Story and photos by Melanie Votaw

Monterey Steinbeck Plaque

Mythical Monterey, California

Made mythical by John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row”, Monterey, California is now a tourism mecca on the unforgettable California coastline. Just outside of the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the  world, I saw the circle of life unfold right in front of me. While  photographing a small, bright red crab swimming alone on the surface of  the Pacific, a gull swooped down and turned that crab into lunch. This  is one of the things I love most about the aquarium there. You can see  captive animals indoors and watch wild ones just outside from a raised  platform.

Monterey Seagul

Monterey Bay is a protected national marine sanctuary that extends 35 miles  offshore, covers more than 5,000 square miles, and contains nearly 350  species of fish. If you want to check out the water yourself, it’s a  popular cold-water diving location, or you can rent a kayak.

Monterey Aquarium Jellyfish

The exhibits inside the aquarium include a kelp forest, squid, giant  Pacific octopus, penguins, and otters. There is also an array of  jellyfish. Most exciting for me was seeing rare comb jellyfish that  light up in rainbow colors from within. I had never seen them in person  before, and it’s difficult to believe their lights are real without  electricity.

One of the most popular activities in Monterey is cruising on the water for whale watching or fishing. Depending on the time of year, you can see  orcas (killer whales), humpbacks, gray whales, dolphins, and even the  largest mammal that has ever lived... the blue whale. There aren’t many  places where you can see blue whales, so spotting one is a special  treat. Just be careful. The day I chose to take a cruise, the water was  so choppy that the excursion was pointless. No one could stand up on the deck. We got a fleeting glimpse of whale tale flukes, while a woman  near me propelled her breakfast onto the floor. They never should have  taken us out that morning and should have provided refunds. But they  didn’t. Meanwhile, all companies canceled the remaining cruises of the  day. My advice would be to trust the weather forecast rather than the  decision of the boating establishments.

Monterey Fisherman's Warf

While safely on land, I kept myself busy for hours just stepping into shops  in Monterey, mostly on Cannery Row or the historic Fisherman’s Wharf.  You won’t find so many chain stores here, which makes it much more  interesting. There are art galleries and a large number of jewelers... even one named after Steinbeck.

Monterey Cannery Row

As you walk along Cannery Row, you won’t be allowed to forget about  Steinbeck for long. There are statues of him, and the Spirit of Monterey Wax Museum has a 20-minute history exhibit about his life and the  sardine canneries. Won Yee’s Wing Chong Market still stands and is still owned by his family since it opened in 1918. He was the inspiration for Lee Chong in Steinbeck’s novel. Historic buildings are everywhere in  the area. The ocean-view Spindrift Inn was built in 1927, and the  Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa was constructed in 1901.

Monterey Olive Bar

One of my favorite shops in town is Monterey’s Tasty Olive Bar. The store  contains more than 70 varieties of oils and vinegars, and you can taste  nearly every one of them while you’re there. Then, they bottle your  choices on the spot, or you can order from their website. I especially  loved the vegan butter-flavored olive oil and have ordered another  bottle since my visit in September. It’s great with popcorn.

As you stroll, you can pose for an old time portrait at Doc Wenzel’s and  pick up some delicious salt water taffy to munch on. Then, rent a surrey or bike, and ride around the Monterey Recreational Trail.

Most of what you want to see in Monterey is walkable, but if you rent a car, you can explore some of the other nearby towns. It isn’t far to Big  Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pacific Grove, and Pebble Beach, among others,  as well as some of the local wineries. Cannery Row even has its own  Taste of Monterey Wine Market & Bistro. There are also a number of  restaurants throughout the region that provide a view as you eat. In  Monterey, one such restaurant is The C at The Clement Hotel.

Of course, seafood is the number one cuisine choice in Monterey, but  there’s a wide variety of food available for discerning palates. I  enjoyed Louie Linguini’s. Don’t let the silly name fool you. I had an  excellent Piccata Pacific Snapper fillet there. They also serve pasta and have a kids’ menu.

Monterey County is artichoke country, so you’ll see plenty of artichokes on the  local menus. A Grilled artichoke with garlic mayonnaise is a popular  dish. I enjoyed mine at the highly recommended Domenico’s on Fisherman’s Wharf.

Monterey The Clement

While the number one hotel in Monterey for luxury travelers is probably The  Clement, now an Intercontinental property right on the water, I stayed  in the 3-star Monterey Hotel in the old downtown area, which is a short  walk from Cannery Row and the waterfront. The rooms in the old part of  the property are tiny and with spotty WiFi, so steer clear of those. But I stayed in the Fireplace Suite in the newer building. It was on par  with luxury hotels and is recommended if other luxury properties aren’t  available.

Monterey is one of those places that lives up to its reputation. It’s a great  mix of the natural world and the man-made world. The pace is leisurely,  allowing you to fill your days as much or as little as you like with a  variety of activities for all ages.

 

 

 

© January 2017 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.

 

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