifi lounge with beer and food, read and chatted. Without trekking for hours there is plenty to do in the park, from floating down the river, to swimming in it, to riding. We did the water ones, ending our third day with a five o’clock swim in an icy river with a couple of other overheated families. Our last night we opted for the burger bar. I queued at the beer bar for the drinks. At the front I ordered two large glasses of Trout, a local beer. It came to $21 but I only had $20. Thank you to the man behind me in the queue for his dollar. Leaving Yosemite for San Francisco my daughter said, ‘I could have stayed there for two weeks.’
We left Cambria bound for Monterey Car Week, where Ferraris are poor relations to the wealth of motors on show. The bids in the auction were as high as $20 million. It’s not my thing so I wandered around more interested in the sort of people who own such cars. Accommodation was scarce so we stayed in a Super 8 motel, and so did the Ferrari types. An abundance of money still can’t guarantee you a room in Monterey Car Week.
We were in Cambria to visit Hearst Castle but before doing so we encountered an almost unbeatable tourist attraction – the elephant seals. They were very entertaining in both the way they moved, the sounds they made and the spectacle of seeing so many draped over each other. They were huge, their noses like growths, and their idea of personal space non-existent. Evidently they came to Cambria in 1992 and have been back ever since. It was hard to drag ourselves away.
We bought two soft toys, the proceeds went to the Elephant Seal charity, which provided most informative guides to explain the sand flipping amongst other quirks of the species.
Leaving the seals we had our eyes peeled for the zebras that roam with the cattle on the Cambrian hills. They were originally brought over by William Hearst for his zoo, and remain in the wild, thriving it would seem by the herd we spotted.
Hearst Castle was amazing. Too amazing for me to describe. Even more fantastic was the vision and the extent to which Hearst was prepared to go to realise it.
Polar bears in the zoo, a deluxe cinema, beautiful living rooms and, for me the winner, the pool. I bought a book written by Heart’s mistress and lots of postcards, quite taken with the grandness of it all.
We broke the journey to Cambria in Santa Barbara, where we encountered a hippy and his amazing van.
Lunch was on the pier and fish tacos seemed to be the dish of choice so I tucked in. A few seagulls tried to help but I managed to finish the typical American portion all by myself. (A year in the US and we’d be those fat people up on the spaceship in WALL·E) We carried on to Cambria and were delighted to find the Fog Catcher Inn was lovely. Huge rooms all with their own front doors, like a mini-village. The sea was across the road. The dolphins were waiting for us, putting on a display right there and then, closely followed by pelicans galore, turkey vultures, and seals. We couldn’t stop pointing.
A wildlife enthusiasts dream. There was also a pool and hot tub. We were in our trunks (or equivalent) in minutes. Smashing. Cambria itself was charming, small and full of independent shops and cafes. Supper was a wee walk along the coast.
Funny where you end up on holiday. We cycled from Braunton to Fremington, but as the children are two years larger than the last time we did that particular route the time was drastically shortened and we arrived too early for lunch. So we had a snack instead, and cycled on to Instow. It was still early but everyone seemed hungry so we did a recce to decide where to eat. Much as there are plenty of nice places, eldest child was set on retracing our steps to follow a sign he’d seen by the side of the cycletrack. Off we went. The sign led nowhere. We even asked people loitering nearby. Nope. No beach cafe. Odd. What there was though, was an old thatched pub. We thought it looked fine and so ambled over, it now being lunch-time proper thanks to the fruitless searching. We ordered at a little hatch, behind which there were smiley ladies cutting sandwiches in a very WI manner. We wandered through to find a seat, and found instead a cricket match. It was not a pub. It was the North Devon Cricket Club, right by the sea. Fantastic. The sun was out, the sandwiches were delicious, and the cricket full of enough well-thwacked fours to entertain. (Good fielding by Sam, I thought.) We thanked the ladies preparing the cricket teas, and cycled home. Don’t know who won I’m afraid.
I’m looking at the view. It’s still beautiful but better in sunshine. We’ve been in all morning. I’ve been catching up on emails, twittering, and time-wasting generally. The three teenagers are all attached to things from iPads to MacBooks to iPods. And I can’t really complain as I’m on my MacBook. I’m trying to muster the enthusiasm to venture out in the weather. I think we’ll go to Saunton Sands, have a wet walk, and then a great big lunch in the cafe there. We have a rule that whatever the weather we have to go out at least once a day. It’s been in existence for so long that no one questions it. Another rule is that you have to have second breakfast before you go out, so despite the lack of time in the morning, every day the kids have cereal and then bagel / toast / pain au choc / brioche or banana. I love breakfast. It’s a pity I didn’t make more rules when they were small about trying new foods without saying yuck and making the obligatory face and not using their fingers to eat. Never mind. When we get back from our trip it’s board game time. Yesterday we played Star Wars Risk (2 hours) and the Republic won. Today it’s Monopoly. I do think board games are a great family activity. Even the 16-year old still turns up at the table for a game of Scrabble, Twaddle, even Headbandz! Oh well, off to get the raincoats.
Tracy, who runs the website talltalesandshortstories, has reviewed Labradoodle on the Loose
Maggie Humphreys runs a lovely website called Ed on the Web which has an online reading club, reviews of children’s books and other activities all designed to help children enjoy reading. Her book of the month for May is Labradoodle on the Loose.
Full tummy, third draft of Headhunter sitting waiting to be posted to my editor, hockey tomorrow – twice, youngest and middle children both playing matches, eldest has rugby.
November 20th already. Time whipping past. One day I’ll oversleep and my children will be married with twins on the way.
Time for bed.