We do. I know, not the quote, but was running low on title options. Part of the agreement to move here included the necessity to travel more. Despite the fact that I did not do much travel growing up, I have always had 'the bug'. While we traveled some while overseas, one thing I have always regretted is how little I have traveled around my own country.
So, rather than going back to DC, we opted for a position that would allow us to live in a different part of the country and not only see it, but all of the areas surrounding it. Hello, CA!
I have to admit, I was a bit shell-shocked when we arrived. I was a bit nervous (yes, I can run rings around the Beltway, and the Jersey turnpike is my friend thanks to EZ-Pass, but) as not only was everything so new, but just seemed profoundly, well, big, for lack of a better word. We went into San Francisco twice in the first two months and that was plenty for me. For the first time in my life, I understood why people were overwhelmed when they moved to DC. I was...frozen.
Then I got up one day, had my cup of coffee, realized everything was running fairly smoothly, and got the itch to explore. After discussing this with Pete, we realized we needed to get away, even if for just a weekend. And the bonus? Only ONE destination! After our lost-count-of-how-many-stops-home-leave this summer, this was a pleasant change.
Part of the, er, perks (?) of his job is the ability to learn about different areas of Northern CA. One nearby area struck him while on the job (translation: reducing criminal activity in said area):
Monterey. In addition to plentiful parks and gorgeous beaches, it is host to the world-famous aquarium. With our kids and their love of water, especially the ocean, a visit was absolutely mandatory.
Our only other big aquarium experience is that of the Baltimore aquarium. Sadly, in comparison, I can now only say it is "o.k.". We were absolutely amazed by the depth of the building and the extent to which it seemed to be built to blend with the surrounding areas. The exhibits were very open, and it did not seem like the average aquarium with everything completely inside. There were also several play areas for all ages. That may not seem like much of a compliment, but I know the kids get overloaded with information and factoids and sometimes, just need to run around or play in the water.
Now we had one incident either the morning of/evening prior to our visit to the aquarium: the Peanut Shell disappeared. If you don't know, the Peanut Shell is my favorite front carrier for Nicky. I will most definitely find a replacement, as he just loves it. I tuck his little legs into the swami position (my name for it), tuck him into the sling and voila, he is happy as a clam. The best part? No stroller to park anywhere.
So, we were chagrined when the sling disappeared. Poof, gone. We looked everywhere, including the parking garage we utilized the previous night. Nada, nothing, and we had not brought either stroller. We ended up carrying him, and while I would prefer the sling, I have to say, if you ever do the Monterey aquarium and you have a babe-in-arms? Sling it, front-pack it, carry them on your shoulders...leave the stroller at home. Everywhere we went, it was a traffic jams of the 4-8 wheeled beasts. I love mine when pounding the pebbly path of the Iron Horse Trail or briskly walking to school in the a.m. In the Monterey aquarium? No, never.
And as one can see from the pictures, the boy had the time of his life. He was especially thrilled with the water area, which was not surprising, but has me thinking a sand/water table is in his near future. Now, I could write more about the aquarium (the otters, the many, many, many types of sea life, the extreme focus on conservation), but why don't you just visit for yourself
? And, yes, I also recommend a visit in person.
Was that all we accomplished in Monterey? Nope, not even close. Our first night was spent on Cannery Row
. I have to say, it was a bit touristy for my taste (the shopping part), but we arrived just in time for the lighting of the city Christmas tree, a visit from Santa, and Christmas carols. We opted for a seafood dinner at the edge of the beach, after picking from the appropriate fish suggestion list from the aquarium.
We spent the night at the Seaside Embassy Suites, and the girls spent much time in the pool along with the rest of the children in the jam-packed hotel. After a good night's rest and a visit to the aquarium, we headed off to Carmel-by-the-Sea. We weren't sure exactly what to do, and as it was getting dark and the masses were hungry, never actually ventured out. However, we did motor past a few cottages and happened upon a breathtaking sunset. It took our breath away, and frankly, right back to the sunsets that were incredible in Reykjavik.
Back to Monterey, dinner, and to the hotel for more swimming. Our next day took us to Pebble Beach, as part of the 17 Mile Drive. Craggy rocks, fiercely crashing waves, and sea otters playing in the distance. Fearless surfers managed the waves like my kids wield play-doh. We finished up with a family photo by the Lone Cypress...a candidate for the Christmas photo, but realized Nicholas was just too sleepy.
We had heard from a friend that a trip to Monterey was not complete without venturing to Lover's Point. We didn't have the time for the hike from Fisherman's Wharf, but that left us with more time to enjoy the waves. There is nothing like running barefoot in the sand on Thanksgiving weekend, especially when one normally spends the time digging the car out of the snow.
With the sand play desires sated, we decided to head home, as we still had one more stop: Castroville. I had never heard of the town prior to moving here, but I will now never forget it. In case you are
wondering, it is the Artichoke Capital of the U.S. Peter had visited during one of his business trips and insisted we stop for deep-fried artichoke hearts. We also tried steamed artichoke (one of several that weekend), and artichoke bread (think banana bread but with artichokes and raisins, heavenly).
And, now, off to plan our post-Christmas holiday!