The California central coast south of San Francisco includes the oceanside towns of Monterey and Carmel and Pacific Grove. The ocean is wild here with the smell of kelp forests and sightings of pelicans and sea otters.
The San Carlos Cathedral is oldest church in California. Located in Old Monterey, it is a peaceful spot with a Lady of Lourdes grotto and beautiful plantings. Inside are beautiful colors. The current building was completed in 1794 and was most recently renovated in 2007. It is the oldest continuously used church in California. http://www.sancarloscathedral.org/
The Monterey State Historic Park (MSHP) begins in the Customs Plaza. The MSHP is a collection of historic buildings and adobes throughout Old Monterey. You can walk along the Monterey Path of History to see the exteriors and the gardens. For tours, be sure to check in at the Pacific House Museum. https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=951
The Robert Louis Stevenson House is part of the Monterey State Historic Park. This 1830 adobe home has a gorgeous garden in the courtyard. The house served as a hotel in the 1870s and Robert Louis Stevenson spent time here preparing some of his books and courting his future wife Fanny Osbourne. The house has Stevenson artifacts. Check at the Monterey State Historic Park for tour information. http://www.historicmonterey.org/historicbuildings/stevenson-house/
Cannery Row Monterey
The Cannery Row waterfront area on Monterey Bay has a rich history including Native Americans, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Mexican, Filipino, Norwegian, Scottish, and Japanese peoples. The Chinese settlement from the 1850s began the area’s fame as a fishing center. In the early 1900s, canning of sardines became a boom industry, supplying food for the Armed Forces in World War I and II. John Steinbeck lived and wrote in the area, with a great influence by his friend marine biologist Ed Ricketts, who set up Pacific Biological Laboratories. Steinbeck used the area in Tortilla Flats, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and other novels.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is at the western end of Cannery Row in the old Portola Sardine cannery. The aquarium has been open since 1984 and led the way for aquarium programs everywhere. Even though it has been around for over 30 years, this aquarium is one of the most vibrant and interesting I’ve visited (and we’ve been to a LOT of aquariums!). The entrance lobby has an exhibit that explains the sardine cannery industry history. The sea otter tank is a big favorite with children. The kelp forest tank explains the forest that is thriving out in the bay and lends its scent to the Monterey waterfront. I absolutely loved the aviary. It’s set up as a shorebird habitat with sand dune plants and gentle water. I’ve never been so close to a black necked stilt, Western snowy plover, or avocet. The entry fees are $49.95 for adults and $29.95 for children 3 through 12. Though high, you can spend many hours in the exhibits. If driving, there are a couple pay parking decks within a few blocks of the aquarium. https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/
Crepes of Brittany is on Alvarado Street near the Custom House Plaza. The friendly staff offers large, plate-size sweet and savory crepes along with very good coffee (full barista bar). The savory crepes are made with buckwheat. We tried the ham/egg/cheese/ and banana crepes, so good! This part of Alvarado Street is for pedestrians, so if you are coming by car, go into the tunnel on Lighthouse Avenue and take an immediate right onto Tyler Street (downtown exit). Take a right on Del Monte Avenue and enter the parking garage on the right. Street parking in the neighborhood is also available. https://www.oldmonterey.org/biz/crepes-brittany
Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle is the breakfast diner of my dreams. It is located on Municipal Wharf 2. The tiny diner is next to the docks. If you eat outside (7 tables), you have a view of the beach and Seaside. If you eat inside (4 tables and the counter), the windows look west across the bay. The menu has omelets, wraps, French toast, and pancakes. The pancake is called the Hubcap and it is actually that big! They’ve won awards for their food, and fresh vegetables, shrimp, crab, calamari, and linguica are all available. Loulou’s is closed on Tuesdays, and is open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Monday. http://www.loulousgriddle.com/
Ghiradelli has a chocolate and ice cream shop near the center of Cannery Row. The ice cream is very good and I enjoyed ordering a sundae. The dark chocolate hot fudge actually tastes better than I’ve had elsewhere. The front of the store is a candy shop with all the Ghiradelli flavors you’ve heard of, and some that are seasonally special. https://www.ghirardelli.com/locator/monterey-ca#Iy4PytwIo7wuCBL0.97
The C restaurant + bar is located in the Intercontinental Hotel on Cannery Row. The restaurant follows the Seafood Watch of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This high-end restaurant has lovely atmosphere with huge windows looking out on the bay. The service is outstanding, the food is great, they have live music. Check the wine list for interesting cocktails. You can get flights of California or international sparkling wines. http://www.thecrestaurant-monterey.com/
Map Monterey and Carmel
- The Monterey Peninsula Toy Box
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
- Pacific Grove Heritage Home walking tour
- Top 12 Carmel restaurants from Michael Bauer
- John Steinbeck biography from the Nobel Prize
In Part 2 we will go to Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea.
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