Friday, March 23, 2012

Away to Monterey

Earlier this week, Karen and I took a short 28th Anniversary (!) vacation to Monterey and Carmel, two seaside resort towns on the California coast. Although they're just a few hours from our home, I hadn't visited the area in many years (Karen has had a few more recent business meetings there). Monterey is famous for its Cannery Row, immortalized in the Steinbeck novel of the same name, and between Monterey and Carmel lie some of the best golf courses in the world--about which, much to my father-in-law's disappointment, I couldn't care less. But it sure is purty.

There's some interesting geography at work here. Monterey and Carmel lie about five miles apart at the south tip of Monterey Bay, which takes a big shallow bite out of the Pacific Coast. On the map below, you can see how Monterey sits on the protected inland side of a stubby peninsula--when you're standing on the shore you see land nearly 360 degrees around--while Carmel is on the opposite side facing directly into the Pacific. As a result, the waters of Monterey are as calm as a lake, while the coast of Carmel is pounded by frothing surf. Their ecosystems and microclimates are distinctly different. It's a dramatic contrast in a compact area.

I'll tell you all about it with a few pictures and captions, then maybe have more to say on the other side . . .
Karen shot this sunrise from our hotel room balcony overlooking Monterey Bay. 

One of our favorite genres of photography, the long-armed one-handed self-portrait. I'd be embarrassed to admit how many of these we shoot. So I won't.

The region's leading vistors' destination, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I'm standing along the far railing overlooking the manmade tide pool. State of the art when it was built in 1984, the aquarium is a spectacular don't-miss attraction. Twenty-six years ago, it also served as the location of . . .

. . . the Cetacean Institute of Sausalito in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." You know, the whale movie. This view is the reverse angle of the snapshot above; I added a little orange dot to mark where I'm standing--or where I will stand in 26 years. Except for the movie-magic San Francisco skyline, whale tank, whale (George or Gracie, not sure which), and being 130 miles from Sausalito, this is pretty much how it still looks. Karen and I have stayed married 28 years because she only rolls her eyes a little when I exclaim things like, "Oh, these are the steps Dr. Taylor ran up to pull Spock out of the whale tank!" Ah, l'amour.

Immediately below is a video I shot of feeding time at one of the aquarium's big tanks, which held tuna, sea turtles, a sunfish, one hammerhead shark, and more. Most fascinating was a school of 20,000 silver sardines that flowed around the tank like mercury. A century ago, sardines were the primary catch canned on Cannery Row. Today the bay is a protected marine sancturary and shopkeepers reel dollars out of tourists' wallets. It's a fair exchange.

The aquarium has several terrific exhibits but my absolute favorite was the jellyfish. They're housed in featureless tanks with deep blue backgrounds and then lit so that their translucent bodies almost seem to glow.

More jellies, and a short movie below that captures others in motion. They're so incredibly beautiful it's hard to remember they're alive. They're like works of art.

The water's rougher out along the peninsula facing the Pacific. This is Bird Rock, and what may not be immediately apparent--at least, it wasn't to our eyes on the scene--is that the rock and ocean are jam-packed with barking sea lions. Below is a close-up of the same photo showing dozens of them sunning themselves on the rock while dozens more float in the water with one flipper raised into the air (for temperature regulation? Voting?). Still others frolicked in the waves, doing something I can only describe as surfing. It's a good life.

Through the cypress trees, the beach of Carmel. We went prepared for cold rain but lucked out and hit amazing shirt-sleeve weather.

I wanted to finish up with a word about marriage. It's a little dismaying when you've been married long enough to start winning door prizes and condescending praise ("Anybody here married for ten years? Fifteen? Twenty-five? Wow, twenty-eight, isn't that great folks!"). I remember attending some 25th anniversary parties when I was a kid and those people were OLD. But when you do it right with the right person it seems to fly by pretty effortlessly, especially with kids occupying 24 years of it. Happy Anniversary, Sweetie, thanks for putting up with me.


Sherwood Harrington said...

What a great anniversary getaway! And thanks for the photos and videos. Diane and I are much closer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium than you are, but we still don't get there as often as we'd like.

When we do get there, though, our favorite sight is often this.

Walter Underwood said...

Next time, eat at Passionfish in Pacific Grove. We went there for our 20th, five years ago.

ronnie said...

Great post. I follow a few Californians through blogs and twitter and am constantly envious of the beauty and weather you enjoy.

Happy Anniversary! It's been 16 years for us and it feels like - well, I just can't remember life "before". But life "before" doesn't seem to matter much anyway.

Mike said...

I think part of the longevity has to do with wanting to go to an aquarium on a romantic getaway. Better to visit cold fish on your anniversary than to try to remain married to one in the interim.

Brian Fies said...

Thanks for the good thoughts and comments, all. And we appreciate the recommendation, Walter; next time!