Going Coastal

While traveling, periodically preconceived notions are blown totally out of the water once a place is visited in person.

Our most recent notion deconstruction locomotion occurred along a rocky stretch of the California coast just south of San Francisco.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, as anticipated, is a … CONTINUE READING >>

While traveling, periodically preconceived notions are blown
totally out of the water once a place is visited in person.

Our most recent notion deconstruction locomotion occurred along
a rocky stretch of the California coast just south of San Francisco.

Carmel-by-the-Sea,
as anticipated, is a quaint, artsy, picturesque little hamlet on
the shore, but what’s up with all of the peculiar canine cordiality
and electing such a tough hombre as mayor?

In
nearby Monterey, the hustler-and-tough-guy laden Cannery Row
of John Steinbeck fame we expected to encounter is virtually
unrecognizable in today’s colorful collection of restaurants,
shops and tourist traps.

Established in 1770, Monterey served as California’s
capital from 1777 to 1849 while a part of Spain and Mexico.

Through
the years many of the state’s “firsts” happened here.
The first printing press, newspaper, theater, public school and
library all were in Monterey.

To
aid the curious tourist, the city created the Path of History
in the area around downtown.

Following the dotted line from
the Custom House Plaza through flourishing gardens and historic
buildings, we were treated to the rich past of an important
city.

A highlight was the chance to walk on a section of the
last whalebone sidewalk in the United States.

That’s right,
there was a time when whaling was so common that the sidewalks
were paved with their
bones, or at least the bones not being used as stays in the corset
torture devices used to cinch in a fashionable lady’s waist.

Back
at the plaza we checked out The Monterey Maritime Museum.

There, we found a fantastic collection of artifacts from the
area’s seafaring past.

The museum’s centerpiece is the first-order
Fresnel lens from the Point Sur Lighthouse.

An elegant display
of workmanship housing five hundred and eighty glass prisms
that magnified the lamp enough to cut through the fog and
guide ships in from as far away as twenty-three miles out
to sea.

We got lucky — seems like we often do — visiting the museum just
before it closed for renovations.

In 2011, they will reopen and celebrate
their 80th anniversary. David, aka “Bull in China shop”
didn’t break anything, we promise.

Really, it wasn’t our fault
they had to close down.

The
heart of this stretch of waterfront is The Old Fisherman’s
Wharf. Built in 1870, it was quite the hub of commerce.

For
years Monterey was the only Port of Entry for all of California.
Every taxable shipment arriving by sea had to pass
through customs at the end of the wharf.

The Custom House itself dates back to 1814 and has served
under three flags.

It is the oldest government building
in the state and holds the honor of being California’s Historic
Landmark Number One.

When
the city of Monterey erected a new commercial dock back
in 1926, the old wharf found new life as a wholesale
fish market.

It remained a haven for fishmongers into 1960s when
the decline of the fishing industry began the transition to tourism.

Until the
mid ’50s this place was slingin’ sardines out the doors to the
tune of a quarter million pounds a year.

Sadly, due to overfishing
and other factors that remain unclear, the sardines rather suddenly
left the area and within the span of a few years most of the canneries
had closed.

The impact was devastating, but the Row
became famous as the setting for two John Steinbeck novels.

In January
of 1958, the city decided to officially change the name of Ocean
View Avenue to its well known nickname, Cannery Row, and thus
began the transformation from funky fish packing district into
the tourist Mecca that it is today.

Off the street along the shore, clinging to the edge of the
buildings, there is a walkway overhanging the water that offers
incredible
views and, as
a bonus, the opportunity to get soaked by big waves.

Crashing
up through the boardwalk, the water caught us completely off
guard and gave us a good drenching.

Maybe it was a good thing
— this way no one could tell that we had the p#@$ scared
out of us.

Hearts a-pounding,
we stood in the sun to warm up, regain our composure and act nonchalant
— giving us an opportunity to enjoy the panorama across Monterey
Bay.

Drip-dried
and back on the street, amongst the purveyors of fine souvenirs
— crap shops in GypsyNester speak — and deep fried formerly-finned
critter eateries, we managed to find a few well preserved
buildings with displays of the inner workings and final products
of the old fish packing plants.

The technology, for its day,
was impressive — quite a remarkable operation and demonstration
of the ingenuity involved in conquering the logistics of processing
all of those fish.

These days,
much of the space is filled with art galleries and studios, adding
a creative flair to the grand old buildings.

From
Cannery Row, we drove down the coast a couple miles toward
Carmel but were sidetracked when we noticed the exit for 17
Mile Drive.

The famous toll road runs right through Pebble
Beach and along the breathtaking cypress tree strewn coast.

The surf was up and the sun was out
— couldn’t ask for a better day for a 17-mile Sunday drive.

The views along the rugged coastline
are unmatched and even though we aren’t skilled on the links,
it’s way cool to drive through one of the world’s greatest
golf courses.

Lord knows that’s the only driving we’d be doing
there — there’s just
way too much water and David plays with hazard-seeking balls.

The
Drive leads into the endearing village of Carmel-by-the-Sea,
usually shortened to simply Carmel, which is vying for the
title of Most Dog-Friendly City.

Many hotels and shops allow canine companions to accompany
their clientele.

Spa packages are also available for fastidious Fidos,
should the pampered pooches feel stressed out and in need of a massage
to wind down.

The
local magazine, Coastal Canine, even has a restaurant review
column written by Rover.

Here are his thoughts on the menu
at Forge In The Forest from the fall issue:

“I
was torn between The Quarter Hounder (for the hound with a
hankerin’ for beef) and The Hen House Chicken Strips (five
ounces of grilled and sliced boneless chicken breast).

I eventually
requested the Good Dog (eight ounces of grilled and sliced
New York steak) as it quite described my nature and
was much less bourgeois.”

You will please pardon us
if we hurl our “Hounders” over this disgusting display
of doggie decadence.

Canine
craziness aside, Carmel is a sweet little town that wouldn’t
seem to need The Outlaw Josey Wales as mayor, but that’s what
they got.

Back in 1986, Clint Eastwood got a burr under his saddle commenced
to clean up Carmel.

Clint had had enough of his hometown’s archaic
ordinance forbidding the selling and eating of ice cream on the
streets and he was gonna take it down.

The issue became a high priority
in his mayoral campaign.

So when it came time to tally the votes
no one, not even Dirty Harry lost count.

Quaint
little Carmel-by-the-Sea ended up with the hands-down, baddest
mayor ever in the history of the whole wide world.

And rest
assured, everyone eats all the ice cream they want — wherever
they want — these days in
Carmel.

Even the dogs.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in California!



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12 thoughts on “Going Coastal”

  1. >this is one of the mosst beautiful rides in the states, in my opinion I did the coast in 05 and went to SanDiego last year but didn't get back north, It is all amazing every where you look is beauty.

  2. >You've traveled through the places we visited over 24 years ago, where we became engaged. Proposal by the 17th hole in Carmel, strolling through Monterey and dinner in Cannery Row. That was definitely more magical before kids! 🙂 Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  3. >You make me wanna go home for a visit! Great piece; love the extra background about Monterey … I didn't know about the whalebone sidewalk! Yes, Carmel is charming, quirky, dog-friendly, but it's a bit difficult to park there.

    I see no mention of the sea lions … were they all out to sea?

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