My 15th visit in Monterey, California since the ’70s, and it seemed like it was the first. A fun and relaxing August weekend in Monterey with my son John, daughter-in-law Natasha and grandson Eliott flashed back fond memories of early visits when my children were younger, and my husband was the tour guide and driver to numerous relatives and friends visiting California. Monterey was our favorite go-to place for sightseeing, beach strolling, seafood dining, or just breathing in fresh ocean air. Last weekend was not lacking in any of these pleasurable amenities and advantages. It felt good to play tourist again.
Stunning Monterey (Photos by John S. Jacob)
Arriving early Friday evening after a two-hour drive from the Bay Area, my son suggested the excellent idea of a leisurely walk on Cannery Row by the bay. Cannery Row made me think of Christmas. Lights glittered in the stores and buildings on both sides of the street. Trees were decked with multicolored bulbs around their trunks. There was jovial spirit in the air. Or was it the repetitive whisper of the breeze from the Pacific Ocean nearby? I didn’t mind the slightly nippy weather that evening. Not to my family either, as we trekked into the Ghirardelli ice cream shop for our delectable favorites. Even my grandson’s pet dog Burt delightedly sat on the store’s cool patio floor and welcomed another dog’s friendly approach.
We “chilled”, meaning relaxed and rested as we slurped and gulped our ice cream scoops. Seated closest to the heat lamp, I could have lingered there all night, just surveying the colorfully bright surroundings and people watching. But we had to get back to our hotel for the next day’s schedule, which was the aquarium.
No long lines by the Aquarium entrance because visits were efficiently organized and scheduled with prior reservations. But inside were crowds of people, more than I had expected. Everyone was masked, except in dining areas where people were eating. Surprisingly, I realized that I had seen so much more of the facility this time than any time before. Unlike before, we entered all the halls where varieties of sea life were exhibited and explained. Peering at vibrant movements in deep water behind the glass walls inspired me to contemplate on how rich the ocean is with creatures and plants in a world by themselves. Made me think of Disney’s little mermaid who longed to be on the street, when in fact her world is just as fascinating and beautiful. Still working my lively imagination, I wondered if that big scaly carp, or graceful star fish, or dancing jelly fish wanted to be on the street, too. Oh but yes, the restless crabs do go on the shore, isn’t it? And those squids that ate little fishes made me think of Jonah in the belly of the whale, because I actually saw the fish inside the squids’ translucent bodies. Ah, but God saw Jonah in the belly of the whale. Funny how that aquarium tour worked my imagination.
The evening was an elegant gourmet experience at Passionfish restaurant in Pacific Grove. Not having gone to formal dining at a restaurant (except once) since the start of the pandemic, that dinner was truly impressive. I was so fascinated with the food presentations that I asked my son to take pictures of the dishes before the delicacies disappeared from our plates. I share some of the food pictures at the end of this blog.
The next day was packed with activities since we were scheduled to head back to the Bay Area in the afternoon. Most enjoyable was the 17-mile drive that never fails to get ooohs and aaaahs from me. Fifteen times, I’ve been there, and I’m always charmed by the scenery. The first stop, Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach is always a marvelous sight. While John, Natasha, Eliott and the pet dog Burt took a leisurely walk on the shore dotted with dried kelps, I sat on a log, breathing in the richness of the air, stared at the foamy waves that seemed to tease and taunt me to come play with them, the green surf waves heaving at the distance, the seagulls flying low – oh, quite heavenly!
And then of course, we just had to make a stop at the Lone Cypress, my favorite spot in the 17-mile drive. I was delighted to find that the wooden balcony with stairs going down to the viewing area was still there. The lone cypress isn’t solitary anymore. A second cypress is perched beside it on the rock. But the view was spectacularly the same – though the waves were less cantankerous, the sea less assertive, and the rocks jutted out of the water more prominently this time. But all in all, it was the same stunning beauty all around.
Before driving back to the Bay Area, we stopped at Stillwater restaurant in Pebble Beach. We had a table by the window overlooking a panoramic view of the calm bay. The view was too perfect (if there’s such a thing) that it looked more like an oversized painting except for the few moving figures traipsing the expansive lawn before the water’s edge. Working my imagination – the figures looked like marionettes performing in front of a Monet painting on canvas. The colors were pastel, soothing and pastoral, much like a Monet. As I stared at the scenery, I wanted to be among the figures lurking below, only to realize that the figures were very little children scrambling away from a chasing Mom. Focused back on the enticing food on our table, I decided, no, I’d rather be inside, enjoying my golden fresh and crisp fish and chips than be on the lawn by the waterfront.
Ah, back to the Bay Area, back home, with more memories of a haven among the loveliest on earth, Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel.
Unforgettable scrumptious dinners at Monterey and Pacific Grove – halibut, oysters, beet salad, lemon panna cotta. (Photos by John SJ)