The drive of a lifetime
We had already experienced some of the Pacific Coast Highway when we drove down to San Diego and passed through Laguna Beach. It was fairly spectacular and we were expecting great things when we headed on the same road but going north, to Carmel and Monterey.
It’s safe to say that the much talked about highway exceeded all expectations. Possibly the best drive that Laura and I have ever been on. Not sure if it will ever be topped! Although I know that Laura has seen parts of Australia that she said were very beautiful. There were some parts on the highway in Big Sur where we couldn’t tell where the ocean ended and the sky started, it was all so blue. There were lots of stop off points along the way, including one before the Bixby Bridge, which is the largest bridge of its kind on the highway. My mum doesn’t like going over the Thelwall Viaduct on the M6, she definitely wouldn’t like Bixby!
We opted to stay in Monterey, basically because what we spent on three nights there, would have cost us the same as one night in the nearby Carmel-by-the-sea. Plus Monterey wasn’t a million miles away from Carmel, just a few minutes drive in the car, so we knew we could experience both at the same time.
Our luck has been in our favour in terms of being in the right place at the right time on this holiday. In Santa Barbara we were there the same time as the Viva La Fiesta, in Vegas we were there the same time as Scentsy, a conference for people (mainly women) selling flame less candles – we didn’t attend, and in Monterey we turned up on the day of their weekly market. This may not sound that exciting but it had lots of food so it excited Laura and me! We had some calamari that was very fresh and very delicious.
I know that we have said we have liked every place that we have visited so far on this trip, but that’s genuinely the case. Each town/city has been different and unique along the way. I have noticed the general change as we have got further up north, they have become more quirky and quaint the further up we have travelled.
Monterey downtown was very small but nicely done. Makes me think that to have an effective city or town ‘centre’ you really don’t have to do much. Keep it clean and well maintained and perhaps keep an eye on the size of it, perhaps not try to do too much with it. Thinking of the awful City Sentral place in Hanley that is currently under construction, it’s a pointless exercise. The main high street can’t cope as it is, without the competition of a new development half a mile away. There is only a couple of main streets in Monterey and that’s enough, that’s all it needs – plus parking is cheaper!
There is a place called Fisherman’s Wharf on the pier at Monterey. Lots of seafood places along the way, Laura tested some fresh crab and I continued with my fixation on clam chowder which they serve in huge bowls of sour dough bread. Delicious. We managed to get a sea view table over the harbour and watched seals play in the waters whilst we ate.
After we went in search of a bar. The only one we could find was The Britannia Arms, an English bar in downtown. It was ok apart from when the karaoke started. The first performance was of a song I had never heard of, with a woman doing some seductive dancing to go with it. Embarrassing wasn’t the word, Laura couldn’t watch. It didn’t get any better, a young guy went on to murder Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York New York’ but his friends kept cheering “yeah! Go buddy!” which provided the singer with false belief that he was any good. Then came on a rapper, who selected a song with lyrics that were only explicit and then who danced during the musical interlude (I’ve never seen Snoop Dogg do that, although Laura tells me he now goes by the name of Snoop Lion after being ‘spiritualised’ in Jamaica). The final performance we saw was the best, a guy singing a country song, but unfortunately we don’t like country music, so we left the not so English bar.
17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach and a golf buggy experience
17 Mile Drive is the name of a road that sits in an area. I assume it’s called 17 Mile Drive because it lasts for 17 miles, it certainly felt that way when Susan the Sat Nav kept getting me lost as we tried to find the exit!
You have to pay an entrance fee to this exclusive area of about $10 per car. It’s free if you go in on bike. Lots of wealth in this area (plenty of irrigation) and a golf course that is world famous and has hosted the US Open. Again, it has spectacular views of the bay and lots of stop off places that you can pause to soak up the moment and take lots of pictures.
The temperature in Monterey is much cooler. You can get away with shorts and t-shirts but you need a jumper at times as the breeze is quite strong. For us however, it still feels hot! It’s England on a good day.
The woman with the golf buggy
Laura had informed me we were going to Pebble Beach to sunbathe and instructed me to wear the appropriate clothing, which I did. It was still windy though and as we were surrounded by a golf course I made it clear to Laura I had no intention of taking so much as one layer of clothing off in front of a Tiger Woods wannabe.
We carefully followed the signs to the beach, on foot. Followed them all the way through a golf course (I had a vision of being cracked with a golf ball) until we reached the coast and there was still no beach. We decided to retrace our steps and make our way back towards the car. We walked up this little footpath – or so we thought. As we walked up, a not so very delightful lady was driving down in her golf buggy. She shouts at us that a golf tournament is starting and we need to get off this golf buggy path and instead we should use the road. So Laura and I promptly cross over to the road and make our way up that. Near the end of this road I hear the familiar sound of a golf buggy behind us, trying to get past. Laura refuses to move out of the middle of the road “she told me to walk up this road, so that’s where I am walking, I am not moving. Is it her? Is it the same woman?” I like in all situations like these, get the giggles. Next thing the lady (same one) from the buggy shouts out “hey girls, you looking for the beach, hop on, I will give you a ride!”
And before you know it we are sat on this woman’s golf buggy being chauffeured around the resort. I am still laughing, Laura’s warning me to contain myself. She said after maybe the lady felt guilty for shouting at us for being on her path. Not so sure, either way she took us to a deserted beach that was completely sheltered. The ocean was calm, if not cold, and we enjoyed some exclusive sunbathing!
We had read about this place called Cannery Row which is a waterfront street where traditionally they use to sell fish (I think). We couldn’t find it on the first night but managed to get there on the second evening of our stay. As we walked down in the early evening, Laura was disgusted to overhear two oldish men talking. “Oh my God, did you hear what they were talking about?” she said to me, “they were talking about spandex, dirty men” I explained to Laura that I, too, had heard parts of their conversation and they were actually talking about John Steinbeck, who is heavily associated with that area. There are quotes from him plastered all over the place. He is very much their claim to fame.
We decided to have a drink at the Cannery Row Brewing Company, which is based in what was probably an old warehouse. It was massive inside, had just about every sport you could imagine playing on the TV screens, and outside on the terrace there were all of these fire pits which appear to be very popular in Monterey. I can see why, they enable you to stay outside for longer without getting cold and of course they look great at night with the sound of the ocean behind you.
Laura decided that we should take part in the trivia evening they were doing. Thank goodness you had to be inside to play, I am not confident about English general knowledge let alone American, and like all things American, it would never be what you expected.
Sam and Michelle
The fire pits had four sides to them, they were set out in a square shape. Opposite us was an American couple called Sam and Michelle. They were in Monterey on ‘vacation’ and lived halfway between San Diego and LA. We got chatting to them and they, like many others we have spoken to, told us how we should have gone to Old Vegas when we were in Las Vegas. We really regret not going but time was limited when we were there so we will just have to go back!
Sam and Michelle bought us a shot called Chocolate Cake. It came with a slice of lemon at the side. You had to drink it and then suck on the lemon, a bit like when you have a tequila (which we don’t) but only this drink tastes really nice! It is yellow in appearance and I am not sure where the chocolate element comes from but it certainly smelt like a cake.
Americans, particularly the ones we have come into contact with, have been remarkably friendly. We only spent a couple of hours with Sam and Michelle and they were giving us email addresses and practically inviting us to stay. I had witnessed a similar incident the day before of two families who met over breakfast at Denny’s. They hadn’t even tucked into their bacon and they were exchanging gifts of temporary tattoos, which I thought was a bit odd but each to their own!
The aquarium in Monterey is one of the best in the world. What Americans do, they do very well. Huge tanks of different species of fish, jellyfish, sea horses, sharks, birds and seals. Massive selection, all with lots of different activities for children to do. It was well worth the visit and had it have not been so busy then we would have stayed longer.
Laura’s friends, Fran and Iain, did a very similar trip to us when they were on honeymoon three years ago. They recommended to us a Greek restaurant in Carmel and so we made a point of going. We went early afternoon so we could get a table. I had read up on Trip Advisor and knew it had outstanding reviews.
The owner was over the moon when he heard we had come on a recommendation. He thanked us several times. He was very humble considering the walls of the restaurant were covered in awards and write ups about the place. It wasn’t anything flash either, small, cosy and intimate, but very, very popular. We were there late afternoon and we got the last table.
Food was better than what you get in Greece, and I love Greek food! The chef came out halfway through the meal and serenaded the restaurant with his father (they do this quite often in America, we have discovered). It was very nice, everybody was clapping along with them. I wondered if we would start throwing plates and dancing around to Zorba the Greek, but we didn’t. So glad we took the trip to Carmel to go. It’s not expensive and the food was outstanding.
Laura’s theory is that you can tell if an area if wealthy if they have irrigation systems installed, my theory is that if there are art shops and galleries, it is definitely wealthy. There are no art shops in Fenton, even though they charge you 90p an hour to park (cannot get over this parking malarkey) but there were plenty of art shops and galleries in Carmel. It was very picturesque and lots of the little cottages had names such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’s House’ or ‘Lighthouse Lamp Inn’ just really enjoyable to look at.
Clint Eastwood lives there apparently, but like the lack of Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox in Malibu, we didn’t see him.
Santa Cruz for a few nights as of tomorrow. It’s a few degrees warmer there!