Steered by his late-19th-century Appleton's guidebook, Michael Portillo continues his railroad travels through southern California aboard the Coast Starlight service. In the historic port of Monterey, Michael raises the Bear Flag of the one-time Republic of California and above it, the Stars and Stripes. He discovers the city's Spanish and Mexican heritage and traces how the former fishing port described as 'stinking and decrepit' in John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row has become a beacon for tourists. And how, in place of fish-processing canneries, there now stands a gleaming, state-of-the art aquarium, where Michael is invited to feed the fish.
Michael's next stop is Paso de Robles, where he tours the magnificent Hearst Castle, dream home of the newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, to hear the tale of its creation. Onward to San Luis Obispo and the hills of Morro Bay and Michael joins avocado farmer Jim Shanley, amid his 4,000 avocado trees to harvest the pears and then learn how to make guacamole. Michael's last stop on this leg is outside Santa Barbara at Rancho Camulos, a former cattle ranch owned by a prominent Hispanic family and the setting for a best-selling romantic novel of the 19th century.