Gulls, sea otters and jellyfish

We left San Francisco in the evening, since we wanted to spend as much time as possible on the next leg of our trip: the world-famous Pacific Coast Highway, otherwise known as Highway 1. We drove all the way to a little place called Capitola, a toy town near Santa Cruz with colourful houses, surf shops and palm tree-lined streets (as we’d find out the next morning – as usual, we arrived at night). It was late, so we headed straight to our home for the night: the nearby New Brighton Beach campground. The campsite is nice, clean, and practically on the beach (which is probably why it was more expensive than any other campsite on the trip!). We decided to make the most of its awesome location by waking up early to watch the sunrise and do some yoga on the beach.

We got up at around 6:30am, hiked the little path down to the beach, and there it was:

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New Brighton Beach is a sheltered, quiet spot, lined with swanky beach houses:

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It was nice to hang out on the empty, silent beach – we only had to share it with the seagulls, and also with a couple of sea otters frolicking in the water:

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We watched the sun come up over the Pacific and then headed back to the campsite to pack our things and say goodbye to our friend the raccoon, who was messing about in the rubbish bin,

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before we went into town to get some breakfast. Capitola is a pretty cute place – colourful, small, and summery even in December.

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We went to Zelda’s on the beach (named after Zelda Fitzgerald, but i asked – there’s no particular reason),

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where i had my first blueberry pancakes for breakfast (and they were so good), looking out to the funky Venetian Hotel on the beach: 

After a very hearty breakfast, we walked around the beach for a bit and enjoyed the bright, almost summery day that was starting (don’t forget it was December!) before hopping back on to Highway 1.

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We drove along the gorgeous coast, and past the Salinas Valley (made me think of this book), before we stopped at Monterey. The whole area feels like you’re in a Steinbeck novel (like this one or this one). Monterey is very touristy – the old canning companies that  gave their name to Cannery Row have transformed themselves into tourist attractions, cafés, restaurants and bars.

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cannery_row

The main attraction though, and the main reason (apart from the Steinbeck connection…) that we stopped there was the pretty awesome Monterey Bay Aquarium. At about 35 $ a pop, the tickets are quite expensive – but the aquarium is massive, with tons of interesting exhibits, nice helpful staff and fun things to watch. Also, there are some pretty cool interactive exhibits (i got to pet the sea cucumber! It’s sort of soft. Sea cucumber, you’re such a weirdo).

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Check out these eels! Eeek.

Creepy eel

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We also saw tons of very pretty sea anemones:

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Pretty cool, hey? However, hands down, the coolest things in the aquarium were, first of all, the weird alien skate baby pouch:

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(Can you see it? It’s in there looking at you. I still can’t get over it). But the most awesome thing was the jellyfish exhibit, a dark hall where the jellyfish dance and float in the dark blue waters.

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jellies

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Amazing jellyfish

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It’s a hypnotic sight – we couldn’t get our eyes off them – so it was only after a long, long visit that we hit the road again. Next stop: Pismo beach, clam capital of the world :-).

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