Monday, January 22, 2007

Monterey, Day 1

I'm on my way to Monterey, California--the beautiful coastal town, and one of my favorite places. I'm headed there to take a Fred Pryor class, Creative Leadership Workshop, tomorrow. This will fulfill a wish I've had for several years. My government employer used to send employees to classes like this in the past, but money is tight nowadays, so I'm paying for the class myself and taking vacation time to attend. My dime, my time. But it's a dream come true, so I'm excited.

It's a short ride on Amtrak to Merced, then a 3-hour bus ride to Monterey. At the transfer station, I find out that I'm going to be riding in a small 12-person bus with no bathroom. This is not what I was expecting, as every other Amtrak bus I've been on has been full-size, with an on-board bathroom. I ask the driver if there will be a bathroom stop; he says no. I can't believe it. Okay, I guess I won't be drinking any water on the way.

In just a few minutes we're underway. About half an hour into the trip, we're on the highway, when the bus starts bouncing, like we're hitting potholes or something. The seats have all the padding of old card table chairs so the bumps are pretty unpleasant. After several minutes of this, I wonder if I've made a big mistake. I've waited years to return to Monterey, trying to come up with ways to get there without driving, and this "sounded" like such a good idea. I don't know if I'll try this again.

Thankfully after a while the ride becomes smoother. We stop several places before arriving in Monterey. The Amtrak bus stop is at the Transportation Center downtown. I verify with the driver that this is the place where I'll catch the bus to go home in a couple of days. Next, to find my motel, which is within walking distance of the Transportation Center, my class and Fisherman's Wharf. Armed with my map, I get my bearings and start walking. A couple of blocks later and I'm at my motel. I check in and set off to find some lunch. The guy at the desk recommends the Mexican restaurant across the street, so I head over there.
The restaurant, El Palomar, has great atmosphere. It's quite spacious but very quiet right now, because it's the middle of the afternoon. There's a patio outside where I'd love to eat, but I'm too embarrassed to ask. I take a seat and a few minutes later I order. I pull out my notes and begin to plan the rest of the day. I'd like to get to a quilt store in Pacific Grove this afternoon, if possible, and as I'm trying to figure out how to get a lady at the next table asks me if I'm eating alone. I say yes. She asks if I'd like to join her at her table. She looks nice, so I go ahead and move.
Cindy is having her car detailed a couple of blocks away, so she's having lunch here while she waits--something she's done many times. Turns out she's a Spanish teacher at local school, but actually lives in Santa Cruz, about an hour's drive up the coast. She and her little family are getting ready to move (back) here, and meanwhile she's commuting. After the move, her husband will continue to work in Santa Cruz and he'll commute.
I tell Cindy my story of why I'm here, and that I use public transportation when I visit cities. It's been 10 years since I've been here, and I'm somewhat familiar with the area. Cindy is from Monterey and gives me some great tips on places to eat and things to do. I pay for her lunch as thanks for all the wonderful information she's given me for the rest of my trip.

The Hand Maden

After lunch I make my way to Pacific Grove on Bus 1. I get off at Lighthouse and 17th and pay a visit to The Hand Maden, a quilt store on Lighthouse. It's a nice store and I buy a couple of fat quarters. Out on Lighthouse again, looking for Back Porch Fabric on Grand. After a couple of tries, I give up because it's getting late. Maybe on my last day I'll have more success.

Bratty Real Estate on Lighthouse in Pacific Grove. The name tickled me.

I find a bench on Lighthouse and wait for a bus to take me to Cannery Row where I may have dinner. I catch Bus 1, get off at David and Ocean View. The first place I visit at Cannery Row is American Tin Cannery at Ocean View and Eardley, a small mall where I remember a discount bookstore from years ago. Unfortunately the bookstore isn't here anymore. I look around the mall for a little bit, then head back out to the street.
Sign near Monterey Bay Aquarium
I walk past Monterey Bay Aquarium. I've been there a couple of times in the past, and it's a wonderful place to see, but it's not on my agenda for this trip. I keep my eyes peeled for a restaurant. Bubba Gump, a fun seafood chain restaurant based on the movie Forrest Gump, is on Cannery Row. I'm keeping it in mind, but I've eaten at several of those already and I'd like to eat somewhere new.

Monterey Bay, Cannery Row
At Steinbeck Plaza I find a spot to sit and look at the bay. It's getting close to sunset, and when I'm by the ocean I try to be at the water when the sun goes down. After sitting on the bench for a little bit, I decide to go down the little stairway to get closer to the water. There are no benches here, but I find a rock to park myself on. This is much better, away from much of the street level chatter. I stay awhile, then go back up to the street to continue looking for a restaurant, and to check out the free trolley ride back to the wharf area in Monterey. I check out a couple of stores near the trolley stop, and I ask one shop employee when the trolley comes. The girl doesn't know anything about the trolley. Thanks a lot. I cross the street and check out the sign again.
Apparently the trolley doesn't run in the winter. Great. I decide to walk back to the wharf. I've done it before... a long time ago. I discover a path where others are walking, jogging and riding bikes and begin my trek. It takes longer than I remember, maybe half an hour, but it's quite pleasant.
The path leads me to Fishermen's Wharf. I check out the little stores and restaurants. Nothing really speaks to me for dinner. There's a farmer's market happening on Alvarado Street, where lots of food and goods being sold. I check out the Portola Hotel, where I'll take my class tomorrow. I want to get a good idea of where I'm supposed to go so I will be less stressed in the morning.

Osio Cinema

I'm interested in a movie tonight, and the Concierge at Portola Hotel recommends the Osio Cinema on Alvarado. I walk a couple of blocks there. The movie The Queen is showing. I don't go to the movies very often, but I've been wanting to see this one. I buy a ticket for a movie that won't start for a little while, then head out again to find something to eat.

Plumes Coffee
I'm having a hard time finding a restaurant that really calls to me, and I end up at Plumes Coffee at Alvarado and Franklin, a nice Starbucks-alternative coffee place near the Cinema. The food is really good. Then I head back to the Cinema to see my movie. I'm not disappointed in the film. I enjoy biographical movies, and I have to admit that I am a bit obsessive when it comes to the Princess of Wales.
After the movie I walk the few blocks back to my motel. Most of tomorrow will be filled by my class, so there isn't much planning to do. I watch TV, then to bed.

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