Staycation in California–Exploring Monterey

Monterey is a three-hour drive from our home in Sonoma County, and we go there often on business. Recently, though, we found time to play tourist as well. We don’t have a favorite hotel, in fact we try to stay someplace diferent each time. Generally, best deal is our guide. This trip we stayed at the Portola Hotel and Spa, an upscale accommodation in Old Town Monterey near Fisherman’s Wharf. The reason for the good rate is that a new conference center is under construction so there is a fair amount of noise related to that operation. However, it’s only during the day and the hotel is noise-proof enough that it was not particularly disruptive.

Monterey has a bike/walking trail (Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail) that hugs the coast for 29 miles. We often talked about renting bikes, but never had the time or right weather. As beautiful as the Monterey Peninsula is, the weather is not always wonderful—fog, wind, rain andor cold occur as often as sunny and warm and sunny. Fortunately for us, this trip is was mostly the latter.

We rented some bikes on Monday morning just as the fog was lifting. I got an electric bike as I’d always wanted to try one, and Bob got a hybrid—much more his style. The path goes in two directions from there—north to Pacific Grove, the neighoring town—and south around the Bay. We opted for the northern, more scenic route, which goes through Cannery Row and ends out at Lover’s Point. That was about a half hour pedal, perfect timing for a rest stop and to take pictures.

Lover's Point

Lover’s Point

From there, we we went south, past our hotel and along the Bay for about 40 minutes. At that point, it becomes residential and not particularly scenic. We stopped there, rested for a bit then headed back. Before getting to the bike shop, we stopped briefly at the Wharf Marketplace—an upscale deli/market/coffee/wine tasting establishment housed in a converted railroad station—will definitely go back there next trip.

Grilled artichoke hearts with craft beers--yum!

Grilled artichoke hearts with craft beers–yum!

To round out the afternoon, we stopped at Peter Bs Brewpub for some beer tasting and an appetizer of fried artichoke hearts (Nearby Castroville is known as the Artichoke Capital of the World). We enjoyed those sitting at one of their outdoor fire pits. The day ended with catching up with some business associates and having a wonderful dinner at Passionfish, a great restaurant in Pacific Gove (that we highly recommend).

Old Fisherman's Grotto sign

Old Fisherman’s Grotto sign

After Bob’s business meeting on Tuesday afternoon, we strolled throught the weekly outdoor market held in Old Town. It was OK, nothng newsworthy. Afterwards, we had a great dinner of abalone (farm-raised at a nearby wharf) and shrimp with a bottle of local chardonnay at the Old Fisherman’s Grotto on Fisherman’s Wharf. There are a number of really good retaurants on the wharf, but we tend to choose this one because not only is the food great but it is essentially a grown-up only establishment—there is a sign outside the door NOT welcoming children. We both love kids, but do not the parents who take them into fine dining establishments and allow threm to be disruptive. I honestly wish more restaurants would employ this tactic to assure their patrons have an enjoyable experience.

After a morning meeting on Wesdnesday, we took the rest of the day to play tourist again. This time we took the free shuttle to Cannery Row. In addition to being the home of the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, it is lined with upscale retail and food establishments. Most impressive, though, are the fabulous coastline views.

























We ended the day with cocktails in the lounge at the Portola. ChocMartini
A very talented bartender made me a special drink: a
chocolate decaf espresso martini–perfect ending to a great staycation.













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