Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hidden Monterey ~ Adventures Downtown

For the last installment of "Hidden Monterey" we'll head to Downtown Monterey. The actual "downtown" of  Monterey isn't very big and it's largely ignored by the tourists who visit here each year. But there is a lot to do downtown and a lot to see as well. We were there in the summer so there was even more going on than normal but on any average weekend there will be some sort of event happening in downtown Monterey.

 On Tuesday afternoons you will find a Farmer's Market that takes up the main street of Monterey. When we were there it was wall to wall people enjoying all of the vendors there.
 This area is filled with agricultural farms. This is THE place for fresh fruits and vegetables. Even if you are staying in a hotel this is still a great place to pick up a snack or make up a picnic full of these amazing foods.
 Not everything is grown right here. We saw these berries which were from a farm located more inland. Vendors drive for hours to display here at this market.
 Anyone who loves Farmer's Markets knows that the flowers are one of the highlights of going to one. These sunflowers just took our breath away. 
 What we didn't expect was the "Fair Food" there too! The Potato Tornado was quite the hit. It was fun to watch them spiral these onto their sticks and then fry them as much as it was  to actually eat this treat!
 There were even birds to visit! One corner was like a mini domestic zoo. One of the local shelters was there and I just fell in love with this pretty girl.
 One of the great surprises is the architecture downtown. Monterey was the capital for both Spain and Mexico when it was "Alta California" and the only port for taxable goods in California. In 1846 the US flag was finally posted on the Customs house after the Mexican-American War. So these buildings have been here a LONG time!
 At one point in our walk through the Market I looked to my right and lost my heart to this building! My friends wanted to see the shoe store located in this entrance but I wanted to check out the ornate design of the building.
 There are several of these buildings along with lots of gorgeous Adobe homes in these few blocks so spend some time while you are downtown to explore all of the streets, not just the main drag.
 You can even go into the businesses...and I highly recommend it...to see how beautiful they are inside too!
 Back on the main street of the Farmer's Market we found this little cinema. There are the "big" guy movie theaters in town as well but this one shows "Indie" and Foreign films. 
 Walk out of the Market towards the water and you will find a very pretty two block stroll to Fisherman's Wharf. Murals are common here and change often. This is also the area where they hold many different events all year round with convenient parking.
 In the middle of your walk you will find this lovely little succulent garden. 
 We saw plants we had never seen before. So if you love flowers or are a gardener then take a few moments to explore before continuing onto the wharf.
 Fisherman's Wharf is a really fun place to explore. It's very popular so if you are able to go on a weekday then you will find it a bit less crowded than on the weekends. You will find a few different things here but mainly it's filled with restaurants, souvenir shops and whale watching tour shacks.
 We have been to several of the restaurants and this one is definitely a favorite. Especially if you are looking for a romantic dinner. The inside of Old Fisherman's Grotto is very elegant.
 And the food is simply amazing. The pricing is what you would expect for a nice restaurant in a touristy area so this would be considered a splurge but it's SO worth it. They do have a full bar and the menu is filled with really wonderful fare.
 Once you are done with dinner there is a good chance you will need to go walk it off. Walk to the end of the wharf for beautiful views of the bay and the boats in the Marina.
 You will also be treated to the local wildlife too! Pelicans, seals, sea lions and sea otters swim by and camp out near the boats. There is even a rooftop deck on the last building on the wharf so you can get an even better view!
 But here is where you get a "hidden" view. As you walk back from the end of the pier you will see the restrooms on your right and a whale watching shack on your left. Turn left onto the pier walk right past the shack. You can walk down to the end and turn left and walk down for another gorgeous view of the marina or turn right and get a secret view. This is where the pelicans hang out.
 And the sea lions too! We found a whole raft of them there huddled up together for the impending evening, goofing off, yelling at each other and basically being sea lions.
 We also found a sea otter playing in the water there very close to the decks. 
We grabbed a coffee on our way out of the area and looked back on the wharf as the sun set. Heavy marine layer sometimes hides the color but the feeling is the same every day. The boats gently rock in their moorings, the otters and seals swim in the waters between the rows and it's a very peaceful way to end your day there. 

I hope you enjoyed your tour of Monterey. Next time we'll head out to another secret treasure called Filoli which is located further up the coast towards San Francisco!


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