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Trip Report Monterey weekend trip report - beer festival, adobes, and a mission

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My husband and I went to Monterey for the weekend - to attend the beer festival and to celebrate our anniversary. Here is the report.

Day 1: Friday
We worked half a day and then drove down to Monterey from San Jose. We took the Camaro, which even though we have had it for 5 months, was its maiden road trip. The afternoon drive was lovely – sunny and warm, light wind, lots of flowers. We opened the windows and the sun roof and let the wind blow our stress away.

We stayed at Casa Munras at the corner of Fremont and Munras Avenue – it is the old Munras house that has been turned into a hotel/motor inn. Several two-story buildings are arranged sort of around a pool, with parking in front of the buildings. We had a lower level room, which was nice, except for the noise from the cars. Next time I would request an upstairs room. Our room was basic, but well-furnished. The bed was wonderful – great mattress, down comforter, triple-sheeted, quality linens. We also had a fireplace in our room, which was nice on the first night after we wandered around the wharf and came back cold. The location of the hotel is on the edge of downtown, close to shops and restaurants, and about a 15 minute walk to Fisherman’s Wharf.

After checking in, we walked down to the wharf to see the views and the sea lions. We saw quite a few young sea lions and a couple of otters. After wandering around, we had dinner at Isabella’s on the wharf – it was our first time eating there and we chose it because of the views. The food was good – a cut above what you get at most places on the wharf. And the service was excellent. I had a macadamia crusted sea bass with roasted sweet potatoes and coconut risotto. It wasn’t as good as say Passionfish, but still pretty good, and with a great view. The clam chowder was just so-so though.

After dinner, we poked around the Monterey Historic Park (all the buildings were closed for the day, but we peeked in some windows and looked around). Then we wandered back to the hotel, stopping for coffee on the way. It was a chilly, foggy night, so coffee was perfect.

Day 2 – Saturday:
We had breakfast at Rosine’s on Alvarado. We’ve been there before for breakfast and always had a good meal – this was no exception. The Bacado omelet was one of the daily specials and it was great. It was a tough choice between that and pancakes with fresh strawberries, but I decided I needed a good, hearty meal with lots of protein for the beer festival later.

After breakfast we walked over to the Cooper-Molera adobe which is on the corner of Alvarado and Munras, just down from our hotel. We hadn’t been able to tour that one before – the timing never worked out, but we had some time to kill and I wanted to stop and look at their gardens and poke around in the gift shop. As it turned out, there hadn’t been anybody for the regularly-scheduled morning tour, so the guide was just hanging around. She agreed to give us a non-scheduled tour, just the two of us. It was great – this is a larger house than most of the adobes in Monterey and when it was given to the state by the family, the family gave a lot of the furnishings as well. So it is a great way to see how people lived in old Monterey. The history of the house and the families that lived there is quite interesting as well – definitely some major players in the history of Monterey. I recommend touring at least one adobe and checking out the customs house and the Monterey Historic Park for anyone interested in the history of Monterey and of California.

The beer festival was at the fairgrounds that afternoon, which we walked to – a couple miles, so not bad. Lots of other people were walking too. The festival was great, more crowded than I was expecting, but fun nonetheless. I was expecting to be able to talk with the brewers and pourers more, but there were just so many people that they didn’t have time to talk much. There must have been at least 50 breweries represented – possibly more. We didn’t get to try everything, but we had some really great beers. There was also food for sale in one area of the festival and a couple booths with some crafty-type things to buy. The crowd was young-ish – tended toward people in their 20s, but people in their 30s and above were well represented. And everybody was very low-key. There were 2 bands – the first played classic rock and the second more metal and alternative.

After the festival we walked back to the hotel and relaxed a bit. Then we went to Peter B’s, which is a brewpub at the Portola Hotel near the wharf. The beer there is quite good, although the food is just ok. It is a friendly place and there are plenty of TVs, so a good place to watch a game.

Day 3 – Sunday:
Breakfast was at Wild Plum Café across the street from the hotel. We’d never been there before, but it got good reviews and was convenient so we decided to check it out. This is a small, funky place with a great staff. It was a busy morning and the place was jumping, but they really take care of their customers. We got a table after about 5 minutes – they handed us cups of coffee while we waited – good coffee. I thought this was going to be more of a coffee and pastry type of place, but they have a full menu of breakfasts – egg dishes, pancakes, etc. All organic. I had an egg steamer which was great – sort of like an egg soufflé. And the house-made break is fantastic. We will definitely come back to this place. Such a find, and great prices.

After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and went down to Carmel to visit the mission. Neither of us had been to the mission in about 15 years, so we figured we were due for a visit. Being Sunday, there were church services, but there is a lot to the mission besides the church. We did get to go into the church between services though. During the service, we stood out in the garden courtyard in front of the church and listened to the heavenly music.

In addition to the church, there are the gardens of the mission, plus a couple of buildings that can be toured. One was the guest and living quarters for the mission, which are furnished as they would have been during the mission period. Another building is the Casa Munras (same family as the Munras in Monterey), and it is done up as the residents would have lived. It also has some great displays of personal items and a short film about the family. Definitely a worthwhile visit.

Of course, as with many missions, the story of the Native Americans is glossed over in the literature and in the displays. There is information about the conversion of Native Americans and also about the deaths due to disease, but not much, and I didn’t see anything about the forced conversions, slavery, or the living conditions of the Native Americans. At any rate, the missions are some of the best-preserved examples of Mexican and Spanish California.

After visiting the mission we drove around Carmel a bit and checked out the town. We drove past the beach, but since parking was scarce, we didn’t stop. It is an absolutely beautiful beach though. Carmel village itself I can take or leave – it is too cute for words, but I am not much for shopping and galleries, so it isn’t really my style. There is a walking tour that I would like to take some time – about the history of the town, some of the hidden gardens and lanes, and that sort of thing.

We were getting hungry by this time and it was well after lunch time, so we decided to go to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. After the so-so chowder at Isabella’s, we needed some GOOD chowder. The sun was even shining in Moss Landing, so we sat outside near the beach and enjoyed the warmth and the wind.

We drove home through Watsonville through the strawberry fields, stopped at Gizdich Ranch to buy an ollalieberry pie, and then drove over Mount Madonna (Hwy 152). We also stopped in Morgan Hill at El Toro Brewing Co. to buy some of their Poppy Jasper Amber to take home. El Toro was at the beer festival and the Poppy Jasper was my favorite amber of the day.

Overall it was a great weekend - and a much-needed break.

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