Searching for Steinbeck's Monterey
Trip Start Oct 14, 2010
1Trip End Oct 16, 2010
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But I am sad to say I found very little of the Steinbeck magic in Monterey. Today, Cannery Row is more about than cotton candy than characters.
To its credit, the city has put up freestanding placards doling out snippets of history about the sardine canning industry that once thrived here and was so central to many of Steinbeck’s works
The Cannery Row of Steinbeck’s novel is indeed, lost to history. The stench of processing fish has been replaced with the heavy scent of cooking sugar and frying fish. The happy go lucky near do wells of “Sweet Thursday” are reflected vaguely in the few homeless that wander the beaches. As the tide retreats, the concrete supports of old canneries emerge from the sand like the ruins of a lost civilization. The only member of Steinbeck’s cast to remain is calm water of Monterey Bay. As a silent witness to the changes on Cannery Row, perhaps it remains the most magical part of any visit to Monterey.
Maybe it is the romantic in me that pushes me into making such trips as the one I made to Cannery Row. I have no right to be disappointed when I don't find any remnants of a local that probably existed mostly in the mind of a imaginative author. The fault lies not in the commercialism and development of these places, but in the expectations I have when visiting them
What to do:
Cannery Row is focal point of Monterey. Since 1985, the area made famous by John Steinbeck’s novels has been turned into somewhat gaudy tourist destination. However, no trip to a seaside town would be complete without buying at least one starfish or pirate hat and there are plenty of stores here to find them. But Cannery Row offers more than typical seaside resort souvenir stores. The Monterey Bay Aquarium (www.montereybayaquarium.org) at the end of the street, offers state of the displays and many hands-on exhibits. If visiting the many hands on exhibits has put you in a mood to get closer to the water, you can arrange a guided kayak tour or rent a sea kayak for yourself from AB Seas Kayaks (www.montereykayak.com). For those seeking more artistic shopping, the Row offers a couple of art galleries that feature local artists. Dick Crispo’s Costal Painting Gallery is located at 100 Cannery Row.
If you are looking for beaches, don’t look here. Most of the shoreline is either covered by docks, or strewn with rocky outcrops. But this offers up a free activity for young and old alike: tidal pools. This can make for some fascinating wildlife viewing as sea lions bask on the exposed rocks. It gives budding marine biologists a chance to do a little of their own exploration.
Simply stroll along the beachfront park that traces the water up and down the Row.
Where to Eat:
There are more seafood restaurants in Monterey than you can sling an empty sardine can at, and if you are looking for the typical over the water seating with a view of the Bay there are no shortages of places to dine. Most offer fresh, if a little mediocre fare with almost identical menus. However, one of the best in this category is The Fish Hopper (www.fishhopper.com) located at the end of pier at 700 Cannery Row. Along with the bay view, they offer a lunch special of Parmesan encrusted Halibut served over a mixture of organic veg ($24.00) To top things off, a unique serving of Key Lime pie with a delicate Kiwi sauce drizzled over.($8.00). For dinner, go a little more high end at The Chart House. With not a tshirt or flip-flop in sight the ambience is calm and dark. It is a typical surf’n turf restaurant; their prime rib is predictably good with a generous portion and reasonable price. The house Shiraz, Tripichi pairs nicely. After dinner, take a walk back down the Row for desert at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for chocolate. Eat it there, or overlooking Monterey Bay at one of the many sitting areas.
Where to Stay:
InterContinental Hotel Monterey offers accommodations directly on Cannery Row. It offers individual balconies with a gorgeous view of the bay.
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. (www.montereyplazahotel.com)