Continuing the story of my train trip in 2014 along the path taken by my mother and great grandmother in 1923!
By day 10 of my journey, I reached San Francisco and said goodbye to the California Zephyr. In 1923, my mother and grandmother’s train arrived via ferry. I got to the Embarcadero by bus from the end of the Amtrak line in Emeryville. Yes, another Amtrak bus.
I couldn’t stay at the Grand Hotel where Kathryn and Rebecca stayed because while the building still stands, it has become a somewhat seedy apartment house. Instead I stayed two nights at the traveler-friendly Guest Quarters where I could catch up on internet and get my laundry done.
In the city, I did some of what they did in 1923 – became a tourist along Fisherman’s Wharf and visited the Cliff House. They arrived at the Cliff House with a tour group and had their picture taken; I arrived by limo and had a great dinner, with dessert provided by the restaurant in honor of the historic nature of my visit!
When I left San Francisco headed for Monterey, I waited on the Embarcadero in the early morning for the Amtrak bus to Oakland, where I spent the inevitable waiting time talking with a traveler from Peru. I finally boarded the Coast Starlight to Salinas and then a bus to Monterey. In 1923 they took trains the whole way, though they had to transfer lines.
The jitney bus, again booked by Amtrak, actually dropped me off at the Jabberwocky B&B where I stayed – just a few houses away from where Nisley relatives lived in 1923. I walked down the hill a few blocks to the Monterey Cannery where Emma Nisley Glosser worked back then.
The Cannery is now full of tourist stores instead of sardines, but I walked the same paths they walked and saw where the train would have brought them right to Cannery Row.
Reversing the path by bus – sometimes I think Amtrak has more buses than trains – to Salinas, I caught the Coast Starlight south to Los Angeles. California Amtrak trains have different dining car formations and parlor cars but otherwise, it’s still Amtrak.
We had great views of the vegetable fields and the ocean, just as they would have had traveling on the Sunset Route of the Southern Pacific. We arrived in Los Angeles with less trouble than their1923 train, which was held up for 5 hours 20 miles north of the city by a freight wreck that trashed “onions galore” around the tracks.
Back in 1923, Los Angeles was beginning its glorious movie years. Rebecca made a point in her diary that they could not ever recommend the noisy downtown Hotel Nadeau – it was way too noisy. The Nadeau isn’t there anymore anyway, so I chose a hotel built in 1923 – the Millenium Biltmore. The Biltmore gave me a good sense of the beginning of the glamorous twenties and the rising star of Hollywood thanks to a hotel worker who let me in to see the famous ballroom where Academy Awards were first presented.
The Biltmore has a lot of history, but all of it since 1923. Kathryn and Rebecca ventured out to Hollywood; via streetcars to find relatives there. I opted for the spa in the hotel to relax before the next long ride on to Arizona and the Grand Canyon.