I was quite weary by the time I’d arrived in Carmel. It was late but they had my room ready for me at the excellent Hofsas Hotel. The friendly guy at reception recommended a good restaurant, I had a lovely seafood paella and fell asleep in my comfy bed.
I sleep with earplugs in when I travel, so you can imagine my surprise when I was woken by the sound of shouting at 5.30am. In Chinese. From the room upstairs.
Maybe the hotel was on fire?
It wasn’t but like E.T. my upstairs neighbour had decided to phone home. Or maybe just shout home. She went on and on. I phoned the Night Desk. I woke up the guy manning it. ‘What time is it?’ He asked me.
Less than five minutes later I heard a knock on the door of the room above mine. A stern but calm American voice. Silence followed. Sleep, however, did not. Well, not restful sleep, anyway. Fitful dozing culminated in some bad dreams and a very sore back – maybe I’d been lying on it awkwardly? – and I rolled grumpily out of bed at 8.30, showered and had breakfast.
And it was while at breakfast that I met the first of two charming people who would brighten my day considerably. The first was a gentleman named Max. He was English but had lived here since 1990. We had a very pleasant chat about what we both did and he showed me some photographs on his phone, telling me that he used to have an SLR and that his father had been a keen and talented photographer. Looking at Max’s photos he should definitely buy himself a better camera. His compositions were textbook. He had a natural eye and could make even the cheap camera in his phone shine. If you’re reading this, Max, do yourself a favour and carry on in your father’s footsteps. Treat yourself. We both know you live in one of the most amazing parts of the world to take photos of.
Now, I have a confession to make. Max told me about Point Lobos and in fact conveyed its beauty with such enthusiasm that I determined to go there as soon as I had taken a quick look around Carmel. Always a chance I might bump into Clint, after all. So, I thought, a quick cup of coffee and into the car, Point Lobos bound. I staggered out into town, back aching, feeling more than a little out of the swing of it all but at least I had a plan. I was making a beeline for the coast, figuring to have a coffee while watching the sun and the sea. As I was approaching a street corner I saw a pretty redhead talking to a couple ahead of me. She had a lively and engaging manner. As I grew closer to them, they parted ways and she walked a little ahead of me.
Now, if I am to be totally honest, I cannot remember who spoke to whom first. It was, in all likelihood, me (I’ve had an email since posting this confirming that it was) because I’ve always had the feeling a redhead would be my moral undoing and have been looking for the redhead to be so ever since. So we chatted, went to a coffee place she knew tucked away in the lanes. Sadly, she did not prove to be my moral undoing. Happily, she was the most beguiling company and we sat and talked about our lives and why we were both in Carmel for nearly an hour. It was one of those pleasant encounters one always hopes to have when one travels and this one was better than most. Diane had the easy knack of talking to you like she’d known you forever and you could tell her anything. Well, almost anything. Beware beguiling redheads. They’re just too much fun.
We parted ways with a formal handshake and a smile but that, Max, is why I never made it to Point Lobos. Blame Diane. Or me. Probably me.
So, I jumped into the car and headed along the road to San Francisco.
Now, as you can probably tell from the preceeding photographs, the landscape changes very dramatically on this second part of the road. Less sheer, vertiginous cliffs and more rocky outcrops with colourful fauna. I actually really liked it. There was something wild and rugged about it which appealed. You can see the difference in the landscapes taken on this strip of highway in comparison to those in the first section on PCH and there’s another thing, too. All the way along PCH 1 but especially on this second stretch, I felt like I’d stepped into a 1970’s movie – Bullitt, Dirty Harry – or a TV show like the much missed Rockford Files.
As you come into San Francisco on the San Mateo Highway you pass a bridge, famous as the one where Clint Eastwood jumps onto the school bus the serial killer Scorpio has hijacked in Don Siegel‘s classic film, Dirty Harry. I was laughing like a giddy thing as I drove under it. They should mount a statue of Clint in his iconic suit and shades right up there. And that’s the thing about this western edge of America. It’s almost not a real place. The scale is vast, the beauty varied and endless and if you have any knowledge of American cinema at all, the landscape is familiar and evocative in so many different ways. It’s been a treat and next is San Francisco. See you there.
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