Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Belated Blurb on Monterey

So after almost 7 years of living here in Sacto, we FINALLY took a long weekend trip to the Monterey Peninsula at the beginning of the month (May 5-8). We headed out on Thursday afternoon to avoid the traffic and arrived in Monterey around 5pm. E had found a good deal at the Hilton Garden Inn near Monterey Peninsula College, and since he's now got "Gold" status with the Hilton Honors program, we get lots of extra perks at Hilton properties! In this case, our room was upgraded to a suite, and the morning extensive cooked-to-order buffet breakfast was complimentary. Our first room assignment was rather unsuccessful, as the windows opened onto the parking lot near the highway, but when E called to ask about availability of a quieter location, we were quickly transferred to an interior (and larger) suite that overlooked the courtyard and pool area. Much nicer!

Thursday 5/5
We headed to Cannery Row to check out this renovated tourist area and find a spot for dinner. The views of the Monterey Bay were beautiful, and we had drinks and $1.99 shrimp cocktail at a restaurant overlooking the water. Not impressed with the service, however, we decided to search for another dinner spot. We walked along Cannery Row and tried a few other locations, with no success (menus and/or price for value didn't look appealing), but we did notice a public parking lot with a $5 all-day rate that would be useful for the next day.

After fetching Odo from the parking garage, we headed into downtown Monterey to see what we could find. We located the Trader Joe's (always helpful for picking up snacks and wine) and found a great Thai place just around the corner for dinner. Yum! I discovered a tasty local wine from Otter Cove as well, which then formed the basis for a wine purchase quest for the rest of the weekend.

Friday 5/6
Today was our designated Aquarium day. I had purchased discount tickets through AAA in advance, so we didn't have to wait in line at all. We perused a few exhibits on the first floor but made a point of getting to the Otter exhibit in time for the 10:30am feeding & training. Sea otters are so adorable! They remind me of Captain Jack for some reason, with their frisky natures and furry little faces.

After the otters, we continued to tour the first floor, spending time looking at the octopus, the different marine environments, and the aviary. In the touch pools room, we petted a velvet-y ray, a squishy sea cucumber, and some rough sea stars. We took advantage of some of the outdoor balcony areas to get panoramic views of the Bay, including spying some sea lions on a buoy and some sea otters "rafting" in a kelp bed, thanks to the telescopes on the landing. At that point, we were just in time to head back to the giant kelp forest tank to watch the feeding presentation and learn about the different creatures in the water.

Unfortunately, the jellies exhibit is undergoing renovation, so we missed out on that, but we got to see the "Secret Lives of Seahorses" and an exhibit about the threats to sharks, tunas, and turtles. We considered having lunch at the Aquarium but weren't overly impressed by the offerings. On our way out, we noticed that we were in time for a live presentation,"Waves and Windmills," which focused on how scientists and engineers are looking to nature for technological inspiration. For example, some windmills have scalloped edges on their blades that mimic the edge of a fish fin, which is more efficient for moving through air. And a German car-maker discovered that a boxy-shaped fish was the most aerodynamic, so it's designed a car with the same silhouette. After the presentation, we made a few purchases at the gift shop (including some silver sea otter earrings!) and then headed a few blocks away to find a lunch spot.

We selected a Japanese restaurant and enjoyed our Bento boxes. The evening before, we had noticed a wine-tasting room (closed at the time), so we wanted to see what was on offer for area wineries. The facility did have Otter Cove wine available (the one I'd liked at the Thai restaurant), but it was a bit pricey so I decided to keep looking for another possible vendor.

Since we didn't have any other plans for the afternoon, we decided to take a scenic drive along the Coast, up towards Pacific Grove and the Asilomar Conference Grounds. On the way back, we cut through downtown Pacific Grove to see some of the Victorian houses. When we got back to the hotel, we checked out some potential dinner sites on the Business Center computers. E was interested in trying a local brewery, and we found Peter B's in historic downtown Monterey. We both enjoyed the samplers of 5 brews along with some nachos, but we didn't feel like having dinner there.

Instead, we went across the street to a wine bar we'd noticed the previous evening while driving around. The wine-tasting system was "self-serve" style: you purchase credit on a card to insert into several machines hooked up to different wines and then you select the wine and the amount of the taste (1 oz - 6 oz). The machine automatically dispenses the wine and deducts the amount from your card, and you continue 'til you're done. Brilliant! Quite coincidentally, the wine bar was also hosting a tasting of 3 Sierra Nevada beers - Mr. E's favorite - so he was quite content sipping his brew as I sipped the wine. I also found a bottle of the yummy Otter Cove wine that I'd had at the Thai restaurant, and the price was lower than at the wine-tasting room in Cannery Row, which made the purchase even more appealing.

To wrap up the evening, we got some snacks at Trader Joe's and went back to the hotel to watch a movie-on-0demand ("Skyline").

Saturday 5/7
I went for a 10K run along the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail, which borders the bay and includes some parts of an old railroad line (rails-to-trails project). I was accompanied for part of the time by a gaggle of service members doing a 3-mile run, but I didn't get swarmed by the pack since I had a head start on 'em. Phew!

Today we allocated to wine-tasting in Carmel Valley Village. The AAA Via Magazine had a recent article about tasting rooms, which was perfect timing for a little research and advance planning. We stopped first in Carmel (by-the-Sea) to walk around this famously quaint yet extremely wealthy little village. Neither of us was terribly impressed with the experience, given the narrow and bumpy sidewalks (how does the City manage to avoid ADA lawsuits?), the overpriced boutique stores, and the general sense of pretentiousness. I'm glad we stopped for a visit, but once was definitely enough. The one good part of the visit was finding a fabulous mug from a coffee shop that has a sea otter as its mascot!

Our wine-tasting experiences were much more positive. Since we were in the area prior to the busy summer tourist season, we didn't encounter too many people, and all of the wine tasting staff were very friendly and willing to chat. Our first stop was at Chateau Julien, followed by Heller (all organic), Talbott, and Georis (our favorite). We enjoyed the latter sitting in a lovely outdoor garden accompanied by food from the on-site cafe. The weather was ideal - cool but sunny - so the al fresco dining was especially welcome.

We returned to Monterey and finished off our inadvertent Asisan-themed dining weekend with dinner at a Chinese restaurant across from Trader Joe's (yes, the TJ definitely became a landmark for us!).

Sunday 5/8
After enjoying our final yummy breakfast at the hotel, we hit the road and were back in Sac by about 1:15pm, with plenty of time for laundry, grocery shopping, and the usual weekend chores. Overall, a really pleasant and relaxing weekend getaway, and a great time of year to visit before the tourists descend in hordes!


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