Alan and I started talking last weekend about our plans for spring break and it brought to mind the trip we took last year to California. We had been to San Francisco and places north a few times and this time we wanted to head south. Our itinerary was to explore the coast from Monterey down to Los Angeles so when we landed in San Fran we headed south straightaway. We had planed to go to the Monterey Aquarium our first afternoon but after being delayed here in NJ and driving down to Monterey, we modified our plan and stayed close to our hotel, Asilomar. This was only the first of many times on this trip where we looked at each other and wished we could spend a week right where we were. Located not in Monterey, but in nearby Pacific Grove, this is a wonderful, quiet place to recover from jet lag and explore the outdoors. The lodge, built in 1913, is rustic but has been updated with all modern conveniences and there is a great Social Hall with pool tables, a fireplace, gift shop and a small cafe open for breakfast, lunch or a quick late-afternoon snack or coffee. After grabbing a bite, we headed across the street to check out the tidal pools and look out for seals and otters (we saw both).
This was the building we stayed in. There are two types of rooms available here: historic, which are part of the original buildings from 1913 and the Asilomar rooms, which are more modern but in the same style of the historic rooms. We were in the latter and found them very comfortable. Our room had 4 beds which was great as everybody could be comfortable and there was no fighting over who had to sleep on the pull-out.
For dinner, there was a multitude of options. We chose the Fishwife, which we could walk to from Asilomar and were so happy we did. The menu is predominately seafood with a Caribbean accent and everything we had was very good. They have a great kids' menu with a choice of grilled or fried sole, tilapia and shrimp (there are chicken tenders too). The staff was super nice and great with the kids. It was the perfect meal to end a long day of traveling made even better by the quick 5-minute walk home to our waiting beds.
The next morning we were up early and had time to kill before the aquarium opened. We did a quick drive-by of the Point Pinos Lighthouse, the oldest continuing-operating lighthouse on the west coast. Unfortunately it was closed so we had to settle for a glimpse from the road.
February is one of the months that Monarch butterflies overwinter in the area and there is a special park in Pacific Grove to spot these beauties, the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. We spied a few here and there, enough to enchant Ava as we walked though the early morning fog. Many of them were high in the trees trying to warm up in the sunshine, so if you go, bring binoculars.
The Monterey Aquarium is consistently on the list of best aquariums in the country so we knew we couldn't miss it. Located in a former canning factory on the edge of Monterey Bay, it is a great place to visit. Plan to spend much of the day here and there are many nice options for lunch: a sit-down restaurant overlooking the bay (be sure to make reservations beforehand), a more casual cafe offering burgers and brick-oven pizzas and a coffee bar if you just want a quick snack. We spent our time watching otters and penguins frolic and play, touching starfish and horseshoe crabs, and watching green sea turtles and hammerhead sharks swim by in the Open Sea exhibit. Our favorite thing was "The Jellies Experience," populated with the most amazing and fantastic jellyfish imaginable.
After we finished up at the aquarium, we drove down to Carmel for lunch. Unfortunately, everybody else seemed to have the same idea so we had to settle for a forgettable lunch and just a quick look around before heading to our next stop for the night, Big Sur.