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Round the World 2007 USA

Monterey-Salinas-San Francisco

Another pancake breakfast, then repacked all my luggage and it felt considerably lighter. Checked out, then first went to buy a new pair of sunglasses, and then to the bus stop. I got the free bus to the transit plaza, to get another bus to Salinas, to later catch the Greyhound bus to San Francisco.

The shuttle bus went through some of Old Monterey (a little further along than the pier) and I realised what a shame it was that I didn’t check it out: it’s all old Spanish mission-style and quite pretty. I got to Salinas but had a few hours to kill. I started with lunch in a cafe called “Untamed Foods”: all organic and healthy stuff. Then I went to the Steinbeck Centre and Agricultural Museum. The agriculture side didn’t take long, but I learnt a fair bit about Steinbeck and could’ve spent a lot longer there. Steinbeck was born in Salinas and moved to Monterey. The majority of his books are all based around here.

I still had some time, so I walked up Main Street and back down, and spent some time in an internet cafe. The guy who served me was a fan of Paul Oakenfold and UK electronic music, and wanted to go to Creamfields at some point. It surprised me that someone on the other side of the world had heard of Creamfields.

When I got back to the Greyhound terminal, one of the guys who worked there lifted my bag onto the bus. He said I was very strong and said I could beat him up any time!

The bus journey was uneventful, but I was impressed with myself for walking from the bus terminal to the hostel, and not taking any wrong turns! The hostel wasn’t exactly standing out though: I was stood on the opposite side of the road and couldn’t see it for looking. It was just a door with a small sign and led upstairs.

Round the World 2007 USA

Monterey


I didn’t sleep well last night: I’m still out of sync, everyone else in the room was already asleep when I went to bed, and there were a couple of snorers.

But I was up at 7.30am, and got ready for the day before helping myself to the DIY pancake breakfast. I left the hostel just before 9am, walked down to the recreation trail that runs along the coast, and walked to Lovers Point. Monterey has a rocky coastline with occasional sheltered beaches. There is a kelp forest here, and loads of seals and sea otters. It also has whale-watching, dolphins and lots of birdlife. And signs warning you that there may be a tsunami due to earthquakes.

So I spotted a few seals and sea otters on my way to Lovers Point, then rented a kayak and paddled over to San Carlos Beach on the other side of town. I was told to stay in the kelp and therefore out of the way of the boats, and no closer than 50ft from the seals and otters (unless they choose to come closer).

It was a bit difficult spotting the seals and otters amongst the kelp. You’d think it was a head above the water, and it would turn out to be a kelp leaf on an angle. But there were a few to see on the rocks and the beach at the Stanford Marine Research Centre, and the further I went, the more I spotted. I stopped and watched one (which I thought was kelp until I saw it’s nostrils), then it disappeared under the water. I started to paddle off and heard breathing behind me: got a bit freaked out when I realised it was following me! There was also a group of around ten sea otters, who must’ve felt like an exhibit having six kayaks around them.

I got a bit scared on my way back to Lovers Point because I was paddling into the waves and the wind had come up a bit: I kept having images of me crashing against the rocks! Once I felt safe amongst the kelp near the beach, I stopped to watch a couple of seals in the water. More kept appearing, until I could six around me. I left after a few minutes and headed over to a sea otter closer to the beach. He seemed to feel a little uncomfortable with me there, so I was about to paddle off, when three seals surfaced: two in front of me and one behind, all within about five feet! I couldn’t paddle off because one was right next to me, so I just hung on to the kelp and went “oh shit oh shit oh shit”, until they all went underwater again. I got out quickly after that, only for another to pop his head up a little closer to the shore! Certainly had some close encounters with them, so I’m glad I went, but I was worried about being so close!

After my wildlife trip, I went for a walk along Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck’s book of the same name, and to Fisherman’s Wharf. Both filled with tacky tourist shops. I got a crepe and a coffee, then went to the aquarium. I saw a variety of fish that were apparently in the kelp I kayaked through, then went to a show about sea otters. It was aimed at children but it was quite informative. Then I wandered around the rest of the place, seeing some coral fish, penguins, hammer head sharks and loads of jellyfish.

I got back to the hostel around 5.30pm. My feet are now sunburnt, to match my tummy, the top of my back and my neck. It hurts. Spent the evening on the internet and made the mistake of buying a 12-inch pizza for dinner. Managed half of it, but think I’ll have to leave the rest.


Monterey is very picturesque. I can understand why people choose to live around here. If the beach is what you’re after, this is much more preferable to Santa Monica (although that was a nice beach). And it’s a smaller, more pleasant town too. So it’s a real shame that they have all these tacky tourist shops and cheap-eats. I feel that they bring the place down. But maybe the people of Monterey like it.

I should also mention that it’s pronounced “mon-er-ay”. The Americans drop the “t”. I tried that too, but it sounds ridiculous. I don’t know what they think when I pronounce it “mont-er-ay”, but I have had some funny looks.

Round the World 2007 USA

Santa Monica to Monterey

I was up too early this morning: breakfast hadn’t started. Gave me more than enough time to get my stuff downstairs. Had breakfast and checked out by 8am, then walked three blocks to the bus stop, and waited for the #10 bus to take me to Union Station to get my train.

It was a fairly uneventful journey, but it did get me thinking. I didn’t venture into Hollywood or downtown LA, partly because I didn’t really have time and partly because I was kinda scared. But now I’m not sure why: London and New York are both bigger, and they don’t scare me, and I think it’s about the same size as Sydney, which didn’t scare me. So I probably would’ve coped fine. But I didn’t have much time, and I’m not that bothered about missing it.

Union Station is very grand though. They might not do much rail travel over here compared to flights and cars, but they do it well. The train left LA at 10.15an, and I was lulled into a sleep almost straight away. I woke up before we reached Santa Barbara, which was the only vaguely interesting part of the trip. That was a very pretty stretch of coastline. The rest of the scenery seemed arid. I spent the journey reading (onto Da Vinci Code now), sleeping, and wandering back and forth to the dining/sightseeing carriage.

We reached Salinas at 6.40pm and got the bus to Monterey from there. The driver very kindly dropped me off outside the hostel. After a quick walk down to the drugstore for a new toothbrush, I spent the rest of the evening on the internet and planning tomorrow.


So Santa Monica looks good. It’s all tree-lined avenues, brightly painted attractive buildings, a gorgeous beach and fabulous weather. But, unfortunately it is still a city. There is a lot of noisy traffic, and loads of homeless people. I’m struggling to find hospitality staff who are earning the tips they so desperately need: not too friendly. And like I said, the pier reminds me of Blackpool.

The stereotypes are all there too. Girls really do rollerblade along the promenade (recreation trail over here) in their bikinis, and girls wander around the shops with their bags draped over one arm, and chatting on their “cell phone”. And all the people exercising for fun in the heat, sweat pouring off them…