Dec 31st – I’ve decided that the cable-car ride is something I will have to return to San Francisco to enjoy as, this morning, I have the somewhat harrowing task of driving an automatic hire car out of a nine story car park and through a busy holiday- rush San Francisco and I need the time to get my head round this feat. I can’t believe how amenable and friendly the hire guy is. It is a fact that all the Californians I have met have lived up to their reputation as a helpful and welcoming lot.
And I needn’t have worried because Marilyn, who is usually useless at directions and maps, has sussed the grid system and the one-way maze of San Francisco and gets us on our way to Highway 1 with no trauma at all. In fact we have to turn of the annoying lady on the GPS because she wants to take us through some dodgy convoluted directions. Marilyn doesn’t do ‘smug’ but I swear there was a sense of satisfaction in her work and in getting one over the lady in the machine.
Tomorrow will be the real scenic drive as we hit Big Sur south of Carmel but this road out of San Francisco and south along the coast will take some beating. The Pacific Ocean is a wonderful grey/blue slate colour as the sun shines for us today and the temperature reaches 65 degrees. Huge rollers crash along some endless beaches or high cliffs and the scenery seems so familiar somehow because of all the films we have watched. Place names like Salinas and Soledad, Sunset Boulevard, Santa Cruz, Del Monte remind me of books I have taught or read and now they somehow seem more real.
We get to Carmel in time to catch a magnificent setting sun at just about the same time as New Year is happening in the UK. Carmel beach has a reputation of providing stunning sunsets and it obliges us this evening as the sky takes an age to change from pink to red and then to a bluish purple as sky and sea across the whole bay gradually get swallowed by the dark and for the first time this trip we have a sky full of stars. They even have Orian here.
Although it is New Years Eve and we have no reservation I manage to blague us into Little Napoli – the finest Italian restaurant in town. The food is exquisite – I had quail which I have never tasted before. And then we wander round this strange little town that seems a bit like it is a film set. It is full of restaurants, art shops, jewellers, designer clothes shops and the odd estate agent that advertise bijou sea-view residences for 8 million dollars! Needless to say Clint Eastwood has run all the beggars out of this town some time ago when he was the town mayor and these days the artists that live and work here are not quite in the Mary Austin, Jack London, Steinbeck mould of old. I don’t think one could live here and be even moderately well off and I get the feeling , although I could be wrong, that being ‘bohemian’ might be considered a little de trop in this day and age.
We decide to get a fine bottle of wine and to see the New Year in quietly in our room. Marilyn spots a bottle of Joyce Merlot and was tickled by the description – “full bodied and luscious”. I had to buy it and I sup it now as I write.
Happy New Year to all who have got this far with me!