Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cannery Row

January 9, 2011
“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, nostalgia, a dream.”
John Steinbeck

 We spent most of a day along Cannery Row, searching for remnants of the place John Steinbeck wrote about in his novel. 

Precious little of it remains.  The canneries closed down when the sardines disappeared, and now the row is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants, which would be appalling to Steinbeck.  No more stink or grating noise, but the nostalgia and the dream still linger on.

I think John Steinbeck would find this photo op to be a particularly inappropriate way to capture the spirit of the canneries, though we find it to be irresistable in its irreverance.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the gem of the Row.  It immortalizes the cannery it replaced, while making its case for only eating sustainable seafood.  It has a little section devoted to Steinbeck and his friend the marine biologist Doc Ricketts.  But mostly, it has big beautiful displays of marine life in California’s coastal waters. 

We found much to fascinate us, but realize that it is not so fascinating in the re-telling.  We will say merely that we spent more time than you would believe (1) watching thousands of sardines swim together in a shining ever changing stream of silver, and (2) enjoying the antics of three sea otters at play in a tank where we could see them both above and below the water surface.   We also took pictures of some of the most photogenic of the sea creatures—jelly fish and sea nettles, and sea horses. 

Watching jellies and sea nettles pulsate to slowly to move through the water is hypnotic--and the best way to watch them is through glass, since close encounters are painful.

This sea dragon is so lacy that it looks like floating kelp.  

On the way back to Seven Gables we climbed down the rocks along the waterside path and searched the tide pools to find a few of the creatures we saw in the artificial tide pools at the aquarium. 
Our favorite tide pool treasure

We also watched harbor seals clumsily dragging themselves around the beach and gracefully swimming in the waves around a place they call Seal Beach.  We are finding that there are many Seal Beaches and Seal Rocks along the California coast.

I finished off the afternoon with a shopping binge in a great fabric store just a block up the street from Seven Gables.   It had an eclectic selection of fabrics I haven’t seen anywhere else, so I couldn’t resist—now I just have to figure out how to pack it in my already bulging suitcase.

Then it was time for wine and cheese back at the Inn, where we watched surfers riding the waves and dodging the rocks around Lover’s Point as we enjoyed a flight of four different Monterey wines paired with gourmet cheeses, including goat cheese layered with wild porcini mushrooms, and provolone with a balsamic sun dried tomato orange zest marinade.  (I think I can replicate that one at home.)

We wandered up the hill to a Mexicali Restaurant—because we couldn’t leave California without a Mexicali meal!  

Tomorrow is our last full day in California, and we can feel ourselves winding down, but not slowing down, because, as always, we keep finding more things we would like to see and do, so no matter how long we stay anywhere, it never seems to be long enough

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