The sole purpose of a small town getaway is simply that to get a way. Living in a busy city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York can be very stressful when it comes to finding a few moments of quality R&R (i.e. rest and recreation,let alone a whole weekend’s worth). But when locals get a rare opportunity to use their vacation days, celebrate an anniversary, or savor some peace and quiet, there are plenty of destinations awaiting their arrival a short distance away.
One such place for San Franciscans would be Monterey, California. Just two hours away from the City of San Francisco, it is very much like taking a trip to Bandung from Jakarta…without the outlet shopping. Monterey, the first capital of California, is a cultural and historical hot spot on this central coast peninsula as well as a primary location for artists, golfers, and marine lovers alike.
History: Monterey became California’s first capital when Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy raised the U.S. flag over Monterey’s Custom’s House and issued a proclamation inducting California as part of the United States’ then 600,000 square miles of territory on July 7, 1846. Today, the Custom’s House, a.k.a. the oldest goverment building in California, is part of several heritage sites that mark California’s rich past. As California’s first capital, the city is celebrated for the most well-preserved collection of historical buildings and artifacts in the state. Guided and self-tours are available each day from the Stanton Visitor Center or the Old Monterey Business Association.
Cannery Row: Along with Monterey’s imprint on California’s history, the area itself is known for its historical fishery industry. John Steinbeck, a notable American author, highlighted a segment of Ocean View Avenue in his book called Cannery Row (1945), which was host to various sardine-canning factories. Fast-forward half a century later and that segment of Ocean View Avenue was renamed Cannery Row (in 1958) to commemorate Steinbeck’s book. The canneries, then teeming with fish were closed down because of over-fishing and now the area has been renovated to attract a variety of tourists. Shops, galleries, restaurants, and museums currently inhabit this strip of waterfront land. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world, also sits on the north end of Cannery Row and is a must-see attraction for all visitors.
Fisherman’s Wharf: Just south of Cannery Row lies Fisherman’s Wharf, but note that there are two tourist venues – an old and a new.The Old Fisherman’s Wharf is home to many sea lions and otters whereas the New Fisherman’s Wharf, just across the Maritime Museum, houses souvenir shops and restaurants as well as a public viewing area at the end of the dock. Many of these restaurants offer free samples of their clam chowder and it is not to be missed. The Old Fisherman’s Grotto has won 1st place four years in a row since 2003 for their Clam Chowder recipe. Rachel Ray has even featured her visit to Cafe Fina, located mid-way through the Wharf on her TV show, $40 a Day. All of the restaurants in Fisherman’s Wharf deserve much recognition, not only for their excellent seafood but also for their breath-taking waterfront views.
Local Flavors: Enjoying Monterey is not limited to the oceanside. There are many reasons why people visit this gemstone of a city throughout the year. Every Tuesday from 4p.m.-7p.m., Old Monterey Market Place opens on Alvarado Street; and every Thursday from 2:30pm to 6pm, Monterey Peninsula College hosts a Farmer’s Market on Fremont Street. Both of these events boast California’s freshest produce, beautiful flowers, exquisite jewelry, and memorable arts and crafts. As an area much-publicized for its local artistry and craftsmanship, various art galleries are open for art shows at least once a month. Seasonal festivals such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Monterey Blues Festival, and the Monterey Wine Festival attract many hobbyists and aficionados to this stimulating and spirited environment. Noteworthy is the AT&T Pebble Beach National ProAm, a golf tournament where pro-golfers and celebrities enjoy teeing on the green. Also nearby is the infamous 17-mile Drive where one can enjoy more and more photo-ops of the Pacific Ocean.
Monterey, rich in everything cultural is a haven for those who can appreciate its natural beauty and history. When in California, do as the locals do and visit one of California’s most valued treasures.(jackie)
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