Monday, September 15, 2014

Hidden Monterey ~ Part One

This past year we visited the Los Angeles area for a family birthday and we decided to tour the area while we were at it. While doing so I thought of a new series that I'm beginning today. The "Hidden" Series will cover an area and give you an idea of what to go see and do and where to eat that you may not have seen or has been updated in some way recently. I'm going to start it off with a multi-part series featuring Monterey, California.

Now, I'm blessed. I have family who live in the area (Salinas) and so I have a base that I can work from each day and tour the area...a base that's free. But the first tip I can give you here is to stay outside of Monterey and use it as a base for your explorations. The closer you get to Monterey the higher the cost of the hotel is going to be. We have found that rooms start at about $85 and go up to over $300 a night. So do some research and find one that fits your budget. From there I can give you some great low cost or even free things to do while you are in the area. (don't forget to click on the photos to see the bigger version!)

 Cannery Row is the jewel of this area. It is THE place everyone goes so make sure NOT to go on the weekends! Plan a weekday trip here so you can find parking, get better hotel rates and not have to wait too long for a table at one of the great restaurants here. There is a local parking garage just up the street from that corner where you see the stop sign. Hang a right and go up a couple of blocks and there it is. It will cost about $8-$10 to park.
 If you are visiting in the Summer then The Wave Trolley is the best way to go. You can pick it up for free at a few different locations and ride it down to the Row. It runs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If you need more information just click HERE!
 Once you do park one of the first things you will notice is Bubba Gumps. This is a great, moderately priced, place to eat. It's also VERY popular. Totally worth the wait but usually crowded so be forwarned. There are plenty of places to pick up a sandwich or small lunch here and here comes my hidden tip. There is a walk way between Bubba Gumps and The C Restaurant + Bar at the Intercontinental Hotel. 
 Walk to the water and you will find this great little hidden walk way with benches and an amazing view of the Monterey Bay. You can sit here, enjoy your lunch or a drink or just rest for a bit while enjoying the view.
 That building straight ahead? Yeah, that's the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. We'll visit that one on another day but from this hidden little walk way you get the same view as those at the aquarium for free!
 If you chose to splurge and stay at the Intercontinental (and it's TOTALLY worth the splurge) this could be your balcony. The little patio they have that borders the hidden walkway boasts little heaters so you can sit and enjoy the sunset in comfort. That quote "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco"?? Yeah, it's true. The summer heat inland pulls the marine layer into the bay and makes the days wonderfully temperate (in the 70-80 degree range) and then nights down into the 50's. So, as silly as it will feel, pack a light jacket or cuddle up to one of the propane heaters to stay warm after the sun goes down. Oddly enough the weather warms up a bit after September but you will have a higher chance of rain as well.
 The walkway extends all the way around the building and it's almost always mostly deserted. A very nice way to escape the crowds that mob the Row every day (especially on the weekends) and a great place to rest.
 If you walk all the way back around to the front of the building you will find my favorite shop on the Row. The Z Folio Gallery has SO many really beautiful things for sale. 
 It is definitely a "splurge" shop so if you are looking for that one perfect item, this may be where you find it. But how can you resist it when everything looks so beautiful?
 Ok, so maybe "splurge" isn't on the menu for this trip. But it doesn't mean "treat" can't be! Right across the street from Bubba Gumps is It's Sugar! You will find nearly every type of candy here that you can imagine. 
 Pick up a little, pick up a lot, pick up some gifts to take home but definitely take this chance to act like a kid in the candy store here!
 When you are done acting like a kid and exploring all of the shops on the Row then head right back to The C Restaurant + Bar. I started with a Lemon Drop but they have a full bar and can make you any drink you desire. While this is definitely a "splurge" restaurant you just simply can't go wrong with having dinner here. Just amazing food!
 There is a current commercial that says "Some say kale is a super food, some doubt it's food at all" which cracks me up. I've been in the latter camp until we had the Smoked Pork Tonnato at The C Restaurant + Bar. This is crispy kale with thin strips of ham and shaved Parmesan topped with a tuna Aioli that will make you a kale lover in one bite! For those who don't like tuna, it doesn't taste like tuna...just like yummy. Even the "we don't eat anything green" men in our group had seconds of this!
 When you get done with dinner take a few moments to head into the hotel to the stairs. This is one of the coolest staircases I've seen. The lobby is gorgeous too with the same amazing view that you got from your free walk along the water except here there are cushy chairs to hang out in while the sun sets.
As the sun sets and the moon rises you will see the crowds die down on a week night. On a weekend end you will see the tourists flocking to get a table at one of the seaside restaurants. One more reason to get there on a weekday and enjoy an early dinner. Whenever you visit, Monterey is lovely.

Next week I'll share with you the Monterey Bay Aquarium, their new Jellies Experience exhibit and a great place to have breakfast before you go!


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