Santa Barbara & El Encanto Hotel – Hearst Castle – Route 1

038On this 5 month trip Alfie and I are juggling various sleeping environments. 003 004 005 006As I have a Jeep Cherokee of which there are plenty here, plus Pennsylvania plates (go figure… a girl yelled out to me in the Arroyo car park – Yeah! Go Pennsylvania – well done for getting here – and I yelled back – Actually I am from the UK!!….) plus tinted windows and the scruffiness that comes from not washing the car…. I feel very safe to spend the odd night sleeping in the car as it doesn’t scream ‘tourist with all her stuff sleeping here’ but the trick is to choose a suburban street where you have a wall or garden separating you from the nearest house.

008 007 009 010 012 013So it was that Alfie and I slept outside the Air BnB in Santa Barbara before waking early a leg-stretch around the area, looking at the different gardens and for the last walk on Hendry’s Arroyo Beach with the other early dogs! Coffee and croissant for me, and grated ‘Natural Balance’ roll for him with added water, vitamins and crumbled dried liver on top – he loves it and I am delighted with his healthy poos….

Bob in Santa Monica had told me to visit the deck of El Encanto in Santa Barbara, so off I went.



What a beautiful hotel! As the photos show, it has lovely gardens and the view from the deck is indeed stunning, as well as being a very luxurious environment. I was greeted  and served like royalty, even though I was only having a coffee. When the time came to pay they told me it was free as I had only had coffee, so of course I gave the waiter a good tip instead. When I am rich and famous I shall return to stay here… Highly recommended and all the staff are lovely.

Alfie had an upset tummy in the nearby park. The reason? Swallowing too much salt water as he retrieves the ball from the sea. But how could we resist such a great dog-friendly beach?

With a feeling of sadness, as I loved Santa Barbara, Alfie and I got on to Highway 101 and made our way up the coast, getting off the Highway to visit the extremely kitch Madonna Lodge.

016 017 018 019We then went towards Morro Bay, arriving at nightfall and having a stroll along the seafront before turning in once again in the car in a safe suburban street flanked by houses one side and green space with a view out to the sea on the other.

Whilst walking we had found a sweet dog who had leapt up to the car as we parked down by the sea and tagged along with us. ‘Mae’  appeared to be on her own and lost so I called the phone number on her disc.

The owner was non-plussed and came to collect her, observing that she has found a way to get out and does this a lot – almost as if I was interfering by calling him. Good luck, Mae – you won’t last too long with your owner (who didn’t even thank me) allowing you to run around in the road at night. Some people…026 027 029 032 036 037 039 041 042 044 045 046 049 052 053 054 055 058 059 062 065 066 068 069 070 073 075 077 080 085 086 087

At 6.30 a.m. Alfie and I were awake and ready to face the day.

A quick poo-walk on the green by the car and down to the bay for coffee and a stroll. 2 seals were playing and fishing in the water and did some lovely backstrokes in front of us before diving and finding some fish to share. The sun came up (such a sunny trip this is…) and the little place was charming.

Hearst Castle beckoned – and I reckoned, rightly, that the earlier I got there the more chance I had of getting an unreserved ticket. So it was that everything worked out really well – good parking spot at the visitors centre, ticket for 9.20 tour and time to watch the film about William Randolph Hearst, his family and the building of Hearst Castle, then feeding ourselves in the car park before taking the coach up to the Castle itself.

This attraction is second-only to Disneyland in terms of national popularity. I loved the gardens and the outside of the buildings. The actual rooms where he entertained were very kitsch, which normally I would love, but claustrophobic and dingy. The outside swimming pool was beautiful but empty. The inside pool gorgeous and inviting. Alfie and I enjoyed walking around and I particularly loved the highly-scented roses and the copious citrus trees that smelt divine. The staff were lovely and made a big fuss of Alfie.

The trip back down on the bus was as entertaining as the ascent – they have a newsreel-type voice telling you all about what it was like back in the day. I can imagine for those who had the luck to be invited to spend time there, it must have felt heavenly – and perched right on top of the hills overlooking the bay.089090

094We made our way to look at the elephant seals. Every year they congregate on the stretch of beach near San Simeon to mate and give birth. Hundreds and hundreds of them lie on the sand, scooping sand up over their bodies and sunbathing.

At 3 p.m. we checked into the Sea Breeze Inn that had had lukewarm to negative reviews but was cheap and I was pleasantly surprised – comfy bed, TV, bathroom adequate to do some washing in and a sea view to boot. The wifi worked well and so as the sun shone into the room, Alfie relaxed on his bed (so glad that Debbie insisted I take a specific dog bed for him as he really seems to like the consistency) and I relaxed on mine, catching up with e mails and sorting things out.

We then had a lovely beach walk on the Hearst beach and the surrounding area, smelling the strong scent of the many eucalyptus trees and then spent the evening with tele and the computer. 092 095 096Sleeping in a cosy bed after 2 nights in the car felt like luxury and I awoke refreshed to enjoy the basic and yet adequate breakfast of toast, cereal, muffins, coffee and orange juice. We checked out at the last minute – 11 a.m. and then set off up Route 1 – the famous and beautiful Californian coast road. I bless my Insight Guide ‘USA on the road’ for the suggestions in it and the great way it describes the different road trips.

Making our way on the windy, bendy Route 1 towards Big Sur we had numerous stops to eat – a lovely Inn with many eucalyptus views and gorgeous views;  to check out waterfalls and the view; the 098 100 099 101Big Sur Inn was another hit with me – started by a Norwegian man (some of my ancestors were Norwegian) with fantastic gardens and rooms in huts. And I met 2 delightful English girls who were travelling in a hired camping van – one I had checked out while in the UK – who had tried sleeping in a coastal car park and had been awoken by the State Police at 3 a.m. as their van, pink and green, was a bit of a giveaway. It was another reinforcement for me that the vehicle I have is a godsend.

Going along the route I was hoping to find a campsite 102 104 103 074for us but every time the sign on the road in the State Parks was ‘Campsite Full’ so in the end we just continued up the coast to Carmel with its strong association with Client Eastwood and Doris Day, and the subject of my next blog. .