Meandering Monterey Bay

Just in case you’re in the mood for a warm and sunny, kind and inviting, historical and sophisticated, waves-meet-sand-meets-“it” sort of place, you just might be up for a visit to Monterey.

American Author John Steinbeck gleaned inspiration from this special place for many of his famous novels. Spending a day here, I certainly understand why…

The wharf

What once served as a place for unloading steamship passengers and goods—as well as selling fish—the Old Fisherman’s Wharf is now a big part of Monterey’s tourist industry. Colorfully inviting store and restaurant fronts line the walkway, each tugging us their direction.

We entered one very interesting candy shop—Candy World—and discovered (but didn’t buy!) chocolate-covered Twinkies. (I just couldn’t…) We did, however, pick up some delicious chocolate caramel sea salt taffy…

There’s a large parking lot near the wharf’s entrance for convenience (unless you happen to come by boat), which also serves the Coastal Recreation Trail—a path to the setting of a rather famous place…

The row

Writing fictional stories based on real places—familiar places—lends a lot of rich detail to an author’s words. Steinbeck grew up in Salinas, not too far from Monterey’s Cannery Row.

As the name implies, several canneries operated on this street for decades. From the daily lifestyles of this fish processing capital, he created colorful characters that live in his books as well as come to life via Hollywood and the silver screen.

Approaching Cannery Row from the path, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe for Steinbeck’s historical presence here. Looking for a coffee place, that feeling was rewarded at Tidal Coffee.

Located at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa (a place I’d love to stay at one day!), Tidal Coffee honors those local artists who’ve contributed masterpieces of literature and visual arts, as well as honoring other great achievements by locals.

My favorite find inside was their display of Steinbeck novels, some even for sale! We enjoyed our cappuccinos at one of Tidal’s outside tables, taking in quite the amazing view.

Seeking some sweet souvenirs, we stepped into the Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop—a petite version of its San Francisco sibling. We picked up seasonal Pumpkin Spice Caramel squares; sooooo yummy! But we really should have lunch first…

In the mood for seafood, we were an easy catch for a Louie Linguini’s restaurant server who was giving chowder samples to passersby. Yummy stuff—so we headed inside for more…

We chose outdoor seating, and were rewarded with a breathtaking view! And the food? Wonderful! A little bread, seafood salads and a crisp white wine…heavenly…

The sea

At the end of Cannery Row swims a whale of a non-profit organization worthy of a visit: the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The sixth largest aquarium on the planet, this wondrous place is a living, breathing work of art. Home to over 35,000 swimming critters—ginormous and microscopic—there’s something to discover and learn at every turn.

Walking through the galleries, I was impressed with the architecture—plenty of elbow room for everyone—and wide open spaces. It was like being in a two-story shopping mall—with fish. This layout made it very easy to see the sea life residents of this wondrous place. Oh, and yes, they have gift shops too. Three of them…

With ocean conservation as its mission, the aquarium focuses on education. From field trips to internships, and memberships too (and tourists like us!), there’s plenty of take-home knowledge and appreciation for this aquarium’s two million annual visitors.

Once the sardine packing capital of the world—now ocean conservation expert, Monterey Bay has certainly experienced a rich and colorful history. We loved our experiences here, especially fun conversations with locals, who clearly love their town. What would John Steinbeck write about today? I wonder… J 🌊

 

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