A Day in Monterey

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Today Abby, baby Genesis and I headed down the coast a bit to Monterey. The drive down was gorgeous, and it was amazing to watch the landscape change from mountains to redwoods to dunes and farmland…there is a lot going on in this state, for sure. We arrived around lunch time and were starving, so we quickly parked by the beach and took a stroll down the fisherman’s warf.

The place is lined with restaurants (didn’t think to get a picture of this–you’ll just have to believe me that it’s intense), all basically with the same menu at the same price point, all offering the same view off the two sides of the pier. In our first few steps, we were stopped by a girl standing outside one of these restaurants, offering clam chowder samples out of a vat in a cart. A little surprised, we happily accepted, and sipped our little plastic cups (it really was delicious) while she told us all about how stroller friendly they were, about the beautiful ocean-view table she had for us, and gave us a card for a free calamari appetizer. We decided to walk all the way down the strip before deciding.

As soon as we turned away from her, though, we realized that her tactic was not at all unique. Outside of every restaurant was a man or woman offering samples of THEIR chowder and talking up THEIR eateries. Since we were still holding our little sample cups, we were immediate targets for the “Come on over here and compare” pitch. One could easily, we soon realized, eat a whole meals’ worth of chowder in samples just walking down the pier. It was a bit intimidating, but sorta hilarious too.

We avoided getting another chowder sample and walked to the end of the pier, where I got to meet my first seals and sea lions outside of a zoo. They were really fun to watch for a few minutes. Most were lounging in the sun on a wooden platform, but others had formed a sort of…seal clump in the water, and were just floating on their backs with flippers sticking up out of the water. A boat came through, and had to come to a full stop and drive around them.

After seal-gawking for a few minutes, we chose the path of least resistance and returned to that first restaurant for lunch (much to the delight of the chowder-hawker out front). This turned out to be a fantastic idea; the food was delicious. The free calamari did not suck (I was a bit surprised by this) and our blackened fish sandwiches were wonderful. We chatted, watched a seagull hang out on the window next to us, and enjoyed a nice leisurely lunch while Genesis continued napping.

Eventually, though, she did wake up, and we headed on over to the Monterey Aquarium, which is awesome. I especially enjoyed the jellyfish exhibit, and the huge tank with sturgeon, seven-gilled sharks and lots of other fishies. So cool. There were a lot of beautiful tanks there, and we had a great time. Sadly, due to dogged interference by a small boy intent on violently splashing, I didn’t get to pet a ray, which was a drag. But, I DID get to pet a sea cucumber, which was…sorta gross actually. Not slimy, just squishy feeling.

After the aquarium we made a brief stop at The Twisted Stitch so I could get my yarn fix (you didn’t really think I’d be able to come home without finding a yarn shop, did you?). I had a lovely chat with the proprietor, Dawn, about the rationalization of vacation yarn as souvenir rather than stash, and she helped me pick out an appropriately California yarn. We did, however, find perfectly good reasons for me to buy yarns from Europe (she’s from Whales, and Europe is right next to Whales, so it’s basically all the same thing), from Australia (she has an accent, so an argument could be made, since they also have accents), or from Lorna’s Laces, because they started out in California. Smart woman, Dawn. I did manage to limit myself to one skein, but only by exercising self control.

It has really been a lovely day. But I’m being called to the table, where Abby’s brother has crafted a home-made BBQ sauce for grilled chicken, and then we’re going for FroYo. Yup, life is hard out here. 🙂

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