In between life on the train, we did make time to appreciate the destination as well as the journey. Chicago was our first stop. Having been cooped up on-board we found our delightful Bed and Breakfast (an oasis of calm and highly recommended), dropped off the bags and headed straight for the bicycle rental on the lake shore. One can cycle either North to the (free!) zoo or South down past Navy pier as far as the aquarium. We opted for the latter which gives you wonderful views back on the city skyline.
Ready for fuel, we sampled the local delicacies. My first Chicago hot dog – its all glory of many condiments, followed by (a good few hours later) Chicago pizza, which gives new meaning to deep dish. The writing is on the wall at Gino’s. The John Hancock tower is one of those irresistible top of the world bars in spite of the crowds. It gets quieter later on and a nightcap looking over the twinkly lights of the city below is well worth it.
Rising early, we began the day with a ride on the Trolley to Chinatown for a breakfast of arguably the best pork buns, anywhere. Then it was time to tackle the Golden Gate Bridge, by bike. The track is about 6 miles from town and the bridge impresses itself on you more and more as you get closer. Its orange clad towering above us. That’s when you realise you have to get up there to bike across. Once you get up, riding high over the bridge itself is adreneline fueled followed by coaxing down the hill to Sausilito for ice-cream, an added bonus. Taking the ferry back you get to appreciate the bridge from an altogether different angle and if you take the Ferry Building bound boat you will sail right by Alcatraz. Check.
The rest of the afternoon we took it easy, strolling along the Embarcadero, stopping to gawp at pier 17, until we found our perfect rest stop. The Waterbar‘s oyster happy hour (thank you NY Times!). A $ an oyster and $5 glasses of cold white wine the perfect post ride treat. And great views of the ‘other’, magnificent but this time understated, San Francisco bridge.
Now for the automobile we found Car Rental 8, recommended as a low cost option. Tip #2 is to give yourself plenty of time. The drive is legendary for a reason, and did not disappoint. Big Sur was a highlight – the road winding along the cliff shore as the waves below career onto the rocks. Bay upon bay of sand, craggy outcrops, and dazzling blue waters. We split the journey in Morro Bay which was the perfect antidote to a long day of driving. A quiet bay with a few lone boats and happy hour at the Back Bay Inn with complimentary cheese and wine to soak in the sunset.
Our first impression of LA was traffic laden. But at least we had reached our final destination. Heath and Britts’ wedding was glorious and the perfect party to end our trip. Congrats guys! Our final day we whiled away wandering around Venice from the curious canals of Little Venice to a walk up the beach to Santa Monica pier. The food was the best of the trip – our first cup of real coffee, Intelligentsia beaten out by GTA – not least because it can be accessorized with the egg sandwich, and a memorable meal at Tasting Kitchen if only for that fig and balsamic toast.
We returned by plane.