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Old 11-17-2008, 03:18 AM   #41
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Lets see some pics when you get back home again and also a
what you liked and what you would avoid next time. thanks
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Old 11-17-2008, 02:45 PM   #42
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utrecht - sounds like a great itinerary! have a great time...
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:54 AM   #43
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Heres a question:

This is my wifes surprise 40th birthday present. She loves surprises so thats not a problem, but I wonder how far to take the surprise aspect. At this point she knows Im planning a big surprise but doesnt know if its a big trip, a big party, a present or whatever. Obviously at some point I will have to tell her we're taking a trip and tell her what kind of clothes to pack. And when we get to the airport, she'll know we're going to SD, but how far after that point do I keep the surprise going?

She'll assume we are going to SD for the weekend, or maybe a week or whatever. She wont know we are going multiple places or how long we are staying anywhere. For me personally, I think I would have more fun if I knew how long the full trip was going to be. It seems I can relax more on day 4 of a vacation if I know its a 10 day vacation. If I was on day 4, and it turned out that was my last day and I didnt know it, I might do things differently and I would be dissapointed when it was suddenly over. Also, I think some of the fun is the anticipation of going certain places instead of just showing up and being there.

So, once we get to the airport, should I spill the beans about the whole thing or let her be surprised day by day as to where we are going and what we are doing or what? I mean should we be in the hotel in SD on day 3 and then I tell her "you need to start packing this evening, we are heading somewhere else in the morning"?
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Old 11-18-2008, 04:45 PM   #44
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Heres a question:

...

So, once we get to the airport, should I spill the beans about the whole thing or let her be surprised day by day as to where we are going and what we are doing or what? I mean should we be in the hotel in SD on day 3 and then I tell her "you need to start packing this evening, we are heading somewhere else in the morning"?
Without knowing your wife, I can only offer that my own wife (and I, for that matter) would prefer to know the rough itinerary at the beginning. On any trip, there's a bit of fluidity from day-to-day in terms of what you do and see, and she might want to prioritize certain activities if she knows how long you'll be in any given place.

Sounds like a great trip!
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Old 11-18-2008, 06:43 PM   #45
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Last time we went to San Francisco we stayed at the Executive hotel Vintage Court . Great location , great price , free continental breakfast and a wine tasting every night . We had so much fun there plus you could walk to most places and the trolley stopped at the corner . Great little Mexican restaurant across the street and Chinatown was two blocks away . All the rooms are named for different wines . Fisherman's wharf is very touristy .It is nice to visit but not to stay in that area .
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Old 11-19-2008, 05:21 AM   #46
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Utrecht - if it were my DW, I would have to tell her in advance not to plan anything from when to when, otherwise she would have a full schedule and have to scamper to cancel everything...and she does make commitments pretty often that aren't so easy to break...fwiw

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Old 11-19-2008, 05:44 AM   #47
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Utrecht

When in Monterey on the way north go eat at the Whole Enchilada. A must! It is about 20 miles north on Rt 1.

The aquarium is FANTASTIC!! Give yourself 3 hours to see it.
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Old 12-11-2008, 07:48 PM   #48
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A couple of comments on your itinerary:

Driving from Malibu to Monterey, stopping along the way at Hearst Castle, and doing a winery tour is VERY ambitious to do in one day. I assume you are taking 101 up to SLO, then starting on Hwy 1 (PCH) from there. Once you get to Cambria or so it's a narrow, windy, hilly two lane road. In the summer, there will be lots of traffic going at best 40 mph. I can't remember exactly, but it seems like the last time I did this drive it took at least 8+ hours and we didn't stop anywhere other than some viewpoints. If you want to do all of these things, consider leaving Malibu on the afternoon of the fifth day and spending the night in SLO to give yourself some extra time.

Hearst Castle is very cool and the drive up from Cambria to Monterey is probably one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world, so if you can, try to cut out some time elsewhere.

If you love to hike, you will love Muir Woods, but only if you get there very early. It is loved to death in the summer because it is so nice and so close to SF. Try to come midweek and get there by 8 or 9AM (It's about a 30 minute drive from Fisherman's wharf). While there, you should leave the main tourist trail and head up on one of the quieter trails into the woods. Afterward, drive down to either Muir Beach or if you are willing to go a bit farther, Stinson Beach. You can also go up to the top of Mt. Tamalpais - there's tons of hiking trails and great views up there. Sometimes, if it is foggy in SF and in Muir Woods, when you get to the top of Mt. Tam, you get above the fog and you can look down on the blanket of fog covering SF and the Inner Bay - very surreal and beautiful.

Finally, on your way back to SF from Muir Woods, just after the Sausalito exit, and just before you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, there's an exit off to the right that goes up into the Marin Headlands (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area (GGNRA)). The road goes along the Headlands to the ocean, but just a short way up the road, there are stunning viewpoints with the GG Bridge in the foreground and the city in the background. This is one of my favorite viewpoints and I take all my visitors there (assuming it's not foggy that day).
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Old 12-11-2008, 10:04 PM   #49
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....
If you love to hike, you will love Muir Woods, but only if you get there very early. It is loved to death in the summer because it is so nice and so close to SF. Try to come midweek and get there by 8 or 9AM (It's about a 30 minute drive from Fisherman's wharf). While there, you should leave the main tourist trail and head up on one of the quieter trails into the woods....
Alternately, you can park free at the Marin City Transit Center and take a $1 shuttle (return trip is free) to Muir Woods during the summer (from week before Memorial Day to end of Sept., Fri. to Sundays, last bus returns 7 p.m., you can take bikes along for the ride). It's a hair raising amusement park style ride but more fun than getting a lead foot driving while riding the brake. Take transit drivers out of stop and go traffic and they go wild.
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Old 12-12-2008, 12:51 AM   #50
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Driving from Malibu to Monterey, stopping along the way at Hearst Castle, and doing a winery tour is VERY ambitious to do in one day.
I completely agree. It's about 2 hours from Malibu to Santa Barbara, another 2 hours to San Luis Obispo, then another 1.5 hours or so on to Hearst Castle, and that's IF traffic is moving well on the roads. The Hearst Castle tours are at least 2 hours each, including parking/assembling time (you have to take a shuttle up to the castle from the visitor's center), and a wine tasting is at least an hour. Then add on the drive from San Simeon to Monterey -- easily 2.5 hours. Forget doing all that in one day. If you did, you'd be too stressed to sightsee what is probably the prettiest stretch of coastline south of the Oregon border.

I'd recommend that you decide to see Hollywood OR Malibu on Day 4, and then use Day 5 to drive from LA to San Luis Obispo or Morrow Bay/Cambria, having lunch in Santa Barbara and doing some wine tasting on the way up. Day 6, see Hearst Castle, drive up to Monterey. Then continue your itinerary as planned.

Also, you need to reserve tickets to get in to Hearst Castle, and you have to make those reservations in advance. There are multiple tours, as well. Their website is Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

If it were me, I'd go do the Hollywood walk of fame in the morning on day 4, then boogie on over to Venice Beach for the afternoon. Then I'd go to Malibu (or maybe Santa Monica -- love the Boardwalk) to spend the night. Unless you're REALLY into shopping, I can't imagine Rodeo Drive being anything other than hot and crowded in the summer.

Also, I'd figure out a way to tell your wife about the length of the trip and the climates. Monterey and San Francisco can be quite a bit cooler and breezier than San Diego/LA -- she'll want to dress accordingly.

It sounds like a ton of fun! Let us know how it goes!
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Old 12-12-2008, 09:02 AM   #51
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We love San Diego, go back often but largely because we are sailors.
We loved San Francisco, everyone should go once but it's crazy expensive and the homeless were everywhere, not likely to go back there unless to Napa with a side trip to Chez Panisse.
Los Angeles, not so much...and I've been there half a dozen times.

But it all depends on what kinds of things appeal to you and DW.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:10 AM   #52
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Thanks for the info. I have more to think about now. The biggest planning problem Im having right now is the Hearst Castle tour. Since I need reservations, I need to know which tour I will take which is tough since I really dont know how long the drive from Malibu is going to take. I had planned on a 3 hour drive and the noon tour, but now it seems thats not going to cut it.

We could easily skip the wine tasting. I hate wine, but DW likes it and it almost seems obligatory while in that area.

Right now I think the 2 options would be to either
1) After spending the day in Malibu, drive to Santa Barbara to spend the night which would mean my drive the next morning to Hearst Castel was about 3 - 3 1/2 hour or so like I originally planned

2) Stay in Malibu as planned but schedule the Hearst Castle tour for later (maybe 3PM?) and plan on that being the only thing we do that day and just call it a driving day.
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Old 06-06-2009, 07:05 AM   #53
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We leave for this trip tomorrow. Yipee !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:47 PM   #54
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We leave for this trip tomorrow. Yipee !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Have fun and fill us in with the details when you get back. We have had relatives wanting to be entertained when coming out. I need good ideas
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Old 06-22-2009, 06:30 PM   #55
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We are back and what a fantastic vacation it was! I took much of the advice given here and it really helped alot in making it a memorable 40th birthday for my wife. I really wanted the whole thing to be a secret but had to balance that with the fact that some things wouldnt have worked out as well if she was completely in the dark (like what clothes to bring). I ended up telling her we were going to California and told her to bring a variety of clothes because we would be in a variety of climates.

Still she was mostly in the dark as I didnt tell here where we going each day until the last minute and in alot of cases she didnt know until we pulled into wherever we were going.

I bid for all the hotels we stayed at on Priceline and it worked out great. I ended up saving about $700 (12 nights) from what I wouldve spent if I had paid the cheaper of the rates at Travelocity or the hotels own website. This made it possible to stay at nicer hotels than we are accustomed to. Normally we would stay at places like Holiday Inn Express or mid priced places like that but we were able to stay at places like Hiltons and some 4 star hotels.

Leg 1) We arrived in San Diego to stay for 3 days. Stayed at the Hilton Mission Valley which was a 3.5* on Priceline ($75 per night). It was very nice but parking was $14 per day which seemed excessive considering it wasnt downtown or anything. I got a great deal on a rental car. I decided on an SUV since we would be driving up the coast for many days with alot of luggage, a cooler, suveniers ect. I originally was planning on getting a convertible but was really glad I didnt because it was unseasonably cool almost the whole time and we had way too much stuff for a convertible to be convenient getting in and out of our bags. Im not even sure it all wouldve fit.

Highlights:

San Diego Zoo...spent about 5-6 hours there and loved every minute of it.
Hiking in Torrey Pines State Reserve. Views are incredible and hikes are very easy. We actually did more strolling than hiking. Walked for a few miles down the beach afterwards.
Spent a few hours exploring Old Town and had a great dinner there
Chartered a sailboat and sailed the SD bay for 3 hours with one other couple and the captain. Sailed by downtown, the USS Midway and other sites. Had a great time and they had just lowered prices due to the recession so I got a great deal.
Coronado Beach...it was too chilly to lay on the beach but we took off our shoes and walked along the waters edge for a few miles and laughed and talked like we were honeymooners. The Hotel Del Coronado is a site to see. Google it..its amazing! (we didnt stay there)

Lowlights...very few..loved San Diego. Only thing I can think of was that the Gaslamp Quarter was a disappointment.

Leg 2) Drove from SD to Beverly Hills where we stayed one night. Saw the main things like the Graumans Chinese theater..walk of fame or whatever they call it, Rodeo drive..ect. Stayed at the Tower of Beverly Hills which looked old on the outside but was very nice. I think I paid $85 for it. The suckers charged me for the room which was prepaid thru Priceline though. I got the bill fixed but I hate hassles like that. I wonder how many fools dont notice extra charges on their card and just pay it? Parking here was valet only and was $22. Total rip off but the parking situation anywhere in the vecinity of L.A. is a complete joke. This leg couldve been skipped but we did want to see the Hollywood sign and all of that so whatever...

We also drove Mullholland drive and went to the Santa Monica Pier which was touristy but still cool. We had clay molds of our heads done by a guy on the pier. Mine made me look too old but otherwise looks just like me. My wifes looks ALOT like her. They were only $10 each so not bad at all I thought.

The highlight of this leg came while we were sitting on a bench on Rodeo drive. Months ago I had researched going to a taping of the Tonight Show or Price is Right or whatever but I found out that none of them tape during the summer. The website I was on had a place to leave my email address in case a pilot was filming and needed audience members or something like that. Out of the blue I get an email on my iphone that says we are invited to the live taping of "So You think You Can Dance?" which is my wifes favorite show. The taping was the following day which was my wifes exact birthday and the studio was 2 miles from our hotel. YAHTZEE!!!! Im instantly a hero! If you watch this show, it was the first results show. Seeing the behind the scenes stuff was really cool. I got to sit in the judges chair for 3 hours (they needed someone with short hair to test the lighting) while the dancers practiced the opening dance number and they filmed it from umpteen angles (that part of the show isnt live) but the rest of it is.

Leg 3) This was supossed to be the Maibu leg but the show taping lasted all day which seems long but it went by really fast and was something you cant do just anytime so it was well worth it. After the show we drove to Oxnard to spend the night at the Courtyard Marriott.

Leg 4) Santa Barbera and Sante Ynez valley.

Santa Barbera was very nice and looked like a great place to live but we didnt find much to do there so we didnt stay long. We moved on to the Santa Ynez valley which is where the movie "Sideways" was filmed. We stopped at a couple winerys for tastings and we got a behind the scenes tour at the Firestone winery which was fun. We stayed in Santa Maria at the Historic Santa Maria hotel. Its very old but has been remodeled. Apparently alot of movie stars would stay there back in the day as they drove from LA to SF. Alot of history there. The room was huge. They dont make 'em like that anymore.

Leg 5) This was mostly a driving day but we did stop at Hearst Castle along the way. It was very very impressive but I wouldve preferred a self guided tour so we could linger where we wanted to. Our tour guide was a 80ish year old woman who was very corny. It was also very foggy that day and the Castle is high up on a hill so the views were obstructed. Still a must see though.

Leg 6) Drive to Monterey. As anyone who has been there already knows. This is the most incredible drive on the planet. Around every curve is an amazing view. Then around the next corner is a better one. We stopped alot of places to take pictures. Saw alot fo seals sunning themselves on the beach. The only bad thing about this leg was that I had planned a really nice 6 mile hike at Pfieffer State park but it was close due to fires. Stayed 2 nights in Monterey and went to the aquarium which is first class.

Leg 7) San Francisco. 4 nights at the Renaissance Stanford Court which was the nicest hotel of them all. We even got upgraded to a King room. I had been warned that the rooms in SF are small but this King room wasnt small at all. I loved everything about it. We felt a bit out of place though. We are down to earth middle class hard working people and were staying at a 4 star hotel with what looked like alot of rich uppety people. Whatever....I paid $80 for the room and I bet they paid $200 or so.

We drove directly to Muir Woods and hiked until we couldnt stand it anymore. The trails at the base are very easy and scenic. The trails that go up into the woods are steep, strenuous and even more scenic. We had 2 deer walk right down the trail and get within 3 feet of us. After this we drove to the airport, turned int he car and took the train back into the city. SF is like NY. You dont need a car and will be glad you dont have one because driving and finding a place to park would b a nightmare. We loved everything about SF and want to go back. We saw all of the obvious tourist attractions. One of the coolest things was a movie tour we took. We were in a 25 passenger van / bus and they take you all around the city while showing move clips of movies that were flimed there. Its timed so just as you drive up to a certain place, the clip is showing the exact view of whatever building or street that you are looking at out the window of the bus. It was very entertaining and I highly recommend it.

It was a long 2 week vacation and I know I left alot of stuff out, but we had the greatest time ever. If someone will tell me how, I will post some pictures.
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Old 06-22-2009, 06:37 PM   #56
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If someone will tell me how, I will post some pictures.
How to add photos to a post
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Old 06-22-2009, 08:54 PM   #57
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So many pictures...so little time
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Old 06-22-2009, 08:57 PM   #58
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More pics
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Old 06-22-2009, 09:03 PM   #59
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I guess captions wouldve been nice huh?
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Old 06-23-2009, 01:15 AM   #60
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Yay! I'm so glad you had a great trip!
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