Lots of photos on a blog can be a pain in the neck as they slow down load times, and the narrow page format means the layout is clunky. So, I’ve opened an LLG Flickr account so you can see photos from behind the scenes of the stories that I post, as well some from stories that are yet to come like this photo of Hearst Castle as the fog rolled in, and this house in its neighbouring village, San Simeon, with the Castle perched on the hill behind it.

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I have been on your route, LLG, many times. And I miss it, even the gaudy-goth that is San Simeon, and the seals and sea lions on the beach and that fog, oh, yes, that fog.

Isn’t it funny how far off in the distance Hearst Castle is? You are set up for an extravagance, an enormity, lurking by the side of the road, and then you find that it is miles off and perched on a hilltop.

I remember being in the parking lot by the reception center one evening at dusk. I fed a quarter into one of those viewers and found the castle by looking for its outdoor lights. A few minutes later, a woman tapped me on the shoulder.
Where was the castle? She peered into the darkness. Couldn’t make it out with the naked eye. Over there, I said, making vague jabbing motion towards the illumination.

Huh? she said. That? That tiny little thing is IT?

Yep, I said. Have a look in here. I stepped aside.

Ah can’t believe ah came all the way from Texas for THAT! she snorted. You can’t even SEE it if you pay a quarter!

And off she went, bearing the weary dissatisfaction of the tourist persuaded by marketing and media, the same tourist who thinks the Statue of Liberty is the size of the Colossus of Rhodes and that San Francisco is sunny in the summer.

If I am not too late to make a suggestion: Carmel’s Barnyard Shopping Village has gorgeous gardens at this time of year, and if you want some local flavor, the Giant Artichoke in Castroville (just off the 156) has a plate of artichoke specialities that is worth the small detour. Fried artichoke, artichoke frittata, something else I have forgotten.

Two shopping tips:
Great Mall of the Bay Area (in Milpitas, off the 880 headed north out of San Jose)–area’s largest outlet mall. I lived ten minutes from this and spent many happy Friday nights trotting around it.

Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. Lovely outdoor mall, has Neiman’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, and Macy’s.

In SF: Absinthe restaurant on Hayes Street. Amazing bar with retro cocktails (and some fun window-shopping). Walk up the street to Suppenkuche for a convivial German dinner, sharing table with local families and tourists.

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