While most of our friends were off in exotic locations like New Zealand and Taiwan over Christmas, Brian and I couldn’t spare enough PTO to go anywhere besides to visit Brian’s relatives in Sacramento (we’re saving for an Europe trip, hopefully in early 2016). We had planned for a weekend staycation to enjoy a few days on our own, and Brian’s uncle suggested that we visit Monterey. Neither of us had gone to the aquarium in Monterey since we were children, so we were immediately excited for the prospect of another visit. We booked a last minute room at the Best Western on De Anza, and then on Saturday morning, headed on our merry way down to Monterey!
Saturday, December 27
Monterey Bay has a beautiful bike trail that runs along the beach, so our top to-do on Saturday was to take our much-neglected bikes out for a spin. We arrived at the hotel a bit too early to check in, so we decided to go riding first, and check in after we were back.
The bike path along the ocean stretches for miles, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the gorgeous view!
The Monterey Bay Coastal Trail is a pedestrian / bike only path which runs behind Cannery Row and along Monterey Bay Beach. The parts of the path near tourist attractions were extremely crowded. It was actually a bit frustrating at times, because we had to constantly dart out of the way of walkers who spread out all over the lanes ( slow traffic stay right! 😦 ) and were moving either super slowly or not moving at all. I guess that’s one of my gripes for biking in areas where bikers and pedestrians share the road – I do want everyone to be able to use the path, but it’s terribly inconsiderate, not to mention dangerous, for a group of friends to walk in a line and block all passing traffic.
Luckily once we got out of the more densely peopled areas, the riding was pretty breezy. We got lost for a bit when the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail ended, and didn’t realize that we should have made a Right onto Ocean View. Instead, we turned left and biked into town for a bit. The town was super quaint, full of little mom-and-pop type shops, which faded into shady apartment complexes and general suburbia that reminded me a bit of San Diego. We eventually met up with Ocean View again, and took the bike lane all the way to Asilomar Beach. I guess at some point, Ocean View turned into Sunset Dr., which was very aptly named – looking out from the bike path, we could see the sun dropping over the horizon, casting its blindingly beautiful rays over the waves. We turned back when Sunset curved away from the beach, and admired the magnificent glass beach houses on our ride back.
After checking into the hotel, we ventured back out towards downtown Monterey Bay, this time on foot. Hula’s Island Grill has a fantastic happy hour that was very well received by Yelp, so we thought we’d catch an early dinner there before exploring Cannery Row. We actually got lost several times on our way there, since there were a lot of confusing dead ends (we foolishly tried to outsmart Google Maps and take a detour to see a different part of town… ended up having to double back and retrace our steps back all the way to pretty much where we originally diverged from Google’s directions). Our walk ended up taking well over an hour, despite Google saying the travel time should be no more than 30 minutes… 😦
Hula’s Island Grill was indeed as delicious as promised! We ordered pretty much everything off the happy hour menu, which ended up being a ton of food. My favorite dish was the Crispy Coconut Shrimp Rolls, while Brian’s was the Hawaiian Ceviche.
After our early-ish dinner, we wandered out to Cannery Row, which was just a short walk from Hula’s, and browsed our way down the little shops lining the street. There are a ton of cute little souvenir and tchotchke shops to peruse. It was ridiculously cold, so I ended up finding an accessories shop, where I bought a pair of super warm and fuzzy gloves!
Our next stop was Taste of Monterey, which is a little wine bar nestled in the corner of a shopping center a bit off of Cannery Row. They offer a few different tasting flights – you can order your choice of a specific wine variety, or the house flight (consisting of a mix of reds and whites). Brian and I each ordered our own 😀
Our last stop of the night was at Ghiradelli. I know, I know, there’s a Ghiradelli in SF that we can go to any time we want, so we were wasting our precious time in Monterey by going to a chain with a location close to home. But honestly, we were pretty tired by then. We just wanted to find a place to sit and read for a bit, which is exactly what we did, over coffee and ice cream!
When we finally decided to start heading home, which in other words was when Ghiradelli kicked us out because they were closing, we hopped into a cab to head back to our hotel. The cabbie just happened to have lived in SF through the 90s, and he regaled us with lots of tales of how the city was like back before the influx of techies gentrified most of the neighborhoods. That’s when I decided – If there were a museum that chronicled the changes SF has undergone in the last century, I’d definitely spend good money to see its exhibits!
Sunday, December 28
Brian and I are notoriously slow when it comes to browsing museums and the like, so we always have to set aside a whole day when a museum is on our itinerary. Thus, Sunday was reserved exclusively for a slow and meticulous exploration of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
We stood by the tank of this little guy for 10 minutes, waiting for him to move! The entire time, we were shoved this way and that by tourists trying to stick their cameras into picture-taking range.
The aquarium had a special exhibition running on Jellyfish, which made me super excited because they’re my favorite thing to photograph ever (as you can probably tell, because this post is plastered with pictures of jellyfish).
There was an interactive exhibit where you could draw a jellyfish (really, you could draw anything you wanted, but the prompt on the screen specified to draw a jellyfish) on a touch screen, and then watch it float up and across a gigantic screen that blanketed the entire wall. There were about 6 different touch screen stations, all crowded with the most adorable toddlers, each waiting their turn to draw. Some of them were incredibly inventive and artistic! I wanted to take pictures, but I felt like a creep taking pictures of other people’s children..
The other special exhibit that was running at the time was one about Octopi and their relatives. In it, there was a super cool display where you could stand in front of a camera and see what you would look like with an octopus’s camouflaging ability. We learned a bunch of stuff about octopus, squid, and other cephalopods, for example, that cuttlefish and octopus are related. Brian and I agreed that the cuttlefish reminded us of the Kabuto from Pokemon!
At some point, we got hungry, so we wandered out to the nearby Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant for fish and chips. If you decide to try this wonderful establishment, there are a few things you should note:
- You should definitely go off hours, since this place gets super busy – we got there around 2pm, and still had to wait almost 45 minutes for a seat.
- The portions are HUGE. Brian and I are by no means light eaters, but we each ordered our own entree, and upon their arrival, regretted not sharing a single dish.
- It’s super oily, but delicious. Totally worth every calorie!
We did actually go back to the museum for a few hours after finishing lunch, but we saw so many different things that it’d be impossible to talk about them all! The last thing we saw before heading out was a keeper talk about Albatross! From the balcony overlooking the sea otter tank, we watched the keeper show off the (live!) Albatross and explain their life and migration patterns. I don’t think I’d ever seen a albatross in the flesh before, so that’s an interesting tick off the life experiences checklist.
And thus ended our trip to Monterey. As always, here’s a picture of Brian and me together to prove we were both on the trip!