It’s still foggy here in Carmel today, and the sea mist keeps the air muggy, so my hair is in a ratchety mess of curls.I take the bus into town to score some breakfast. I head to ‘Katy’s Place’, which is packed for a Tuesday (seriously, people of Carmel-don’t you have jobs??), and pitch up at the bar. I order coffee and ‘pigs in blankets’ which in this neck of the woods means succulent sausages wrapped in giant pancakes, smothered in whipped butter, maple syrup and cinnamon. I’m going to get fat-there’s no sugar coating this fact (pun unintended, but left in anyway).
I walk the 40 minutes back to the hotel to work off my mammoth calorie intake, and pass the beach and by expensive stores and cottage-like houses. Carmel confuses me a little, it’s like The Hamptons meets Bournemouth, but it feels as if it’s not really sure what it wants to be.
I decide by late afternoon that the sun is clearly never going to make an appearance (they call it ‘June Gloom’-bloody perfect), so instead I take the ‘stangy for a spin.
There’s a stretch of road ’17 mile drive’, looping across forests to the coast, where private residences are mixed in with equally private golf courses. The area is called Pebble Beach and you can’t actually even enter it unless you’re a resident or pay the ten dollar toll fee. I pay up and am given a handy map outlining key vista points on the route for photo opportunities.
It’s a very odd experience. I take the 20 mph drive and do pull over for scenic cliff top views, spying Brandt’s Cormorants circling the rocks, but really-it just adds to my confusion of this crazy little town and what it’s trying to be.
I exit and decide to shoot down the one to Monterey. I park up and walk ‘Cannery Row’.
So called after the novel of the same name by John Steinbeck, this stretch used to house sardine canning factories until 1973.
Nowadays, it is host to shops and eateries and leads to Fisherman’s wharf, for more of the same-and from where boat trips operate.
I have some time, so I go to the Monterey Aquarium to catch me some marine life. Yesterday Google promised me a sea otter reserve on my drive, which I was super excited about, but which turned out to be a massive lie (screw you Google!!), so I’m hoping to see some inside.
I’m not disappointed and arrive just in time to see the feeding of these cute furry sea creatures. The youngest one Gidget, is showing off doing barrel rolls and playing a solo game of bounce with a big red ball.
The rest of the aquarium is pretty neat too, and I spy octopuses, penguins, jelly fish and leopard sharks. I love the display of tiny drifters which are the size of my pinkie fingernail, and which remind me how utterly amazing our planet is.
There’s also a hands on section for petting (?!?) sea kelp, and crabs. I casually push my way past kiddies to reach into the water to pat a slimy Bat Ray as he speeds by.
After my tour of the sea’s finest I’ve worked up an appetite for some, erm, seafood (sorry fellas-you looked tasty!).
I make my way down Fisherman’s Wharf and chow down on some tasty octopus and sand dabs, accompanied by some lovely vino.
My sea tastes satisfied, I walk back, passing all the moored boats and hearing the bark of wild bay seals, but failing to spot them.
It’s starting to drizzle (and ‘it never rains in California’ my ass!!) so I drive back to misty Carmel and call it a night.
Not quite the beach bumming I had planned for this stretch of my drive along the west coast, but it’s still fascinating to see what some of these sleepy seaside towns have to offer. Even if the weather is currently more sunny in Manchester.