for Unconventional Women
for Unconventional Women
My younger son, Liam has wanted to be a marine biologist since he was about ten, maybe even younger. So, when we moved to California and within driving distance of Monterey, home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Monterey Bay Research Institute, it quickly topped the list of places he likes to visit. We became members at the aquarium and go down at least once a year, but, since our older son isn’t that into marine science (he likes mammals), he have to balance our trips with things that are interesting to him too. And because we adults don’t always want to do kid things, we throw in a few adult things to.
Over the past few years, it has become a little bit of a tradition to spend a weekend in Monterey around Liam’s birthday. This year was a little different because our good friends (and neighbors) joined us with their almost-nine year old, and my brother, his wife, and my nephew also came. It was a great time and we’re planning on doing it again next year.
So, what makes Monterey such a great place to travel? Well, for starters, it’s stunningly beautiful. The coastline has big sandy beaches and rocky coves good for tide-pooling. The towns are charming (I actually prefer Pacific Grove to the town of Monterey) and the food and wine is good and plentiful.
Our favorite place to stay is Asilomar Conference Center. It’s a fairly big compound originally designed as a YWCA conference center by Julia Morgan (the same architect I mentioned in my SoCal blog who designed Hearst Castle), it’s a lovely place to stay, especially with a family. The rooms are simple and very reasonably priced and they have different configurations—for example, we were able to get one room that had a queen bed and three single beds which, now that we travel with three kids, is a unique (and cost savings) experience. You can walk to the beach, roast marshmallows in the fire pit, and, my favorite part, hang out in the big, main lodge—it’s a gorgeous building with a large fireplace, tons of small conversation areas, pool tables, and board games. It’s a wonderful place to relax in the evenings and on both Friday and Saturday night, we ended up with our friends sitting in the lodge with a bottle of wine (in rocking chairs in front of the fire one night) while the kids played pool and board games. I honestly can’t recommend it enough—it’s not at all fancy so if you want high end, skip it, but it’s lovely and relaxing and such a unique spot that it would be a shame to stay anywhere else.
This year, we had dinner at an adorable Italian place called Fandango in Pacific Grove. I had tortellini and my Italian daughter had cannelloni (which she said was very good). At the table we also had calamari, sand dabs, and a burger. Everyone enjoyed the food and the service and ambiance were very charming.
We spent most of Saturday at the aquarium which is such a unique place. It’s crazy busy on the weekends, so if you go then, expect it to be packed, but it’s still worth it. The exhibits are first rate, as are the short presentations they offer throughout the day; this year we saw one on sharks, the deep ocean (Liam’s particular interest), and one on working at the aquarium. Also not to be missed (though we missed it this year) is the feeding in the Deep Ocean exhibit—it’s usually around eleven in the morning and it’s quite a show watching the sardines swarm and feed (they also feed the larger fish in the exhibit including tuna, grouper, rays, and sometimes turtles).
Last year, Nav and I discovered A Taste of Monterey Wine Tasting Rooms. We headed here one afternoon while the kids opted to play in the mirror maze and laser escape room. It’s a couple of blocks from the aquarium and has the most gorgeous views of any tasting room I have ever been to. We stopped by there again today while the kids, once again, visited the mirror maze and while we didn’t get a window seat this time, it’s still a lovely place to visit and take a break from a day of sightseeing.
On Sunday, Liam did his first dive in Monterey Bay. As an aspiring marine biologist, diving in Monterey Bay is sort of big deal and something he’d wanted to do for a long time. He only did two short dives, but, since he was certified in the Caribbean, it was also his first cold water dive so two was probably enough. He had an amazing time and definitely got lucky because visibility was about twenty feet (as opposed to the more common ten-to-fifteen) which also meant he saw lots of sea life. He went through Breakwater Scuba and we cannot recommend them enough. The private instructor who worked with Liam really took his time to go over everything from safety and equipment checks to walking out to the beach to show him where they’d be entering/exiting the water, where they’d be diving, and potential hazards (which made this mom happy). The shop was thoughtful, prepared, and experienced and Liam is now asking to get dry suit certified with them (he took to the cold water about as well as I predicted).
All in all is was another great trip to Monterey and we’re already planning next year’s journey!
About the Author: Tamsen Schultz is an avid traveler and prefers to seek out the different or unusual even when visiting some of the more tourist-heavy spots (Capuchin Monastery in Rome, anyone?). Her contemporary novels are set on the other side of the country from where she lives (which may or may not be an excuse to travel) and she’s currently writing an historical mystery set in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, which adds a new dimension to her obsession by giving her a reason to travel in both space and time.
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