Even from the beginning, before we took our spots in our rented car’s seats, Big Sur in California felt like a dream. It seemed to me like someone’s elses imaginings, given that Kerouac wrote a book of the same name, not to mention the countless adorations strewn across the internet.
So what was the big deal? I had been so excited for the likes of Vancouver and San Francisco that I hadn’t properly rested my mind on Big Sur, even though it’s a famed part of the USA’s west coast. In fact, my boyfriend was the one to take the reigns on this part of the trip. I only had one place I wanted to see; the rest was up to him.
We spent the day in our rented car (affectionally called Florence after Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, simply because the car was red and we felt the car was female) driving along the often quite trecherously winding roads, taking everything in. And you know what? It actually really impressed me. California generally, from the little I’ve seen of this huge state, has really impressed me. And that, my friends, means a lot coming from a sceptical British girl.
Coaxing along the Californian coastline, we saw the main sights we expected on Route 1: the vast ocean, the rocky cliffs, Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls and wild beaches. But really it was all in the details. It’s the little things you notice and the feelings you get that make the lasting impression.
These little pink flowers were dotted everywhere on our drive. They made a stark contrast to the sun-bleached grass and somehow made the scene even more rugged, but with that dose of glamour.
It was in the way the road never seemed to end. The way that over a hill or round a bend you might lose sight of it, but in a second it would spring up again and that long, long single road would join up and smoothly carry on as far as you could see.
It’s here where a bridge can somehow simultaneosly be an impressive structure and dwarfed and belitted by nature. There’s something strange about the thought that among the somewhat dangerous looking landscape that is Big Sur, along a road that almost always threatens near death with its proximity to the edge, there’s a bridge to this extent that you’re meant to trust driving across.
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was my one item on the Big Sur wish list and it still wipes a wacky smile on my face, sending me right back into that moment. Standing there with Alan, just watching the tiny wisp of a waterfall feed into the ebbing flow of the waves, was a top memory from 2014. And oh, the colour of that sea. The pinpricks of pink flowers, and the wild trees I wouldn’t have expected to see side by side with a beach. I desperately wanted to climb down to walk under that waterfall, but I guess watching it from afar had to do, and it did.
I had been given the suggestion of eating (or just drinking) at Nepenthe, and the internet seemed to back the idea up. Hell, having been there, I back this up. I’m not one to talk at length about restaurants, but from the candle in the wine bottle, the wooden beams, cushioned chairs and terrace like a trendy glamping sleepover, it was the perfect place to slap in the middle of the beauty we had already got a taste of.
But I’m saving one of my favourite parts of Big Sur til last. Alan and I had talked about how we’d love to find somewhere secret on our trip – well, this definitely wasn’t a secret but it felt tucked away and nobody that I personally know has previously had a clue about this beach existing.
This is Pfeiffer Beach, a beach you have to drive on a narrow, unkempt road and pay to get into. It’s a beach with purple sand (not even kidding). It’s a beach where we saw wedding photos being taken – the kind where the bride doesn’t even mind when her dress gets wet. Why should she, when her and her groom are too beautiful to worry about such things. It’s a beach with soft sand. A beach which isn’t just one stretch, but juts out in a few different directions, creating little pockets of privacy.
It is, by all accounts, simply a beach. But it was in those little details, in the company, the colours, and the sun closing down on us that made Pfeiffer Beach and Big Sur hold a special place in my heart.