June 27, 2003

Monterey, New South Wales

At bedtime, Jane asked James (our almost-four-year-old) whether he enjoyed our vacation or not.

He said he really loved our vacation, and he really loved Australia.

Hmmm. Dad leaves home to go to Australia. James leaves home, why, he must be going to Australia too!

For the record, we drove to Monterey, California, where we spent three days, and then to Sacramento, California, where we spent three days, and then we came home. You can't drive to Australia.

Monterey was very nice. The Embassy Suites hotel in Monterey isn't really in Monterey; it's just over the border in Seaside. But we could see the ocean from our window, and the road that passed in front of the hotel took us to straight to Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I have to hand it to the Monterey Embassy Suites and its staff--they've got families all scoped out (and there were lots of families staying there). The breakfast was good every morning, they had a special kid-friendly buffet in the evening (which we didn't take advantage of), and there was a flier in our rooms telling us about all the local events that would be fun for kids, including the Harry Potter parties the night before.

Mostly, we went to the Aquarium. The concierge set us up with special tickets--good for two day's admittance at the same price as normal tickets. Given the kids' capacity for two hours' worth of excitement a day, that turned out to be an outstanding deal. I'd thought we'd covered most of the Aquarium the first day, and that we were just going back to see some odds and ends. It turns out that they'd added a whole new wing since we were there seven or eight years ago, dedicated to the life of the Outer Bay. It was filled with exquisitely displayed jellyfish, really quite shockingly beautiful (pun not intended), and also a massive tank filled mostly with tuna, along with a couple of sea turtles, a hammerhead shark, and a few other things. It was gorgeous, and Jane and I just stood there wondering at it for at least ten minutes, while David and James kept trying to pull us away.

Do you have any idea how big tuna really are? I think of fish as being rather flat in cross-section, but tuna are big, fat suckers, like scaly dolphins.

On the Monday afternoon, we hired a babysitter from a service with an office at the hotel, and went to walk around Carmel, just the two of us, feeling dreadfully and joyfully extravagant. Carmel has changed a bit, and the neat bookstore in the complex at the top of Ocean Street has gone, but it was fun to walk around the galleries, admiring some things and laughing at others.

On the Tuesday, we did the pretty part of the 17 Mile Drive, from Pacific Grove to Carmel (with David asking, "Where's our new hotel?" every fifteen minutes), and then headed toward Sacramento. State highway 68 to US 101 north to state highway 156, which passes through the little town of San Juan Bautista, home of the mission of the same name.

I'm not sure I'd ever been to San Juan Bautista before, despite having driven within fifteen miles of it on any number of occasions; but Jane had suggested Mexican food for lunch, and I saw a sign for a place called "Dona Esther's". We went, and it was outstanding. I had a shredded beef enchilada and a big tamale, with the best Mexican rice and beans I've ever had. It wasn't a fancy place, and it wasn't fancy food, but darn it was good. I'd gladly go back. Then we walked over and looked through the Mission, to which I'll give a mixed review. The grounds and the Mission museum are looking pretty ratty. I don't think there's a whole lot of money coming in. But the sanctuary itself was well-maintained and spotless (and beautiful), and there were other signs that the parish is alive and healthy.

And then we drove on to Sacramento. But that's another post.

Posted by Will Duquette at June 27, 2003 09:55 PM