When I was trying to figure out where to go for the Fourth of July weekend, I was sure of three things: I wanted to explore my new home state of California, I wanted to be near the Pacific Ocean, and I didn’t want to drive more than three or four hours by myself. I searched for award night hotels by route between Fort Bragg and Monterey, rather than by destination. The final decision of Monterey was thus made by award night availability. In retrospect, I wish I had not picked the Fourth of July to travel here, because there is just so much to see and do and my mobility was limited by holiday traffic. I just wanted to relax, so I parked my car at my hotel for most of the trip and this is what I discovered.
Holiday Inn Express – Cannery Row
This hotel is a great value. Once a small boutique hotel, it looks more like a home than a hotel and blends nicely into the neighborhood. However, it has the same amenities as other HIEs, such as free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and parking. The rooms are simply, but nicely, furnished, and I slept 12 hours the first night, so no problem with the bed. This hotel offers free wine and cheese daily at 5:30 p.m., but know that that it’s a spread of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and three inexpensive wines: a white, a rosé, and a red, nothing fancy.
Upon my arrival, I was looking for a quick, easy, and inexpensive place for lunch, so I stopped at El Torito on the bay. I haven’t been in California long enough to know it was a chain restaurant. I ordered the special of the day, which was all-you-can-eat mahi mahi tacos, which were just fine for me. My only observation is that the service was a bit slow, even though it didn’t seem to be too crowded when I was there around 1:30 p.m. I was in no hurry, so no harm, no foul.
I only know of Cannery Row thanks to writer John Steinbeck, who was born in nearby Salinas, California. The street previously named Ocean View Avenue was renamed in 1958 to honor the writer and his novel of the same name. The former sardine canning factories have been converted into shops, restaurants, hotels, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A few historic buildings have been preserved, such as Pacific Biological Laboratories. The area is quite touristy, but it’s a nice place to spend some time walking around.
A Taste of Monterey
A Taste of Monterey, founded in 1993, is a regional wine bar, market, and bistro located in a renovated sardine cannery. It offers 250 wines for sale from over 75 wineries in Monterey County. There are two tasting flights, a premium flight for $10 and a reserve flight for $20, with the tasting fees waived with a two-bottle purchase. The bistro offers wine by the glass, beer, small bites, salads, and sandwiches, with most tables offering a view of Monterey Bay.
Cannery Row Brewing Company
Boasting 73 beers on tap and 30 small-batch bourbons, Cannery Row Brewing Company is a relatively new addition to the area that opened in 2010. According to its website, it’s the largest beer outlet in Monterey County and the second largest in Northern California. The atmosphere is beach casual and the menu is pub food. When I travel, I always eat and drink as local as possible, so I opted for a English Ales Brewery 1066 Pale Ale.
Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Scenic Road
On Sunday morning, I decided to take one more peek at the Pacific Ocean before I started my drive home. I put Carmel, California in my GPS and eventually found my own way to Scenic Road. Spontaneity is something I’ve had to learn over time, so I am glad I allowed myself the freedom to just go and see. It was a beautiful morning and residents and visitors were already out walking their dogs, biking, running, and setting up their space on the beach for a day. What a lovely stretch of beach and homes. When I return, I’d love to stay in this area for a day or two and walk instead of drive.
With any trip I take, there’s never enough time. As I mentioned above, I should have planned this trip on a non-holiday weekend, so I could have ventured out more by car. However, many of us only have holidays or a couple of days off at a time, so if you’re like me and that’s all you have, go for it. A journey like this is worth even just a day or two.