S c e n i c  C a l i f o r n i a

Within California’s boundaries are scenic features of an entire continent. Twelve hundred miles of coast starts in Southern California with sunny, subtropical beachland dotted with small villages. It stretches to the spectacular wave-battered headlands of Northern California's Big Sur and north past Mendocino to Oregon. To the east and inland lies Yosemite National Park. It’s northern entrance is accessible from Highway 120 through historic Gold Rush country and the town of Groveland. Here is where the world comes for fishing, hiking, whitewater rafting, and picnicking in wooded parkland, far above the cities.

Here is the home of the redwood, ancient stately trees that soar skyward in softly lit, cathedral-like groves. Picturesque fishing villages cling to the sides of the inlets. Venerable little towns with a New England look serve fine chowders, cheese and wine to the traveler. The Victorian town of Ferndale is charming with its 1880s mansions and rendezvous. This is the land of champagne air and sparkling sunshine, a place where rivers run smooth and swift. There is nothing so relaxing as to come to Mendocino & Elk by the sea in the off-season, to relax in front of one’s own fireplace with a favorite book, a glass of wine, and a loved one.

North of San Francisco, within the rain shadow of the Coast Range, lie the world-renowned vineyards of Sonoma and Napa. This Beautiful land is at its best when the nip of fall is in the air and the hills turn a bright red, yellow and amber at harvest time. Farther south, near the Golden Gate Bridge, the still redwood groves of Muir Woods National Monument remain cool and green no matter what the season. The most dramatic sight, San Francisco Bay spanned by the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito, can be viewed from atop Mount Tamalpais.

The port of San Francisco has no equal when it comes to beauty with its hilly streets, jaunty little cable cars, billowing fog, sidewalk flower stands, Chinatown, the Fisherman’s Wharf area with Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, the fishing fleet, restaurants, shops and art galleries. From both Nob Hill and Telegraph Hill, where houses cling tenaciously to ledges in the cliffside below Coit Tower, one has an exceptional view of San Francisco Bay with its ignoble Alcatraz now open to the public, its sleek racing yachts, ferries that criss-cross the bay, and proud bridges.

One of the most scenic drives imaginable is south along Highway 1, down the spine of the San Francisco Peninsula,
along the San Mateo County coast to Santa Cruz County where Father Junipero Serra built one of his 21 missions in 1791. Here, on the north shore of Monterey Bay, is also the resort community of Capitola-by-the-Sea known especially for its beautiful begonia gardens.Further south, the city of Monterey spreads along the shore of a crescent-shaped harbor, edged with piers and canneries, many of which have been converted to shops and restauraunts, Around the square-shaped Monterey Peninsula, the scenic road winds past Pacific Grove with its Victorian mansions, along Pebble Beach’s 17 Mile Drive where multi-million dollar estates and world-famous courses edge the ocean to Carmel-by-the-Sea. This picturesque town founded in 1915 by a group of artists and writers now has more than 70 art galleries, scores of restaurants, and a sickle-shaped beach of unbelievably white sand. Here, too, is a Father Junipero Serra mission, which was rebuilt after decades of neglect and is now a major visitor attraction. The first 13 miles of Carmel Valley are pastoral with horse ranches, vineyards, tiny villages, restaurants and arts & craft stores.

Beyond Carmel, the coast runs past spectacular Big Sur and then it winds its way more than a hundred miles south to San Luis Obispo County. Here the fairytale Hearst Castle rises atop La Cuesta above San Simeon. Once the headquarters of the late William Randolph Hearst, it is now one of the foremost visitor attractions in California.

Continuing on State Highway 101, vineyards dot the landscape until one reaches the Santa Ynez range. Here a world of rolling ranchland spreads over oak-filled hills right up to the Pacific Ocean on the western side. Just south, the city of Santa Barbara is spread over irregular terrain dotted with verdant gardens and gracious homes that convey an air of spaciousness and quiet comfort. Along the waterfront, a broad palm-lined esplanade offers a variety of restaurants and shops. In Old Town, Santa Barbara’s rambling Spanish-style courthouse has been described as the most beautiful civic building in the country. The Queen of the Missions can lso be found here built by the padres in 1815.

Los Angeles with its Spanish heritage and Hollywood heart is a dreamland of fabulous year-round climate shining on some of the world’s most beautiful scenery--endless beaches, snowcapped mountains, enchanted desert, and residents dedicated to the good life of paradise. Los Angeles was a fantasyland even before Walt Disney opened the gates to his Disneyland Magic Kingdom in 1955. The glitter and glamour of moviemaking had already made this corner of Southern California a dream factory. Visitors still find those dreams enshrined in the footprints of the famous Mann’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, in thepalatial homes of the stars in Beverly Hills, on dazzling Rodeo Drive. Universal Studios offers a fun tour of make-believe movie-making.

Beyond Los Angeles itself, but nearby, lie some of the world’s richest playgrounds, the desert oasis of Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Borrego Springs and Rancho Santa Fe where movie stars retreat to spas, play golf & tennis, Many still keep estates here.

Along the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego are beach communities such as Seal Beach, 25 miles to the south, formally a Hollywood’s playground in the 1920’s.   Nowadays visitors come from all over the world for the serenity and charm of this town so close to the urban landscape of Los Angeles. Still further south, a suburb of San Diego, is the chic town of La Jolla-by-the-Sea which is close to such attractions as the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Animal Park, Old Town San Diego and Mexico.

One could spend months in California and still not see it all. In the next issue of the Palm Springs California newsletter, we will try to cover some of the attractions in each location in which we have member inns.

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