Monday, January 6: Monterey is a working-class town that sits on the central coast of California on Monterey Bay. Its claim to fame is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but the town also boasts a laid back vibe and a bustling touristy Fisherman’s Wharf. Jayne and I, after driving over 1 1/2 hours from Danville, take a leisurely stroll past the marina and down Fisherman’s Wharf, with its candy-colored shops selling salt-water taffy, candied apples, roasted garlic heads and fresh seafood. We walk along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, enjoying the views of yachts set neatly in their moorings, fishing boats bobbing on the waves, and California harbor seals lounging in the water, like buoys, near the rocks.
According to the sign above: Monterey’s earliest pier of stone built in 1846 gave way to a commercial fishing wharf in the early 1900s when Monterey’s multi-million dollar fishing industry was born. Despite many changes, the wharf today retains the tone and flavor of the past — a monument to the fishing industry and the fishermen who braved the wind and sea.
California harbor seals enjoy basking in the sun at low tide. We enjoy watching the molting seals with their dog-like heads, minus external ears. It’s funny, they look like airplanes without wings that have come in for a water landing, heads and tails jutting up.
We continue our walk into the little town of Monterey, where we enjoy the views of the water from a platform near a dolphin statue. We don’t visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium today as we don’t have much time, and I just went to the Baltimore Aquarium in December. A person can handle only so many aquariums in a short time span.
From the platform we can see the remnants of Cannery Row, the sardine-canning business that at one time was Monterey’s lifeblood, immortalized by John Steinbeck’s novel, Cannery Row. The industry collapsed in the 1950s.
We enjoy wandering through a cute art gallery displaying the work of local artists.
There are no dairy farms in the city of Monterey; Monterey Jack cheese, in its earliest form, was made by the Mexican Franciscan friars of Monterey during the 19th century. Today’s semi-hard cheese known as Monterey Jack is produced near Carmel Valley and is named after businessman and land speculator David Jack.
We’re getting hungry, so we go in search of some restaurants that Jayne’s boyfriend found recommended in a recent newspaper article; we look in vain for the restaurants at the specified addresses. We finally find that the town has identical addresses on both sides of a central line, and we’ve been looking on the wrong side! By the time we orient ourselves properly, we find all the restaurants closed for their 2-5 break between dinner and lunch. Finally, we find an outdoor cafe where we have shrimp tacos and Corona Lights.
Finally, we head to see the Monarch Butterflies at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, also recommended in the aforementioned newspaper article.
The trees in the fog-shrouded Monterey Pine forest of Pacific Grove provide the micro-climate the Monarchs need: proper humidity, light, shade, temperature, and protection from the wind. Monarchs typically cluster on eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and Monterey cypress in the sanctuary. The Monarchs arrive in November and stay through late February, when they can feed on the nectar from the winter-blooming Australian eucalyptus trees.
The Monarchs are not easy to spot, and we finally see a group of people peering off into the trees with binoculars. Luckily, some of the people share their binoculars and point off into the distance where all we can see is a dark cluster of what looks like densely packed brown leaves, with other brown-leaves fluttering around the large cluster. Those are the Monarchs. Oh well. Because we can barely see them, much less photograph them, we don’t stay long. The view was a bit less than spectacular. 🙂
Next, we head south from Monterey to the famous 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach.