Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Monterey

Seals, whales, otters—the promise of dramatic sea life was one of the things that drew us to Monterey, and our weekend did not disappoint. Saturday afternoon, when we arrived, we headed to the Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch and spotted seals sunning themselves on rocks around the harbor. We sat outside to eat—fish and chips for Andrew, clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl for me—and even saw seals swimming in the water just beneath our terrace.

There were more seals, as well as large pelicans and many other birds, in view as we made the 17 Mile Drive along the coastline. The wildlife, cypresses, and dramatic sea were almost overshadowed, however, by the extravagant mansions lining much of the drive and the overwhelming abundance of ridiculously expensive cars. There is a lot of money in Monterey, and even as we ate breakfast on Sunday morning at a little café in town, we saw Lamborghinis and Porches and Ferraris drive idly by. Even a few of the cars in the parking lot of our lovely overnight abode, the EconoLodge, were carefully covered up for the night in heavy car blankets.

We did a little writer’s-ghost-hunting this weekend, walking around Cannery Row, the setting for several Steinbeck novels. Andrew had bought a few used Steinbecks as a little getaway preparation on Friday, and now I can read Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row with their settings (well, versions of them) clear in my mind.

As we left Monterey behind on Sunday, en route to Santa Cruz, we drove through Castroville, the self-proclaimed Artichoke Capital of the World. Fields of artichoke plants surrounded the town, and we were disappointed that we’d already eaten and missed out on the Giant Artichoke restaurant, whose door was flanked by, yes, an enormous artichoke. We walked around town just a bit, clear outsiders among the Spanish-speaking crowds. So close to Monterery, this town was a different world, almost a different country. When we got on our way, the farmland continued, field after field of cauliflower and strawberries and squash.

Our final stop was Santa Cruz, where we were found ourselves on a true beach boardwalk. Roller-coasters soared over our heads; large spinning saucers raised screaming riders high above the sand. The water, sadly, was too cold for swimming, so we walked along the pier and did some seal-watching.

And then we were homeward bound, away from the Lamborghinis and back to our slightly less moneyed neighbor, the Sunrise Mall.

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