Posted by: TomA | 17 May 2007

Days 17 & 18 – Cambria

We couldn’t wait to leave hideous Los Angeles behind; and not only for the excitement of hitting US Highway 1 for the coastal drive back up the Californian coast to San Francisco. Leaving LA is trickier than you’d hope, with an elaborate and confusing series of freeways, none of which ever go exactly where you want.

The drive to Cambria (midway between LA and San Francisco, nestled on the coast) was great, with some lovely twisty mountainside roads, only spoilt by having to follow slow RVs for most of it. That said, while the views were stunning, I’m not totally convinced they were as good as the Sea To Sky Highway, running from Vancouver to Whistler; for where were the islands and the mountains on the other side of the water? The road itself again wasn’t as twisty and scary as some of Route 66 through Nevada and Arizona, with several sections of dual carriageway diluting it’s thrill to some extent. No doubt I’d have been overawed had we driven this section first…

As the coastal kayak rental place we’d bargained on visiting in Cambria appeared to have totally disappeared, we headed to Hearst’s Castle, a gruesome amalgamation of European culture and architecture from the last 1000 years, twisted into a Disney-esque Hollywood playpen. The guy had bought ridiculous amounts of art and buildings in Italy, Spain and Greece mainly, brought them all to this hill-top mansion in California and assembled it to resemble a Mediterranean town.

While everything there was hideously valuable (paintings, tapestries, ancient marble columns and the like), the manner it had been assembled was gross, turning out to be a mix and match of everything, utterly devoid of context or interest. That said, he did a good job of cramming in as much important, European art into his castle as physically possible.

The other people on the tour (mainly fat American tourists) appeared to love it. I was somewhat disturbed by the third or fourth time we were reminded not to pick things up, chew gum and wander off from the tour; warnings that were actually necessary as several people stumbled into expensive furniture and vases while looking the other way…

Our hostel was very nice and homely; Cambria itself full of small bakeries, coffee shops and not a lot else. One of the nicest places we’ve stayed.

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