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California

I recently travelled to California with my family and wanted to share some experiences with you. We covered San Francisco, Yosemite, Monterey and the famous Pacific Coast Highway! 

Arrived in San Francisco and transferred quickly to our hotel, the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf is located 5 minutes walk from Fisherman's Wharf. The hotel has a very welcoming lobby area with a small  cafe where you can purchase food and drink, the lobby also has free wifi, 

The rooms are a fair size with two twin beds or one queen and have a nautical theme with roll down blinds. Beds are very comfortable with the Sheraton sleeper beds available. 

Fisherman's Wharf is located nearby, it has plenty of restaurants including the famous Hard Rock Cafe and Bubba Gump, a great seafood restaurant based on the film Forest Gump. You can view the resident sea lions at pier 39, view in the morning before it gets busy. From pier 33 you can board your ferry to visit the infamous island of Alcatraz, the short boat trip brings you to the dock where the prisoners were processed, there is a steep walk uphill but those with walking difficulties can take a tram, we took a night tour which gave the island more atmosphere as it got darker during the stay. Tour the cell lines called broadway by the prisoners and view the  cells where the prisoners escaped from in 1962. Visit the isolation D block where the prisoners were incarcerated  with the sounds and views of San francisco in full view. 

Collecting our rental car, in our case a monster Chevrolet Tahoe which is great for four adults with plenty of space and power for those San Francisco and later Yosemite hills, we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge and headed for Yosemite National Park, for plane enthusiasts (which i am ) there is a great museum about half way from San Francisco to Oakhurst called the Castle Air Force museum it has many aircraft to view including an older US Presidential aircraft, Air Force One. 

We arrive in Oakhurst which is located approx 15 miles from the South Entrance to Yosemite National Park,Our hotel for the stay is the Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn, a lovely hotel located on the main highway to the park but outside of the downtown area, there is a large wood carved welcoming lobby, check in was quick and we were able to park outside our room, rooms are large with two queen beds, modern facilites and free wifi in the rooms, there is a restaurant / lounge on site and other restaurants located within walking distance. 

We departed early for our visit to Yosemite, taking highway 41 you soon reach the entrance where a charge of $20 for a 7 day pass is collected, from there it is about an hours drive on twisty roads to Yosemite Village, this is the centre of the park and from there you can board the free yosemite shuttle or board ranger guided tours to view the park, on the drive to the village is Tunnel view, drive through the tunnel to a parking area where a glorious vista awaits, you can view the mountain ranges known as Half Dome and El Capitan. 

The village has a great museum and a gallery dedicated to Ansel Adams. There is a deli and village store where you can purchase food for the park, be wary of removing your rubbish as it is tightly controlled due to bears, we took a short walk to yosemite falls which has easy paths. 

Leaving the village in the late afternoon, we visited the giant trees at Maripose Grove, parking is very limited so you may wish to take the shuttle. You can view some of the oldest trees in the world here,

We returned to our hotel late afternoon after a great day at Yosemite National Park,

Our holiday continued by leaving Yosemite and heading for the Monterey Peninsula, the drive is approx 3 to 4 hours and is through rolling farmland.

Our hotel for the next two nights was the Best Western Monterey Beach Hotel, located approx 5 miles from the town of Monterey. This is a good standard hotel located directly on the beach, i would recommend requesting a higher floor room to enable you to get views of the ocean, a nice touch is a small grill at the bottom of the floor which allows you to hear the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach. 

Rooms are large with a very 'beachy' feel with blinds that let you see out, Monterey is a short drive and parking is between 7 to 15 dollars a day depending on where you park, we boarded a whale watching cruise with Princess Monterey Whale Cruises. Its 100 ft Greatland vessel had plenty of seats both inside and out, restrooms and snack bar. The cruise to the whales location is approx 1 hour and takes you to the outskirts of Monterey Bay.  Where we joined by californian seal lions and common dolphins before the main event being pods of Orca Killer Whales hunting and Humpback Whales searching for sardines in the shallow waters in amongst groups of sea lions. 

Returning to Monterey we visited Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best Aquariums in the United States, the cost is approx $30 per person but this is most certainly worth it. The aquarium is great for young and old alike, with large display tanks showing the kelp forests seen on the Pacific Coastline and the animals which make it their home, the aquarium is located downtown on Cannery Row made famous in the John Steinbeck no el of the same name, There are many places to eat, drink and shop and is an easy walking town. 

Departing Monterey on to Highway One or the Pacific Coast Highway as it is known gives a great panoramic of the coastline. The drive is twisty with many uphills and downhills, there are many vista points which allow you to stop and take those important pictures, one of the main stops is the iconic Bixby Bridge, built in 1932, The view of this bridge is seen in many shots of the California coast. 

We stopped enroute in Big Sur in the lovely Nepenthe restaurant and cafe, it is located just off the highway and offers spectacular views of the cliffs in Big Sur. 

Our overnight stop was Pismo Beach and the Best Western Shelter Cove Lodge, a small hotel of only 52 rooms but each one overlooking the ocean or pool. A free continental breakfast in the pool area was included and very welcome. 

A short drive from Pismo Beach via various highways and freeways brings you into Los Angeles. Our stay for the next two nights was the Courtyard by Marriott Buena Park, a standard hotel with many facilities and located close to Knotts Berry Farm and the Disney Parks of Anaheim. Our first night was a night at the ball game to watch the Los Angeles Angels versus the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium, it is great entertainment with a large selection of food and drink for all tastes!.

The following day we had a full day at Universal Studios Hollywood.  This is the largest film studio in the united states and as well as a working film and television studio, it is also a theme park with rides dedicated to some of the latest movies, despicable me 2' Transformers and Jurassic Park. The park is also linked to citywalk which has many restaurants and shops, 

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