California’s Gold Coast with Tauck Tours by Joanne Harding-Smith (part 2)

So our tour started in San Francisco. Coincidentally the tour started on a crazy weekend where the population was nearly triple what is usually is. The America’s Cup was on, as was Fleet week (yes navy was in town, hellooo sailor), annual air show + there were two college playoffs so it was bedlam. Fun but it also meant it took forever to get taxis, get on cable cars etc. It made being shown around San Fran by an experienced driver and someone who had lived there so much more convenient. The history of San Fran is amazing and our tour guide was full of knowledge, amazing little restaurants tucked away that I would never have found on my own.

Then it was off to a winery in Sonomo Valley where we had an exclusive behind the scenes tour complete with tastings – 10am isn’t too early for that is it?? Then through the Gold Rush country with a couple of stops before arriving into Yosemite. What a breathtaking National Park this is and it’s so well organised inside.

Tauck provided a lovely naturalist to take us on a unique walking tour for an hour and a half. She also made suggestions for when we had some free time to do our own walks. We were there in the dry season so we only saw one waterfall. Ideally you would go in May or June (outside peak holiday weekends as there can be traffic jams) as the snow has melted and the water falls are at their peak and spectacular. That said each season it’s different, when we were there the fall colours coming in which made for some beautiful photos. The next day I did a tour that took in Glacier Point (amazing views) and The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias which is home to about 500 ancient, towering sequoia trees. We had two nights in Yosemite and each time we dined in the Ahwahnee lodge – all dressed in our finery (you don’t have to but very appropriate if you want to).

Running out of room so very quickly we then had two nights in Monterey and touring around there. Then we did the that really scenic 17-mile drive and dramatic highway 1 to Big Sur, Hearst Castle and Santa Barbara – and no we didn’t meet Clint Eastwood, not for lack of trying though…

We then went onto Santa Barbara before having our last two nights in Pasadena touring Beverly Hills, Hollywood, The Getty Centre and more. Afterwards we stayed in Santa Monica which is one of my favourite places to stay in LA. It’s a lovely spot and the rest of LA is easily accessible (in fact I recommend it as a one night stopover rather than staying at the airport only 20 minutes away and it’s on the beach), from there and the people you meet! I sat next to Michael Keaton one night in a restaurant. Here’s me with Steve Jacobs who was MC at our conference afterwards.

I’ve had to cram in this tour in just a few words. What was a lot of fun was all the tid-bits of information that Larry our guide shared throughout the entire trip. In LA it was so much fun him pointing out for instance the bar that this person did that at etc. Lots of laughs and a very social way to travel. If you haven’t done a tour before or don’t think it’s for you. I would say you just need to make sure the tour is right for you as not all tours are the same. If you want to have a really enjoyable trip staying at gorgeous hotels then I can highly recommend Tauck Tours.