- Sarah Drew Jones is an editor, journalist and fan of Camouflage Company’s travel collection.
You don’t expect to see wild zebra in California. But head for the tiny town of San Simeon on the sunny Central Coast and that’s exactly what you’ll find. A herd of zebra, roaming happy and free in a pasture just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean.
Spotting these beauties was a memorable moment in a California road trip jam-packed with amazing highlights. It’s our favourite trip, my husband Paul and I, the summer we spent meandering along the coast road from San Diego to San Francisco.
The zebra are a legacy of the private zoo kept in the 1920s at nearby Hearst Castle. We spent a day touring William Randolph Hearst’s creation, awestruck by the faded grandeur and tempted by the sparkling blue swimming pools surrounded by Roman temples and rolling hills.
Making your way north on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway you’re spoilt for sightseeing, though, and most of it makes you feel as if you’re in a movie.
The towering cliffs of La Jolla beach, dotted with tall palm trees. The upscale glitz and manicured sands of Santa Barbara, America’s Riviera. The charm of Paso Robles, the hidden secret of California wine country. The grit of Monterey’s Cannery Row which so inspired John Steinbeck. The bohemian vibe of San Francisco, birthplace of Sixties counter-culture.
Then there’s LA. Hollywood is where eccentricity meets unimaginable wealth and glamour. We toured a few studios – Sony, Warner Brothers, Universal – seeing backlots and sound stages, film sets and treasures: vintage costumes from The Wizard of Oz, hand painted backdrops from Gone with the Wind.
We rubbernecked at the palatial Bel-Air homes of the stars. We drove through historic Laurel Canyon where the likes of Carole King, The Eagles, The Mamas and Papas and Joni Mitchell once made music, and we wound our way across Mulholland Drive, high above the Hollywood Hills, spooky in the inky darkness of night.
And we stayed at the legendary pink-and-green Beverly Hills Hotel, in a garden bungalow where Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Cary Grant each once lived. Hard to top that.
Yet, Big Sur did. The magical, misty stretch of coastline is often named as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Deserted coves and crashing waves on one side, state parks full of redwood trees on the other, Big Sur is California’s jewel. I can’t wait to go back.