Aubrey has just recently returned from a long weekend spent with Boyfriend visiting Northern California's charming trifecta, its most – in my opinion – compelling acres: Pacific Grove/Monterey/Santa Cruz.
We stayed at the Lover's Point Inn, in Pacific Grove, a mere crosswalk from the ocean.
Run across the street and you're there, taking in the clear water washing up in translucent blues and greens; hearing the blubberized harbor seals bark; watching them maneuver in sloppy fashion for a rocky seat that isn't occupado; observing various examples of seabird confrontation:
It's a good place to find your own seat beneath shadowy cypress trees, braced in the clear, cold wind. It's a good place to wish you'd brought your bloody jacket:
Lighthouse Avenue is the main drag. It's where you will find the Greatest Restaurant In The World. Boyfriend likes it there too, and can vouch for their desserts. This is how a brownie should look:
This is a clafouti, fruits and batter, baked in a pan:
I can personally recommend the breakfast quiche/frittata, made with vegetables and parmesan cheese, that is so good that, in the words of the song about a red-haired woman, it makes you wanna slap your mamma down.
Monterey and the Aquarium are about a mile away. Aquarium photographs were difficult, because I choose to obey the pleadings of the Aquarium staff: that is, to PLEASE DO NOT USE FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY. I have imagination enough to keep the image of a 1,000 lb. sunfish fresh in my mind, without photographing it in a frenzy of light. Limited as I was, however, I could still take a photo of an otter – its constant motion momentarily contained inside a bucket. Or of seabirds, either resting in mirror images or boldly staring me down:
Boyfriend went surfing, obviously. Asilomar Beach was lovely, but the shores seemed to glitter more than sea-swept sands usually should. Walking closer, we saw that it was dotted with glowing globules: jellyfish, helpless in the rip currrent, washed up and stranded along the length of the shoreline.
The waves on that day were, as Boyfriend succinctly put it, "as hairy as can be". He went out anyway. And was lost from sight for 20 minutes.
Was I worred? Oh, a bit.
But in the end all was serene, and I was perfectly willing to be the extra in Boyfriend's photograph of his '67 Mustang.
Oh, and the annual Pacific Grove Butterfly Parade, with the local schoolchildren dressed in butterfly costumes? The parade that celebrates the butterflies arriving on its migratory coastal flight? The butterflies that come floating on wings like tawny windowpanes? The parade I had arranged this vacation around? Well, when the above picture was taken, it was half over. When we got back to town, the best we could do was run after its remnants.
Now ordinarily this would have slammed Boyfriend in the doghouse, with the key most definately thrown away. And that most certainly would have been the case if is wasn't for the stray butterfly we saw on our dejected walk back. I was fortunate enough to catch her on film:
We spen most of Sunday in Santa Cruz. You can hear the sea lions arguing for position beneath the wharf from nearly a mile away. I don't think people can help smiling when they hear a sea lion/seal barking. It's such a bulky, goofy sound.
We went on the boardwalk, braving ten rides. Interested in waking up wih a fused spinal column? Try one of the back cars of The Giant Dipper roller coaster. It's wooden, over 80 years old, and is very much loved by the walk's patrons. I love it too, but as I said, there's that spinal column thing.
Equally loved is the Looff Carousel. Its horses first sprang into action in 1911 and are as fiery as every. I rode twice.
Years ago, riders would grab a brass ring – now it's one of dark and dour steel. You try to fling it into the open mouth of a terrifying face of a clown painted on a wall as you pass by. If your aim is true, lights flash, horns blow, and I think angels descend from heaven. If you miss, well, you're still throwing metal objects at a clown, so it's a win-win situation.
There is a ride called The Double Shot. I remarked that it's called that because it's an apt description of the projectile vomiting which follows as soon as you stagger off. Here's the thing: you're shot 125 feet into the air, brought down half way, shot to the top again, then slammed to the ground.
Finally, we came upon the Holy Grail of all theme parks, county fairs and boardwalks: the deep-fried Twinkie. They are served, I'm happy to announce, with powdered sugar and your choice of strawberry or chocolate syrup. Boyfriend ordered one. Why? Well…
We had dinner on the wharf, waiting for a table by the window so we could watch the sun dim over the trees and the lighthouse, winking its assurance throught the oncoming marine darkness. We could see sea lions floating, lazy and happy. We saw sea gulls behaving madly: one had what looked like a tea bag – of no use whatsoever; still it would not relinquish ownership to the three other gulls who followed it in a Darjeeling-possessive row.
We arrived on Friday, and left on Monday. We're already planning for next year's visit.