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Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

Sheffield, United...
Level Contributor
501 posts
162 reviews
Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

This is a trip report of our 3 week holiday starting and ending in Las Vegas, via Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Encinitas, Los Angeles, Monterey Peninsula, Big Sur, San Francisco, Yosemite and Death Valley. Decided to do this for three reasons .

1. To hopefully help others planning a similar trip.

2. To put back something to people using this site after all the helpful advice I’ve received in planning my trip.

3. To give us a chance to relive what was a brilliant holiday!

Trip was to celebrate my 50th birthday, and there were just the two of us. I like hiking and scenery, while my wife Janette prefers cities, coast and culture, so I planned the trip to give a mixture of both.

I’ll post each day separately and give a link to other days of the trip report when they are posted on another forum.

Warning : these reports contain opinions and may cause offence! These are only based on brief visits to each place, and are honest opinions, so include both likes and dislikes. Hope you enjoy them, and I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

I'm posting links to previous days of our trip.

Days 1-2 Las Vegas


Days 3-4 Las Vegas to Zion via Valley of Fire


Day 5 Zion to Bryce


Days 6-8 Bryce to Grand Canyon and Encinitas


Days 9-10 Los Angeles


Sheffield, United...
Level Contributor
501 posts
162 reviews
1. Re: Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

Day 11 – Friday, 26th September

Up at 7 for early breakfast in hotel, then got onto Highway 1 towards Malibu at 8am. Traffic was busy for a while around Santa Monica, but had thinned out by the time we arrived in Malibu at 9.

Parked opposite the beach just before a pier, then walked down to the beach and walked barefoot at the water’s edge. We had the beach almost completely to ourselves, it was sunny and warm, and the Pacific looked better here than anywhere else we’d seen, beautiful and clean with large waves rolling up on the beach. The beach houses on our left were very impressive, with all sort of different styles, and much more impressive than the sides facing the main highway.

This was so nice that we could have stayed all day, but we had a lot to see, so after an hour we continued our journey. There seemed to be a fair bit more to Malibu, but we didn’t have time to stop and explore further.

Over the next few miles the coast road passed lots of inviting-looking beaches, before the landscape became duller, so left PCH and went on the freeway.

By 12 we were in Santa Barbara. Parked up near the pier, and headed off towards the town. It seemed odd to us that the freeway lay between the beach and the town. However the town was really nice. Even I liked the shops, and J loved them. There was lots of variety and many different eating places in Spanish-style architecture. We could have used more time around this area.

Back onto the pier, where we were amused to see there was actually car parking on the pier. “How lazy can you get” we thought, and then we had our answer as valet parking was on offer at the pier. Fit and healthy couples were actually waiting in a line while someone walked 30 yards to their car to drive it to them. To our British eyes this was quite surreal – but funny.

Had fish and chips on the pier. Fell foul of the transatlantic language barrier here as chips (UK) = French fries (US) so we weren’t expecting crisps (=US chips) with our fish! Dined on the pier under the watchful gaze of a large nearby seagull that looked ready to help us with our lunch at any moment.

Continued on the freeway which was quite scenic with sea views. Stayed on Highway 101 rather than following Route 1, as other TR’s have said Route 1 isn’t that exciting here, and much slower. Highway 101 left the coast to cut up through a small canyon to higher ground where vineyards began. Stopped off at Solvang, which was much nicer and with more to see than we’d expected.

Solvang was very pretty and beautifully kept, a small town with Danish descendants, with tree-lined streets and squares. Until now, we’d never realised just how many European things had actually originated in Denmark! There were lots of nice stores with interesting things for sale, but pride of place had to go to the strange historical action figure dolls - in a bakery of all places! There was an action figure of Einstein (not sure what the “action” could be), as well as a Marie Antoinette doll which naturally came complete (if that’s the word) with ejectable head. We were sorely tempted, but $20 was just too much of a stretch. Stayed over an hour, but again, we could have stayed much longer here – in Solvang that is, not just in the bakery/gift shop.

We had planned to stop at some outdoor mineral tubs beyond Solvang, but hadn’t brought exact details, and no tourist information office seemed to know where they were. In any case, by now, we didn’t have the time. This was the day of our holiday where there were just too many things to fit into a single day.

Highway 101 continued through nice and interesting scenery. Turned off onto Route 1 at San Luis Obispo, and scenery became increasingly wooded before arriving at Cambria just as it was getting dusk. It was smaller than we’d expected, and with a very relaxed vibe. We were staying for 2 nights at the Bluebird Motel in the Cambria’s East Village. This was a really nice two storey white clapperboard motel, with a stream running at the back, reception was friendly and helpful, and the room was nice.

For dinner we went to the Sow’s Ear just a few hundred yards up the road which has been recommended widely on Trip Advisor. This was just great! There were quirky touches like various pigs in the window, and home made bread in a flower pot, a really nice ambience with subtle lighting, friendly efficient staff who kept topping up our iced water (a nice touch), and really tasty food. We had halibut and rice with honey topping, goulash, and apple pie for dessert. This was the best restaurant of the entire trip by some distance. We also have a whole litre(!) of really good house red wine, which together with earplugs helped us to get off to sleep, as our next door neighbour at the motel had the TV on all night!

Today had been a great day with lots of great places, that we could easily have taken 3-4 days to cover. But we only had 3 weeks, and lots of other places to see!

Hearst Castle tomorrow.

Level Contributor
39,028 posts
1,014 reviews
2. Re: Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

Sounds nice, I'm realy glad you enjoyed the Sow's Ear Cafe, we have made many nice memories there over the years! :)

Oakland, California
Destination Expert
for Big Sur
Level Contributor
3,843 posts
13 reviews
3. Re: Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

Thanks very much for the detailed trip report. I always love to read these.

Grover Beach...
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
Level Contributor
22,062 posts
10 reviews
4. Re: Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

Very nice report!

Can't wait to read Day 12.

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
Level Contributor
44,470 posts
1,111 reviews
5. Re: Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

Another nice report, thanks. Am puzzled by your fish-n-chips experience. Did you get British crisps with your fish? That would be too weird . . .

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
60,942 posts
42 reviews
6. Re: Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

Nice reading again David! You're story about walking barefoot on the Malibu's water edge reminds me of our visit end of april back in 1992. Because of the Rodney King riots we could not go into LA and spent the night in 1000 Oaks. Next day we drove PCH and to Malibu and visited Santa Monica Mountains (there was a golfcourse that filled the whole valley!!). It was a great day and we enjoyed every minute of PCH etc. and we also stepped into the Pacific just to say we did and amazed ourselves about that busy highway so close to the coast. Waiting for your next TR. Oh and H-B French Fries actually are Belgian fries. That's where they were invented but for some reason they are called French. And we have a steakhouse in our town that serves steakes with crisps!


7. Re: Trip Report - September - LA to Cambria

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