Monterey: Steinbeck, Cheese and a real pretty aesthetic

I always thought I’d do this trip reading Grapes of Wrath but I forgot to pick up a copy. It’s a shame, because it would have been real topical reading.

We drove through Monterey on my way to Carmel and I couldn’t believe how pretty this little town was. Not pretty in a Carmel way, pretty in an ex industrial, fictional, Americana way. I was almost sad to be staying in Carmel if Monterey looked this good.

My opportunity to visit came after my Big Sur tour. I was dropped off in the touristy Cannery Row – the name of a Steinbeck novel. I was very tired suddenly, possibly because I had become hungry. I dragged myself down to one of the many seafood restaurants and planned to have fish and chips. I had spied a box earlier, and though it enticed me, there was just one problem.

“I’m from London.” I said. “Is your fish and chips with skinny fries or thick cut chips?”

“Errmm…” the girl looked bemused “It’s skinny fries, I think. Just regular french fries.”

I scowled.

“Okay, no worries.”


I decided to go to the Lalla restaurant for a macaroni cheese with shrimps and four cheese. I took a lemonade and watched the sea. It was a nice macaroni but the portion defeated me.

Satisfied, I decided to walk down to Fisherman’s Wharf. The names of Monterey districts mirror San Francisco’s in many ways. Fisherman’s Wharf is pretty and pastel, with all the beach fare you’d expect like funnel cake, sweet shops, ice cream and restaurants.

You can watch whales and dolphins, but I was enjoying it in a free way. On the way to the wharf, I saw a harbour seal anyway!

I tried saltwater taffy for the first time but I wasn’t a fan – they’re like chewits but way more soft and chewy, saltier and more tasteless.

I walked along Lighthouse on the way back and found a used book store, but my mistake/genius was walking back to Cannery Row and the Aquarium region because the bus back to Carmel was near the wharf. Luckily, MST runs a free trolley through Monterey! It’s a cute little experience, and takes you right to the Transit Plaza where the onwards buses go and if you’re wondering why you see so few homeless in the tourist areas – it’s because they’re all at the Transit Plaza. A friendly bus driver told me which buses to take and when, and I headed to the Trader Joe’s store to get some food for dinner before catching my bus home, where I chatted about life with a wonderful woman called Suzanne.

I didn’t spend much time in Monterey, and whilst Monterey Jack cheese is great, and the city is very photogenic, the problem is that I’m spoiled. I stayed in Carmel, and I had just come from Santa Barbara. I felt like it couldn’t hold a candle. There were a few merits, the tourist scene may have been better for a solo traveller. The aquarium is a pretty popular spot, and said to be the world’s best, but with a price tag to go along with it at $48 for adults. For that reason I recommend it, but was happy with my stay in Carmel.


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