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Monday, November 30, 2015

TRIP REPORT: Monterey and Pacific Grove - Part 1

Welcome to Central Coast Week here at The World on Wheels where we'll focus on that part of coastal California that lies south of San Francisco and north of Los Angeles.  Finshing up, it's three articles focusing on Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, and Santa Cruz.  Keep reading, each article follows the other below.  Thanks for joining us for this trip along California's Central Coast...

From Los Angeles, Monterey is just about perfect for a weekend getaway.  Not too far away so that you spend a good deal of your precious weekend just driving to and from your destination but far enough that you really know you’re not in L.A. anymore.
This lighthouse is just down the block from our inn.

Letty and I have a week off from Tim as he goes to camp.  As any caregiver can tell you, these moments of respite are preciously few and far between.  We have to stay close enough so that we can respond in an emergency, so we’re limited to the far western part of the United States.  This time, my wife said she wanted to be near the ocean.
Our hotel for this trip is the Deer Haven Inn in Pacific Grove, right across the street from the back gate of Asilomar State Park and Conference Center.  It’s basically an old motel that’s been renovated and spruced up to be more like a bed and breakfast.  Nice and quiet, the inn also has frequent specials where you can get a room just a block from the beach for well under $100.
The room itself is nicely decorated, has a king-size bed, and decent bathroom.  A light continental breakfast is served in the tiny lobby which you can enjoy on the adjacent deck when the weather is nice.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Tony R under CC-BY license

Across the street is Asilomar, an expansive conference center with lodge-like accommodations.  In fact, if you can get a good rate here, this historic hotel would be my preference in the area.  Boardwalks will let you get across the adjacent sand dunes over to the ocean and the beach that separates Pacific Grove from Pebble Beach.
These are not lawn ornaments

Another boardwalk will let you walk south between the beach and the golf course, or north along the tide pools along Pacific Grove’s shoreline.  I particularly like the walk to the north where dozens of resident deer wander along the shore and are almost tame enough to come up to you.  Almost…once they get about ten feet away, their inherent shyness returns.
A curious local

Just a short drive from here is Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.  Both have many dining options, but many just don’t try as hard as they might when they already have swarms of tourists flowing through the doors.  Instead, a quick check on Chowhound and Yelp reveal a better option.
Just inland a bit from Cannery Row is the cute little downtown section of Pacific Grove.  On a quiet corner is Passionfish.  Specializing in seafood, this restaurant puts its energy into great food and wine and tries to cut out the fluff of the dining experience.

Let me explain that a bit because it sounds as if I steered you to a food counter with good food.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Passionfish is a beautiful dining room with great waiter service, but they will serve food on plain china that they got at a discount, or put wine in pretty generic stemware…things like that.  What results is extraordinarily good food (and wine) at prices around 20% below comparable competitors in the area.
Letty had the scallops, delicately cooked little critters served in a delicious mustard sauce while I…not a seafood lover at all…had the duck dinner that had the most delicious glaze on it.  Wonderful, wonderful food with a sterling wine to go with it.  The owner made sure to come by, make us feel welcome, and to make sure we enjoyed the dinner.  We did!
After dinner, back at the inn, we hiked across Asilomar…past some of their guests having a dune-side barbecue and bon fire…and over to the beach where we splashed around the tidepools watching the sun go down.

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
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