San Francisco (part 1)

We always like to visit San Francisco. Having  been there in 2001 and in 2010, it was great to go back . The first  time we were there was in December 2001 and we only had one day to visit. The second time was in July 2010,  for a few baseball games and little time for tourism. This time, I was prepared with a list of places I did not want to miss. Of course, there was one Spanish Mission to see . Mission San Francisco de Asis or Mission Dolores is the oldest standing structure in SF. This Mission was founded in June 1776.  It was the 6th of 21  California Missions established  by Father Junipero Serra.

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Besides the mission is the Basilica of SF, completed in 1918. It has an extravagantly decorative interior and beautiful stained glass window.

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We also  visited Grace Cathedral on California Street. The building was inspired by Notre-Dame in Paris. We spent at least one  wonderful hour there . Walking the labyrinth, looking at the Ghiberti doors, admiring the stained glass and murals. We really enjoyed discovering this place. I would like to be there other time to listen to the choir or classical music concerts. The Cathedral’s organ is one of the largest organs in the USA.

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On my next post , I will bring you to other areas of San Francisco.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

On Day 8 of our road trip,  we were heading  north  via the coastal road.  Santa Cruz was one stop to do ( previous post).  We knew we would get to San Francisco that day  but did not know we were going to stop at the Pigeon Point Light Station. We saw it from the road and we said why not have a look ! It ended up a nice stop. We must appreciate lighthouses  that can save many lives. This one  dates from 1872. It is a State Historic Park. Here is more info about this place ( found on the internet).

“Perched on a cliff on the central California coast, 50 miles south of San Francisco, near Pescadero, the 115-foot Pigeon Point Lighthouse, one of the tallest lighthouses in America, has been guiding mariners since 1872. Its five-wick lard oil lamp, and first-order Fresnel lens, comprised of 1,008 prisms, was first lit at sunset, November 15, 1872. The lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 2,000 pounds. It sits in a lantern room that had been constructed at the Lighthouse Service’s general depot in New York before being shipped around the Horn. Although the original Fresnel lens is no longer in use, the lighthouse is still an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation using a 24 inch Aero Beacon.”

After a lifetime of exposure to wind, rain, sun, log and salty sea mist, the tower is literally crumbling. Closed to the public since a portion of its belt course broke off in 2001, it became important to restore the lighthouse to its original glory. California State Parks acquired title to Pigeon Point Light Station form the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011. The CSPF accepts contributions to save ans restore the lighthouse.

Also located within the park, Hosteling International runs the Pigeon Point Hostel for guests who are interested in staying overnight.  Four Light Station buildings were converted to lodging for up to 59 people.  You can relax in a hot tub with panoramic views of the Pacific, then fall asleep gazing up at one of the tallest lighthouses in America. This hostel offers comfortable, affordable lodgings in four houses set just beside the lighthouse. Guests enjoy cozy indoor lounges, fully equipped kitchens, cove beaches, tide pools, and an oceanfront boardwalk. While we were there  a group of students arrived at the hostel.

We had a nice chat with  friendly docents ,visited the fog signal building and the  gift shop. After  I took a  few pictures, we left with more knowledge on a site that has so much  history. Always  so much to learn when traveling !






Santa Cruz.

We left Salinas Valley, driving north towards Santa Cruz. We wanted to see the Spanish Mission. We could only see the outside  as it was closed, so it was a quick visit . The building is a restored mission chapel built in 1931. It is one-third scale replica of the  mission church. The original Mission was  founded in 1791, it was the 12th of the 21 Spanish Missions of California.


We decided to walk around the wharf. This year, it has been the 100th anniversary of the wharf  that attracts a noisy  bunch of California Sea Lions. Each year, they migrate to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary from breeding ground in Southern California and Mexico . Most of animals here are males, coming to the wharf to rest  or to feed on fish in the water around the  pier pilings.

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In the area, we could also see brown pelicans. They are year-round residents attracted by the rich food supply in Monterey Bay.


We continue our drive on the coast. Our next stop will be at  Pigeon Point Lighthouse.



17 mile drive.

Let’s enjoy  some more of this beautiful California . Today, we are going to explore  the 17 mile drive. In 2001, we came here   but it is 13 years  ago  and I think I do not remember it all. This time  I will take more photographs. It will help me to have memories. The day was not so sunny  but  never mind , we were tourists and we sized the day.

17-Mile Drive is a scenic road through Pebble Beach and  Pacific Grove  on the Monterey Peninsula , much of which hugs the Pacific coastline and passes famous  golf courses ,  mansions and scenic attractions, including the Lone Cypress, Bird Rock and the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest of Monterey Cypress trees.

The drive serves as the main road through the  gated community  of Pebble Beach. Inside this community, non-residents have to pay a toll to use the road. 10 $ is the fee  but I think  it is like going to a museum and we did not mind paying it. It is free for cyclists. Motorcycles are not allowed.

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Chief among the scenic attractions is the Lone Cypress, a  salt-pruned Monterey cypress (macrocarpa) tree which is the official symbol of Pebble Beach. The Lone Cypress is probably the tree the most photographed in America…  I spotted a bird looking like our Steller Jay . And then  we stopped at the famous Pebble beach golf course. The picture below is from the 18th hole  taken just before the participants of the  tournament  came to play .