Monterey is a great California beach town with lots of history and beauty that we were sure was going to keep us busy for days. We kicked off our visit to Monterey with a “must see” attraction that should be on everyone’s list - the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Betsy has always loved this aquarium and my sister said she could spend a whole day there. So with those recommendations, I put on my tourist hat, grabbed the camera, and was eager to begin the day’s adventure. The aquarium is located downtown along the famed Cannery Row in an old sardine cannery. The history of the canning business is not lost and as you enter the building you are greeted with an exhibit about the once thriving industry. The three-story aquarium keeps young and old awe-inspired with the sea. The aquarium hovers right on Monterey Bay and takes advantage of the stunning natural beauty by incorporating large windows and decks for outdoor viewing. While on one of the observation decks we spotted sea otters frolicking in their naturally rich environment and spent ten minutes ooh'ing and aah'ing over how adorable they are.
|We were fascinated with the whirling movements of a sardine "bait ball" that was steered by hammerhead sharks and other tank inhabitants.|
|a kelp forest|
|while this may look like sea weed they are |
actually sea dragons
As you saunter along the bay front walkways and through galleries one forgets that downtown Monterey was once a stinky, slimy, noisy, bustling seaport which drew people from all over the world who were exploiting the sea’s natural bounty. During the heyday of “Cannery Row” there were 19 canneries and reduction plants employing hundreds of workers and driving the prosperous local economy. Much of this demand for canned seafood was fueled by the need for soldier’s rations during World War I. But the boom would soon turn to bust. Biologists sounded an early warning (in 1929) that the sardine industry would collapse if smaller catches were not taken. Yet, harvest and processing techniques improved and purse-seiner boats became more efficient at reaping the silver bounty. In the 1950’s as populations of wild fish collapsed so did the canning and it became just another chapter in the city’s history. The importance of the canning industry was not lost and the city renamed Ocean Avenue to “Cannery Row” in 1958.
|Just by looking at her face you can tell that was a smelly job.|
When you hear the name “Cannery Row” a literary icon may come to mind before smelly fish packed in tin cans. John Steinbeck called this area home and found it the inspiration for many of his literary works – most notably “Cannery Row.” The nearby town of Salinas (about 15 miles from downtown Monterey) was Steinbeck’s birthplace and is home to the National Steinbeck Center and impressive museum and learning center.
Steinbeck’s love for writing was apparent as a young boy and he followed that passion. Despite six years at Harvard University, he never graduated and at times worked as a laborer in the California agricultural fields. This hard work later became the inspiration for his most notable literary work – the Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck’s books told the hard social and economic truths of what was happening during the Depression era which was not always popular. In fact, his home town of Salinas burned his books on two different occasions. He went on to be a war correspondent and win a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature.
|The center's exhibits are highly varied forms of multi-media that bring his literary works to life.|
When in Monterey and you begin to feel hunger pangs, head over to Old Fisherman’s Wharf and begin the largest sampling of free clam chowder anywhere. The pier houses tacky tourist shops and restaurants but the chowder and seafood restaurants are worth wading through the tack. Sorry I was too busy eating and did not take more pictures of the wharf.