This week’s “Where Is…?” guest is Martyn Massop, the man behind Martyn’s Marvels – a great blog which focuses on the hidden gems he stumbles across, whether that’s at home in London, or when he travels to faraway lands.
Today he chats to me about his recent road trip across California, which just sounds completely epic! From camping in the Yosemite National Park to whale watching in Monterey, Martyn shares loads of great tips on how to make the most of a road trip across California…
Welcome to “Where Is…” Martyn! Tell us about your latest trip!
My recent big destination was California. A friend and I hired a convertible and planned our drive from San Francisco over to Yosemite, to Monterey and then finishing up in Los Angeles. People have always raved about California but I’d never really seen the fuss. It hadn’t been high on my list of places to go, but now I see what the fuss is all about. If you’ve never been, you absolutely have to go. There is something for everyone.
We got super cheap return flights to California from Oslo through Secret Flying (If you don’t know about it, you NEED to know about it!) for less than £300. I hadn’t actually planned on going on this trip, but with tons of annual leave to take at work, it was a total no brainer. We used Roadtrippers to pinpoint all the highest rated attractions from point-to-point and used that as a loose guide to work our way in the right direction. The rest was left to exploration and personal recommendations by locals – usually the best way!
Where did you stay? Were you on a budget or staying in luxury hotels?
We made the most of Airbnb for our stays in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In Yosemite we stayed at Curry Village which is a great camp where you stay in tents in the wilderness. In Monterey we stayed in a pretty standard motel. We left it all pretty late to sort our accommodation considering we booked the trip back in July. We didn’t book our accommodation until maybe 2 weeks before we travelled. Of the three, I would say Yosemite was the best for sure. There’s just something about being close to nature that I absolutely love.
I agree – camping is so much fun! What other activities did you get up to?
What didn’t we do?! From whale watching in Monterey, driving along the simply stunning Highway 1 and 9 Mile Drive, cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, hiking up the falls in Yosemite to The Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. We covered so much ground in such a short space of time.
My highlight is tough as there were so many damn good memories but it would have to be whale watching in Monterey. It’s of course the whale watching capital of the world so we expected to see Humpback Whales…but did not expect to see Killer Whales in their natural habitat too. It was such a surreal experience. It happens maybe a handful of times a year and wasn’t expected during our stay…but there they were in all their glory! One of the best experiences of my life.
Amazing! It sounds like you packed in a lot! Do you have any other travel tips you would like to share?
We travelled during October to California, which I personally quite liked as it meant that from a tourist point-of-view, it wasn’t quite as busy as during the mid-year months of June-September. This was great because it meant that accommodation was easier to find, considering we booked so late, and because it wasn’t peak season, some attractions were quieter too.
However this meant that because it was a little hotter, we couldn’t go kayaking in Yosemite as the lakes weren’t really there and some of the waterfalls (Yosemite Falls in particular) was more or less dried up, so we didn’t get to see it in all its glory. If I was to go back, I’d probably recommend going slightly earlier as you want to see those sort of things in Yosemite if you’re likely to never go back. Luckily, I’m planning to do this trip again for a longer period next time.
In terms of other tips, I’d definitely do this as a road trip as it added to the experience. There’s no better feeling that driving down Highway 1 out of Monterey, as well as 9 Mile Drive in a convertible with the sun blaring and your hair blowing in the wind as you listen to your favourite music. They’re the moments in life to remember.
I’m completely sold! So…where are you off to next? Do you have any other exciting plans coming up?
Well since California I have been to Amsterdam to celebrate a friend’s birthday for the weekend, and also Prague with my girlfriend for a spontaneous weekend trip as we found a fantastic last minute deal. We wanted to go away for the Christmas Markets and heard Prague was a good option, so finding a great price sealed the deal. I would 100% recommend it!
For 2016, I’m still putting my plans together, but I’m off Snowboarding to Bulgaria with friends to a place called Bansko. If you’re in Europe and looking for a ridiculously cheap winter holiday, look no further. It’s so much cheaper than the traditional ski resorts, in terms of gear hire, as well as the lift pass which is usually the most expensive bit. The resort is still not very well known so accommodation, flights, food etc is still very cheap and the snow is great!
What three must-have items do you always take away with you?
My Mobile Phone – I use my phone for everything whilst away. From taking photos (and those all-important selfies!) when I don’t want to get my SLR out, or want to get them on the internet as soon as I can, for navigation and maps whilst abroad, and also sharing internet to other devices.
Portable Battery Charger – In this day and age where phone batteries are basically terrible, this is an essential bit of kit. I’ve got a pretty heavy duty one that can charge my phone 12 times to full before it runs out which was a godsend for Yosemite. It can also charge additional devices too, so it could charge my HTC Re Action Camera and also my friends’ phones.
My Canon 650D SLR – I take literally thousands of photos when I’m away and I’d be lost without it.
All pretty geeky, but I love my tech and I genuinely carry these three things everywhere I go!
And finally, what has been your favourite destination so far?
My favourite was Japan for quite a long time as it was just a complete surreal experience and as if you were in another world. I then went to Thailand which almost took top spot as it was like a paradise on earth. After that I went to Brazil which had the most amazing vibe I’ve ever experienced, steeped in history/culture and full of friendly people with great weather and beaches. It became a joint three-way for the top spot as I loved them all for different reasons – they all brought different things to the table. However, my recent trip to California has me contemplating whether I need to rethink this as it was genuinely one of the best experiences of my life. The holiday literally had it all and I’m seriously considering the option of moving there at some point.
Submissions for “Where Is…?” are currently being accepted! If you would like to be featured, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.