Monday, 15 October 2012

Down the coast

I left San Francisco by Amtrak to travel to Carmel.  Amtrak is, in some ways, a step up from British Rail.  The trains are double deckers and if you are in “coach”, which I was, then you are on the upper deck.  Everyone is assigned a seat.  The seats all face in the direction in which the train is going and are four abreast with an aisle in between.The space around each seat is considerably  more than given on our trains.  I presume that this is because each seat has its own footrest, can be reclined and has its own individual table.  Amtrak’s timetables are, however, just as fluid as British Rail.

Like our trains many of the passengers have mobiles, which they are on constantly and which go off constantly.  The object behind me had a different ring for each individual person who phoned.  It was perhaps just as well that I was only on the train for 2 hours otherwise I might have been inclined to join in with another passenger that suggested something be done about this.  Given that we already had the mad women from Hell opposite us talking on her phone all the time I could understand where he was coming from. I can’t understand why passengers with mobile phones can’t be asked at the beginning of a journey to set their phones to silent/vibrate mode.  They could still use them but the noise levels would be somewhat less.

Anyway I arrived in Carmel, after a transfer by bus from Salinas which was also somewhat fraught since two of the passengers spent it haranguing the driver over their travel arrangements.  I came to the conclusion that there must have been a strange moon the night before.

Carmel is a beautiful, if twee, little town which has fought hard to remain much as it was in the first two decades of the 20th century.  
It has had a number of mayors who were actors/writers/artists among whom was Clint Eastwood. Houses in the immediate town do not have street numbers but names and many of them have a fairytale look about them as do the shops.  

Between the shops run many little lanes which are also individually decorated.

Trees grow everywhere and roads have to accommodate them and not the other way round.  It is built on the Camino Real( the King’s road) and having originally been Spanish has a very old Mission on the outskirts. 
Carmel is also the most dog friendly place that I have ever been in. Most of the shop owners bring their dogs to work and they greet you and well as their owners when you enter the shop.  Shops regularly give you change which includes a dog biscuit for your dog or one that you might meet. A number of restaurants allow dogs to eat with their owners and a few even have a dog menu. In the middle of a very upmarket shopping plaza is the Fountain of the woof - a fountain installed to allow dogs to drink while out shopping!

Carmel also has 110 art galleries in it which given its size is extraordinary.  It must have about 40-50 wine cellars where you can taste/buy local Californian wines.  I’m not sure if one is related to the other.
One of the relics of Clint Eastwood living and filming here is his pub - the Hog’s Breath.  Like many of the hotels and pubs in California is features an outdoor fire so that customers can sit outside to drink/eat.

Next day I headed  for Santa Barbara via the Amtrak bus and train. First of all I had an interview with bus service about the passengers who had harangued the driver on my way into Carmel.  Apparently the passengers had put in a complaint about the driver and I was one of the witnesses.  Very strange, they must have known that I wouldn’t support them.
Once on the train my journey was very pleasant and calm.  No odd passengers or many ringing mobiles.  For the first part of the journey the scenery was much as on the previous journey miles of dry, sunburnt land with flourishing fields of vegetables, fruit or vineyards in between.  The farmers and vintners must have artesian wells or something similar to supply the water required to keep their crops going.  However they do it the artichokes, lemons, strawberries and tomatoes are being well taken care of.  After St Luis Obpisbo we travelled along side the ocean until we reached Santa Barbara.  The scenery was glorious.
Santa Barbara is a very affluent town like Carmel but it’s totally different.  It owes its architecture to Spanish and Native American influences. It is a town that still relies on the sea for much of its industry so there are many fishing boats as well as pleasure boats in the 
harbour.  On Saturday there was a harbour festival so there was lots going on.

Children being shown where a fish’s eyes are by a Conservation person

 Sea urchin being eaten - this may look strange, but it was worse in real life.
 The view out across the straits to Santa Cruz was glorious.
 On Sunday there was a Porsche convention and an arts and craft festival all along the promenade.


  1. I'm going start a blog about travelling on Glasgow buses - the potential is tremendous, probably in direct comparison to the quality of the writing!

    1. Okay, I know that the writing in this and a few others left a lot to be desired. It's hard to proof read when you have a limited time online.
      I will sort it all out before I make it up into a memory book.

    2. Pillock! I was referring to the "quality" of my own writing - if I bothered to get my act together (as if).

  2. I already have a blog about British transport - it's my Facebook account. Newcastle station is the devil.

    Carmel looks amaze - love the giving out dog biscuits with your change. That's - really weird, but kind of cool. x

    1. Well I did notice that British Rail had improved towards the end of last week. You seemed to be suggesting that Newcastle had moved to France. Were you drinking when you wrote that?I found the dog biscuit thing very useful. The next shop I went into with a dog got it and there were some doozies. Henry was my personal favourite. He had a face that only his mother could love but he was just a big soft lump.

  3. What a diverse selection of sights and sounds! Well done for being patient with your fellow travellers! How do you eat a sea urchin? The same way you eat a hedgehog? Stay safe! x

  4. They were scooping out the underside with a fork but how they got to the underside I have no idea. I couldn't see it, just the raw flesh that they were eating. It was mostly Japanese or Japanese Americans who were eating them. Revolting!