Saturday, October 7, 2017

Part 1: Our Trip to Monterey, California

In mid-August 2017, we took a week-long trip to California to visit the Monterey and Los Angeles areas. It was a trip that we had planned to do prior to finding out we were pregnant, but then ended up being a 'babymoon' of sorts (it landed on my 20th week). We were hesitant to go at first, as we knew spending that amount of money before expecting a baby could be rough on the budget, but we knew if we didn't go now, who knows when our next chance would be. Ever since I met Les 8+ years ago, he has talked about California and his time living in Monterey and how he has always wanted to take me back. In his early days in the U.S. Air Force about 10 years ago, he lived and attended school at the Presidio of Monterey Language Training Institute for about 6 months studying Spanish. His stories always revolved around young man shenanigans, as he turned 21 during his time there, but it was obvious that Monterey has quite a bit more to offer than local delis and the 'best liquor store in town'. I am very glad we went on this trip, despite dealing with a growing belly and post-flight swollen ankles! I wanted to share a few highlights of our time there, beginning with our time north. My next post will focus on the second half of our trip in LA.

                We had a family photo session with Molly Hansen Photography at Point Lobos Park. 

We flew into San Jose airport on Saturday, August 19th and had a one-hour drive to our bed & breakfast in Pacific Grove, a small town next to Monterey. The drive was truly beautiful- my favorite part being the contrast in the landscape from mountains in the background to more desert-like foliage along the road and then the Cypress trees. We passed many fields and beautiful ranches. Our first stop, after dropping our bags at the B&B was the Monterey Aquarium. We met our friends from Philadelphia there, whose trip to CA happened to overlap with ours, and spent a few hours enjoying the aquatic life. The rest of Monterey seemed to be very touristy, with Cannary Row and the Fisherman's Wharf, which we did not end up doing. I was glad we were staying in the more quiet and eclectic Pacific Grove at a beautiful Victorian bed and breakfast called the Green Gables Inn. I highly recommend this inn to anyone visiting the area. It is not trendy or hip by any means, but offers the most peaceful, relaxing, and romantic stay with daily homemade breakfast, afternoon cheese and wine, and homemade cookies! The best part was that it was across the street from the water, so when we looked out the window from our balcony room, we could see the ocean with otters floating on their backs and the sea lions laying on rocks.

Here are some of the bullet point highlights of the rest of our time, so I don't bore you with the paragraphs...

-Watching the sunset at Spanish Bay: this was beautiful! The weather was very crazy when we were in Monterey- in the morning it was very cool (60s) and hazy, but by the afternoon it became hot (70-80s) and bright sunny- we didn't stand a chance of seeing the solar eclipse. Most of the evenings turned more hazy again so we didn't have a great sunset view, but the glow of the sun off the water along the coast was worth it all.

-17-Mile Drive: if you don't have much time in Monterey, I would say you could skip this. It cost $10 to get into the area of the drive (I think it is managed by the National Park Service) and you follow a self-guided driving tour. The only stop that I found worth the time was Bird Island- a HUGE rock about 200 feet out off the coast that was COVERED with over a hundred sea lions. The site was funny to watch...and hear them barking.

-Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur: at the time of our visit, Big Sur was still closed due to the landslide that happened some time before, but the long drive toward it is breathtaking. Les absolutely loved this drive, where you could stop at multiple points to take photos or climb down rocky cliffs onto beaches, etc. This was worth every moment and I only wished I had known to wear hiking gear that day...and maybe not have been 20 weeks pregnant...otherwise, we could have spent all day hiking up and down to catch the views. We also passed the iconic Bixby Bridge (a site you would know if you watched HBO's Big Little Lies).

-Touching the Pacific Ocean: this was my first time in CA since I was a baby, so it was pretty exciting to check this off my bucketlist.

-Carmel-by-the-Sea: a more upscale small town near Monterey full of art galleries and the "higher-end" crowd. We spent a morning walking around here looking in the stores. A lot of the homes in the area have a very dutch-style to them, but very gorgeous.

-Campagnos Deli- I couldn't leave this out because it was probably the main reason Les wanted to return to Monterey. This was a deli he frequented while there and is owned by a guy who has a strong passion for the military and all the men and women stationed in the area who serve. We had sandwiches here and I have to say, it was well worth it. The HUGE slice of peanut butter chocolate cake we had on the house after was even better.

-Carmel: different than Carmel-by-the-Sea. A very small town in a valley between mountains, full of wineries and beautiful ranches. Our photographer told us about this on our last night there after our photo shoot and we wished we could have found it sooner. We went to dinner at an Italian place with delicious rustic pizzas. The scenery and beauty of the town was perfect. If we ever go back, I wish we could stay in one of the ranches! '

-Point Lobos Park: this is where our photo shoot took place and it is another thing that I wish we had discovered earlier. We would have loved to spend half a day hiking through- the scenery is nothing you can capture in photos- it is simply breathtaking.

I am very glad we started our trip in this area. The first day of traveling was so exhausting that the ability to have a laid back first few days in a quiet little town was much appreciated. We were able to take the days slow, spending mornings sitting drinking coffee in robes and taking in as much of the "quiet" as we could. I think compared to LA, northern CA ended up being much more our speed and taste.

A few more photos from our shoot with the very-talented Molly Hansen. Thank you, Molly! These are special memories we will treasure for a long time!

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