The first of my trips saw me fly into San Francisco and stay at Fishermans Wharf for a couple of nights. The area is lively and full of character. Lots of little seafood cabins and restaurants ranging from top notch high service to takeaway's serving bowls of bubbling Clam Chowder served in a rye bread edible soup bowl! You are within walking distance to the ferry for Alcatraz made famous by the film with Paul Newman, the Bird Man. Don't forget to stop in to say hello to the hundreds of large Sea Lions resting on sea platforms in the harbour next to the ferry point, very noisy and you may need to hold your nose but fantastic free entertainment! A must is a trip on the famous trams to downtown San Fran and if you like shopping you will be in heaven! Hair raising when you find your tram at the top of a steep 40 degree slope but exhilarating on the way down just like in the movies.
The drive (by open top convertible) was easier than I thought leaving SF and the roads, though busy were well signposted. You soon get the hang of driving on the right and even get brave enough after a while to overtake! Off to Death Valley via Lone Pine, west of the Alabama Hills & Mount Whitney used as locations for at least 269 movies and television. Lone Pine looks and feels exactly like living in an old Western Movie set. Death valley in the Mojave desert is stunning, the lowest point in America and one of the hottest and driest. This national park is a Desert of streaming sand dunes, snow-capped mountains, multicoloured rock layers, water-fluted canyons and 3 million acres of wilderness. Home to the Timbisha Shoshone people and to unique plants and animals. To fully enjoy the area I recommend a minimum of 2 nights here. I visited the Devil's Golf Course, a dried up lake bed and now salt pan formed by large salt crystals. If you go there and stand still and quiet you can actually hear the crystals cracking and forming, you are witnessing living Nature!
There are a few great shops at Stovepipe Wells (where I stayed in the park) for quality mementos and Furnace Creek also has a good hotel.
Onwards to Yosemite National park and to me the real highlight of my trip. In order to do the wonder of this stunning park justice I feel it best to quote a few famous people who loved this grand place:
“I have seen persons of emotional temperament stand with tearful eyes, spellbound and dumb with awe, as they got their first view of the Valley from Inspiration Point, overwhelmed in the sudden presence of the unspeakable, stupendous grandeur.” – Galen Clark, Guardian of the Yosemite Grant
"I used to envy the father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in "creation's dawn." The morning stars still sing together, and the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day". - John Muir
What can I say? The true beauty of Yosemite lies in it's giant waterfalls with rainbows below, the monumental mountains, half dome, Glacier Valley, The Giant Redwoods and Sequoia's. So well organised and planned for your visit. You can stay in one of only a few good hotels within the park or live like the Waltons in a real log cabin. You may spot a mother bear with cub as I did! Plan to spend 3 nights here but more if you can.
On each of my trips I just 'had' to stay in Yosemite, drove then to on to Los Angeles, shopped in Rodeo Drive & Hollywood, took a 3 day Cruise to San Diego & Mexico, missed Disneyland at Anaheim, alas no more time! On the other I drove to Las Vegas, visited Grand Canyon and searched for Aliens at area 51!
As I said, something for everyone.
Now, when shall I plan your trip?!!