Monday, October 18, 2010

Monterey, California

The salt-pruned Lone Cypress, the official symbol of the Pebble Beach Company, has withstood the sands of time for over 250 years.

We recently returned from a road trip that included Monterey, located on California’s central coast. There’s a lot of beauty on the Monterey Peninsula, and the 17-Mile Drive has more than its share of it (hence, justification for an admission fee!). Come along with us as we explore some of the highlights of this famous drive.

It was a captivating mixture of rocky shore and foggy morn.

While my husband went to sneak a glimpse of the Links at Spanish Bay, I took pictures of this weathered picnic table and stacks of ocean rocks.  (Who stacks ocean rocks?  Are they sculptures?)

The Spyglass Hill Golf Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. He took inspiration from the book Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, who was himself inspired by the Monterey Peninsula.


A short distance from the Spyglass Hill Golf Course is the Cypress Point Lookout. An information board there states: “In the waters before you lies Carmel Canyon – an arm of the 10,000-foot-deep [10,000 feet deep?!!] Monterey Canyon. In spring and summer, deep, cold, fertile waters well up, feeding the area’s marine life. Monterey Bay’s amazing variety of life depends on this upwelling.”

Another board says, “In 1542, the explorer Cabrillo called this point of land Cabo de Nieve – Cape Snow – to describe the white landscape before him. No one’s sure what he saw. In 1774, Tomas de la Pena, a missionary, gave this western-most point on the Monterey Peninsula the name, Pa Punta de cipreses[sic], or Cypress Point. The name stuck and became official in 1967….Cabrillo may have seen snow when he sailed past this point in October of 1542. At that time the world’s climate was colder than it is today.

“Surrounding you are the majestic trees for which Cypress Point was named. During Cabrillo’s time this species was near extinction. It occurs naturally in only two places – from here to Pescadero Point (four stops to the south) and at Point Lobos (south of Carmel). Today, Monterey cypress have been planted worldwide, usually near coastlines.”

This part of the drive has a rather grotesque beauty, though to be certain, it is beautiful.

There was nothing grotesque, however, about the mansion that rose above it all (upper right in photo).  It was but one of many along the drive.

Arguably the most well-known stop along the 17-Mile Drive is The Lodge and Golf Links at Pebble Beach. 

Pebble Beach Golf Links and The Lodge opened in 1919.


Rather conveniently, it was about lunch time when we arrived, so we ate at the Stillwater Bar & Grill, overlooking the 18th hole and Carmel Bay.  It felt like a really grown-up place to be.  Not that I’ve had to worry for some time about being grown up enough, but still…!

The 18th hole, shot through the railing

Jack Nicklaus has been quoted as saying that if he had one last round to play it would be at Pebble Beach.

The bay-view (back) side of The Lodge


A friend commented on the lengths to which they went to prevent soil erosion. This is one place where that little bitty spot of land is probably worth considerably more than the rocks that are holding it up!

It was tough to pick just one hotel to stay in on the Monterey Peninsula. Since this was for actual, rather than virtual, travel, some consideration had to be given to budget. In the end, our pick for Monterey was the Spindrift Inn.

The Spindrift Inn won TripAdvisor's 2010 Traveler's Choice Award for Most Romantic. It was easy to see why!  In addition to the romantic style of the hotel, there was unfailingly gracious service by the staff.

Afternoon refreshments

The lobby was a lovely place to sit with our wine, cheese, and crackers and get to know some of the other guests, like Dick & Susie from Reno and Rick & Mary from Columbus.  Alternatively, refreshments could also be taken to one’s room or the rooftop garden.

The wine offered was Ventana, from a local winery.  We had the Rubystone, which goes for $15 a bottle at Bevmo.  It was good and the servings, generous.  (A refill was offered.) 

Room #407.  It was so beautiful!

I love they way they designed the closet to look like a built-in armoire.

Room #407 is one of two water-facing, corner rooms on the top floor. It was so nice being able to have the windows cracked at night and hearing the gentle waves lapping on the shore.

I’ll be honest though, the cormorant choir, on a large nearby rock, could use some more practice – preferably in the daytime! So when you’re ready to actually sleep, earplugs wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Another lesson for the future, we should book a room that’s not on the top floor. Most, if not all, hotels have various machinery on the roof, and even though I don’t tend to notice it, one of us in this marriage does!

The Spindrift Inn is located on Cannery Row.  According to Wikipedia, the street name was changed to Cannery Row to match the name Steinbeck had given the street (thinly disguised) in his novel.

The Spindrift Inn’s concierge booked dinner for us at the Charthouse. That resulted in great seating, personalized menus, and a free dessert. It was only a two-block walk from the inn.

We were told the bright lights on the left, which appear to be near the horizon, were from the sardine boats. The lights apparently draw the sardines closer to the surface for an easier catch.

Back in our room, the fireplace went on.  Sweet dreams!

What a great way to start the next day, with our coffee and munchies, and sitting in our hotel robes on those banquettes that were practically over the water’s edge! The morning sun was streaming in, while fresh ocean breezes followed through the open windows. Wow. (Breakfast requests are made the night before, and the tray is brought to the room at the time of your choosing.) It’s not too hard to take.

With caffeine and Corn Flakes and such, we were fortified to make new discoveries on the journey ahead. Stay tuned!

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