Saturday, June 23, 2007

Scenic and Quiet Stops in California

In a state well known for its traffic jams and earthquakes, Monterey, California is a refreshing change of pace. Monterey, which is on the coast overlooking Monterey Bay, has so much to offer, well beyond the well-renowned surf and beautiful beaches. With all the great things to see and do, this trip is well worth it, no matter the time of year, and no matter your taste.

Eye candy, right from your car

Much of the area's economy is based on tourism. The bay itself is a wildlife preserve, so the expanses of rocky Northern California coastline are absolutely gorgeous. Personally I am a big fan of taking pictures everywhere I go, and the picturesque beauty of this place is well worth the trip, if only for the lovely photographic mementos.

Especially gorgeous is an expanse in Pebble Beach called 17-mile drive. 17-Mile Drive is a great way to just cruise up and down the coach, and take in the beauty of the scenery and wildlife. Sightings include pelicans, seals, otters, and sometimes even whales.

Of course, what trip to California would be complete without surfing? If you do not have your own board or jet ski, there are plenty of places where you can rent one. For the surf challenged, lessons are available just about everywhere you go.

Year round must see attractions

For the literary, fans of Steinbeck will be happy to find that Canary Row is still there. Most of the canaries are gone now, but Canary Row is full of famous restaurants, small or large art galleries, and shops you will not find anywhere else.

Anybody with an interest in oceanography or marine biology should then proceed immediately to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which happens to be one of the world's leading research institutes. The two-story otter tank is not to be missed.

The historic perspective

In downtown Monterey still stand a number of the original, traditional adobes. These clay buildings are testaments to the rich cultural history of the Monterey Bay area. Many of the historic buildings are available for tour, and there are historic walking tours available throughout much of the city as well.

Fisherman's Wharf is also downtown, and you can get the freshest seafood imaginable there. I recommend the Liberty Fish Co. because the employees love it there. The owners are very good people, which is a rare find in the restaurant business.

Maybe even run into someone famous

Golfers won't want to miss the Pebble Beach golf courses, which are not only famous, but draw a number of celebrities such as Bill Murray every year, as well as Clint Eastwood, who lives there. Eastwood was actually the mayor of Carmel for a while, and still manages one or two restaurants in the area.

The Lost Boys was filmed and set in Santa Cruz, though they changed the name. Santa Cruz is across the bay from Monterey. The amusement park from the film is real; it's the Santa Cruz Beach & Boardwalk.