08 February, 2011

Big Sur: Part 2

After such a long round trip on Friday, we decided to stay closer to home on Saturday. First, we drove into Carmel - yes, that one, of Clint Eastwood fame. If you like expensive shopping and eating then it is probably your idea of heaven. It's pretty enough but a bit posh for me. How many jewellery shops does a small town really need - I think 17 is possibly excessive... You get the picture. There are houses here which seem to have just added 0s to the end of their prices for the hell of it. We didn't drive the private toll road around Pebble Beach to see the mansions of the wealthy. Instead we bought sandwiches at a cafe and headed out of town.

On the way out, we passed the loveliest building in Carmel. Not a mansion. This is the Mission - a very late 18th century building of local sandstone, part of a complex that includes a museum and a Catholic school. Juniperro Serra, the priest who founded many of the missions of California including that in San Francisco, loved this one the best. He is buried in Carmel. The church itself is a simple though quite large building with a lovely plain ceiling and ornate reredos. There are furnished rooms to look at too, which show how the Mission was in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

After our visit to the Mission we drove off to Point Lobos, a state park. I'm not sure if I've written about this before. There's a big difference between visiting state or national parks in the US and walking in the UK. I know you can go off the beaten track in the States in a park like Yosemite but what you can't do is ramble around pretty much anywhere following rights of way through farming land or across estates. Land is private and out of bounds, unless it is part of a park. Tom asked our hosts if there were any walks around their house, and they didn't really know what we meant. Back in the UK, we'd have been able to find the nearest public footpath or bridle way, most likely crossing private land. Here in the US, you mostly go to a park to walk or hike. Often that means it is very well organised with car parks, picnic tables, lavatories and to me, all feels a little bit manicured.

Not that that detracts from the immense attractions of Point Lobos which is a spit of land with cliffs, pines, cyprus trees, rocks and blue blue sea. We walked out to see sea lions barking on some rocks offshore, watched whales spout, and enjoyed the sights and smells of this beautiful park. It is a stunningly lovely place.

Finally we took the girls to the beach. Point Lobos was a bit rocky and they were more interested in digging in sand and running around, than watching out for whales. 


Alison said...

Interesting the difference in walking b/w the UK and US. Here it seems we're trying to retrofit with "greenways," sometimes on old railway right of ways.

As you said, the problem is how we hold our land here as very private, so it's difficult to find long continuous routes. Thus in my neighborhood, we have a greenway of less than a mile, which I have to cross two multi-lane roads to access. Not very useful, in my opinion.

Some parks are much less manicured than others; you have to do a bit of research to figure out which ones are more "off-road" than others.

Eliane said...

It's partly a mind-set difference I suppose, and partly a historical difference. Many of our rights of way are ancient paths that have been in use for centuries if not thousands of years. The British are so lucky to have this dense network of interconnecting paths in rural and urban areas - it gives you a sense of access to the land that you don't get so much here in the US. As of an Act of Parliament of 2009, England will also provide access to a coastal path around the whole of England. I found it sad on the weekend down the coast to see all the "private, keep out, no trespassing" signs and barbed wire which stopped people from walking down to beaches.