Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Down in Monterey

Craig Writes;

12/05/13. It was highly recommended that we stop into the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and check out the seaside fair ground which has the third oldest wooden roller-coaster in America.  Did someone say roller-coaster.  We're there. The boardwalk opened in 1907 and the Giant Dipper has been going since 1924. It's got charm but it's certainly not built for comfort. 
Built for speed not comfort
For one minute and 57 seconds, and six dollars, you can get the thrill of being thrown around inside a small wooden box like a sack of last weeks spuds. If you think you had back problems before you got on you'd sure as hell know by the time you got off. The Looff Carousel is the standout. It still has it's original 342 pipe organ built in 1894 and a brass ring dispenser. It is only one of five Looff Carousels operating in America and each horse is a carved work of art.

All individual designs, they're like the Terracotta Warriors of the carousel world
The Boardwalk is not a place to go if your looking for a nourishing feed but as a place to go and while a way a couple of lazy hours and maybe grab a swim down the beach, absolutely.

Here we are, down in Monterey. A cosy little city of around 28,000 people  inhabited for many centuries by the Rumsen Ohlone Indians before the Spanish " discovered" it, claimed the land and its people for Spain and built the first town here in 1770.  It's a small town but it's got a big reputation. The Internationally acclaimed Monterey Jazz festival has been playing here third last weekend in September since 1958.  
It's all about the jazz baby
It's had a Who's Who of jazz from Billie Holiday and Louie Armstrong to Dave Brubeck and Woody Herman to Chick Corea and Diana Krall. And then there's  "the" Monterey Pop Festival of 1967 with The Who, Hendricks, Joplin, Otis Redding and many many others. It's said that it was this Festival that heralded in the 60's "Summer Of Love" and two years later spawned the biggest musical festival of em all, Woodstock. Pulitzer Prize winning author John Steinbeck made the place his home and  immortalized the town in such classics as East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. 

It's a great place to walk around. Just the boys and me walked down to Fisherman's wharf while Christina stayed back to try and shake off a nasty chest cough she's picked up.
A quiet day on the wharf
What's a wharf without barrels of candy to hide behind
We were surprised to see they had their own little version of Pier 39 going on. A bunch of Sea Lions have taken over a small barge next to the main pier, barking and slapping each other like a herd of Three Stooges. There must have been about forty of them on a barge built for twenty.  One minute they're piled on top of each other, wriggling around like big brown rowdy sardines next minute they're flying and leaping around like crazies.  They looked like the happiest creatures in the world.

Larry, Moe, Curly and the gang
We headed back around one to see if the girl was up to venturing out. It was a little chilly but the sky was blue and the Pier is a real charmer so it would be a shame to miss it.  Fortunately she was feeling better so we headed back and we were rewarded with a lunch of The Fish Hoppers award winning Clam Chowder. Voted best Chowder in Monterey County EVERY year since 2004.  And it was gooodd!! Sour dough rolls, toasted garlic bread and a Sea Otter doing tricks for us as we sat at the end of the pier. He disappeared for a little then suddenly popped back up with his own lunch.
The best shows in town are usually free
A big fat squid which he proceeded to tear apart and chew up as he floated on his back only metres from where we sat. Priceless.

From here we took the 15 minute drive down to Carmel. We were expecting an upmarket picture postcard town of wealthy idle well dressed locals promenading the streets and sitting in cafes casually sipping lattes. And sure there was a Rolex and a Tiffanys et al and the place was impeccable but it still radiated a charm that we  loved. 
The town's population is only around the 4000 mark which is not a lot of growth since the Spanish began strolling the beaches and building missions way back in 1770.  Carmel became a part of the United States in 1848 when the Mexicans relinquished California to the US during the Mexican-American war of 1846 - 1848. It's a wealthy little town with a rich history in the arts owing to the establishment of the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club in 1905. Many great writers, authors and actors have called Carmel home. Poet George Stirling, authors Mary Austin and Robert Louis Stevenson, actors Doris Day, Phyllis Diller and Clint Eastwood who was Mayor of Carmel from 1986 to 1988. One of the platforms he campaigned on was to abolish the law that said no ice cream was to be sold or eaten in public streets. I suppose nothing's more dangerous to the public that a kid high on a hot fudge sundae wielding a double cone of rocky road with extras nuts. Scary stuff. If nothing else Clint will be remember for  the repealing of this thought provoking law.

We took a lovely tree lined walk to the beach past some Country English old world charmers with Shake roofs, Stucco exteriors and beautiful gardens. 
I'd buy this place just for the chook

Don't ya just love it
The beach is all clean white sands and rolling waves. Painted onto the surrounding rolling slopes of the nearby hillsides are the famed lush fairways and greens of Pebble Beach.
That little sliver of green on the hill is Pebble Beach golf course
We wandered, window shopped, coffeed and quietly slipped out of town and back to Monterey  before we hit the road tomorrow. 

Highway One and The Big Sur, spanish for The Grande South. It's a small town of only 1000 but the 100 mile stretch of rugged and beautiful coastline that stretches from Carmel to San Simeon has made it famous. It was really the building of California State Route One in 1937 and the building of the Bixby Bridge in 1938 that opened it up to the rest of the world. It's unique natural beauty and isolation have attracted artists and writers for many years. Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Henry S Thompson, among others, have at some time called Big Sur home. Orson Welles and his wife Rita Hayworth bought a log cabin there which is now the well known restaurant, Nepenthe. 
While you could wax lyrical for pages about the stunning beauty of the area I think in this instance we'll let the pictures do the talking.

Bixby Bridge in the background

We are truly living life on the edge

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