What to Do with a Day in Monterey

Recently, I was able to attend the English USA conference in Monterey, CA. Due to the inconvenience of getting to and from anyplace to Chadron, USA, I was able to spend an entire Saturday enjoying the sights of the seaside before returning home. Monterey is part of California’s Central Coast (map), a region I had never visited before. Monterey Bay is also a National Marine Sanctuary: bonus!

I woke up to sunshine and rain, a rare sight, especially since I had come from clouds and snow. I got an early start in order to find a geocache. I found myself underneath a big tree.

big tree dnf

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the geocache, but the beauty of geocaching is that you get to see many places you would otherwise pass by. Here’s the view from the big tree looking toward the bay.

view from dnf

Hungry from my unsuccessful search, I followed this sign then veered right, away from the touristic Fisherman’s Wharf toward the Municipal Wharf, where I had some strawberry-chocolate french toast at a very crowded joint called LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle.

bay this way

Thus fortified, I hit the recreation trail toward the Aquarium. I enjoy taking photos of the features I’m reading about while I’m reading about them. Here, that’s not the parking lot, it’s the breakwall.


If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know that I write it because I am interested in place. Sometimes I become discouraged that all of the U.S. has become homogenized. There is no longer the kind of character that existed in the golden age of the road novel and Rte 66. Occasionally I am rewarded with a sign like the one seen below (also along the recreation trail), and even though it announces a hazard zone, it reminds me that there is still a lot of beautiful variation in our country.

tsunami amaze sign

And now for an image you’ve all been waiting for: water!

ocean at bottom of stairs

I stayed for a long time trying to capture the moment when the coming wave broke. I didn’t do it justice, but it was a life giving experience. This photo was taken at the bottom of a flight of stairs, and every time a wave would break, I would run giggling halfway up the staircase while the water covered the bottom three or four steps. Then I would come back down and try again.

Finally, I made my way further into the belly of the Cannery Row beast.

cannery row

You probably can’t read it. Before a session at the conference during which I got to hear a five-minute rant about how overused John Steinbeck is in all Central Coast college curricula, I had NO idea that Steinbeck had written a book called Cannery Row, much less have I read it. I read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, though, and this quote reminded me of that. It says,

“The cannery whistles scream and all over the town men and women scramble into their clothes and come running down to the row to go to work…The canneries rumble and rattle and squeek until the last fish is cleaned and cut and cooked and canned and then the whistles scream again and the dripping, smelly, tired Wops and Chinamen and Polaks, men and women, straggle out and droop their ways up the hill into the town and Cannery Row becomes itself again – quiet and magical.”

It was just past this sign that I finally found a geocache to prove I was in California.

Finally, I reached the tourist nightmare that is contemporary Cannery Row.

cannery tourism

I stopped and sat in Steinbeck plaza for a while, then bummed around the free parts outside of the Aquarium and captured this picture for you of more water!

more water

Mmm, water.

Sunburned and hungry, I retreated to Fisherman’s Wharf for pizza to fortify me for the next geocache, the one I knew I had to get, my ultimate goal for the day. After I found it, I visited the building pictured below: Colton Hall.

colton hall

Be excited for me because this, my dear readers, is the spot where on October 13, 1849, “delegates signed and submitted to the people a constitution for the state of California.” Hooray! The hall is now a musuem. If you squint, you can see in the bottom right corner one of the many commemorative plaques embedded in the sidewalk. One of them, to my delight, says,

“1542 FIRST RECORDED SIGHTING OF MONTEREY BAY Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator sailing for Spain, sights Monterey and names it ‘Baia de los Pinos,’ Bay of the Pines.”

My day was absolutely made at this point, but I still had Whalefest to attend, a festival of music and activities celebrating environmental awareness right outside the back door of my hotel.

Later in the evening, I would go to the spa and order a room service dinner of olives, hummus, and cake. However, I think that an appropriate conclusion to this post is this photo of a lighthouse lantern that I took in one of the buildings hosting Whalefest.


I hope this post was as illuminating for you as the trip was for me.


2 thoughts on “What to Do with a Day in Monterey

  1. T says he feels illuminated! I am in awe of the water and of the lighthouse. What an amazing experience and you lived it first hand! I’m not so sure about olives, hummus and cake though. Each on it’s own is delicious, it’s together I’m not so sure about. Please keep these posts coming. They delight us. Thank you for allowing us to share your journey.

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