For nearly a month now, we've been slowly making our way down the coast of California. There seemed to be a noticeable shift in culture, weather, and landscape from Northern California as we moved into Central California. The first sure sign was the sight of this seaside amusement park: the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. It's in the background of this photo of us on the Santa Cruz Pier.
Here's a better view of the fun from the beach.
It is such a classic California scene, and we just had to go. The agreement, however, was that Adalaya had to go on a roller coaster . . . her first. Here she is looking a little nervous before getting in line for "The Hurricane".
And here we are in the front car, about to climb the unnerving hill which is looming in front of us.
George and I were screaming during the ride, but all I heard from Adalaya was, "NEVER AGAIN!" The carousel is more her style:
We both love the swings and the Ferris Wheel too. Here's a great view from the top of the Ferris Wheel.
Our next eventful stop was in the historic canning village of Monterey.
Since we've reached the west coast, we've been breezing past many an aquarium, holding out for the world-renown Monterey Bay Aquarium. Indeed, it was worth the wait, and we spent an entire rainy Sunday exploring the incredible sea life displays. Among our favorite exhibits were the jellyfish . . .
the amazingly diverse seahorses . . .
including these Leafy Sea Dragons who are sea horse relatives . . .
And of course, we loved the sea otters!
We also got to see a few wild sea otters out in the bay, rolling and swimming amongst the seaweed. None of them were close enough to get a good photo, but here's a picture of their habitat.
The most numerous of the marine mammals we've seen have been the California Sea Lions.
We've seen these talkative bathing beauties everywhere we go lately.
Adalaya's making friends with this one.
After Monterey, we continued our journey south, down the Big Sur Coast. We found a great campsite at the Pheiffer Big Sur Campground where we stayed for 2 nights.
While in Big Sur, we had the pleasure of seeing a California Condor. These massive birds, with their 9ft wingspans, have been brought back from the brink of extinction by many dedicated folks like my friend Susan, who helped reintroduce them back to Big Sur several years ago. They seem to be enjoying their native habitat where they can sail for long distances on currents of air coming in from the Pacific. We saw this Condor soar over us and head north at great speed; we tried in vain to keep up with it in our van, but it outpaced us without a single flap of its wings.
After giving up the Condor chase, we had another meeting with a bird of a smaller stature. This Scrub Jay was happily enjoying the view of the Big Sur Coast, just like we were. What's not to enjoy?
In the opposite direction, there was another amazing view of McWay Falls, an 80 foot waterfall that plummets down to the beach in this beautiful cove.
Our next destination as we headed south was Los Osos, home of GoWesty, the Mecca of Volkswagen camper-van enthusiasts. We spent two full days there getting our van in top shape for the rest of our journey. Everybody at GoWesty was helpful and knowledgeable. They let us camp out right in their parking lot and even had a bathroom and shower for their camping customers to use. Here is our van nestled amongst many other Westys.
With our van in better shape, we continued our journey south to the beautiful "Danish Capital of America", Solvang, CA. The town was full of Scandinavian architecture including several windmills and many bakeries selling (you guessed it) danishes!
I found a great Christmas shop there, the "Jule Hus", which was filled with European decorations like nutcrackers and smokers, straw ornaments, and even corn-husk nativity scenes! I love this kind of stuff!
Another store also had these cute woolen gnomes. These kinds of things inspire me to make cutesy crafty creations that my husband can't stand having around. Adalaya used to delight in such items, but seems to be outgrowing them, much to my dismay.
Nevertheless, Adalaya and I had a great time in this touristy little town, and George enjoyed the sunshine in the parking lot while he installed a new faucet in the sink, quite happy to skip out on the Scandinavian sights.
As we head south, once again, we are beginning to see more and more Spanish architecture, a welcomed sign that we are approaching sunny Southern California. In recent weeks, Adalaya has been reading books set in California. She has just finished Zia, the sequel to Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'dell, which is set in and around Santa Barbara. We visited the Old Mission of Santa Barbara which was the setting for much of the book.
Adalaya was especially excited to read in the Mission's literature that the main character of Island of the Blue Dolphins is buried in their grounds. We found this amazing fig tree presiding over the cemetery beside the mission.
It was a great way to bring history to life for Adalaya.