2014 Roadtrip: Our Ten Days on the Monterey Peninsula

Once we had our May 6th to 16th day accommodations squared away at the Howard Johnson Pacific Grove, we could start exploring the area. Click here to read about our apartment. Pacific Grove is a small town with lots of interesting and quaint homes, lots of trees, lots of fabulous views of Monterey Bay and lots of things that we like to do. We highly recommend this area. If it weren't for the weather that is just too cool for us, we'd think of it as our "ocean destination of choice". Fortunately for us while we were in the area, the temperature hit "alert" highs and we were very happy.

The downtown area of both Pacific Grove and Monterey have charming Victorian houses from the late 1800's. There are small cottages too, some of which look like the ones in Santa Monica--California craftsman style. There are also many regular-looking middle class homes with million dollar addresses or views or both. Most of the homes are well maintained and many look beautifully renovated. There is a great choice in restaurants in Pacific Grove and Monterey, as well as in Carmel (which is really close). Click here to read 2014 Monterey Peninsula Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM. We were happy to find so many Middle Eastern restaurants to try.

All over the Monterey Peninsula we see a bush that we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s called the Pride of Madeira. They have big stalks-pokers-that are blue/violet and showy and distinctive.  Pacific Grove has many wooded areas and our neighborhood has an amazing number of seemingly tame deer. The tourist brochures call it an urban forest (and so is Monterey). We didn't go whale watching but were told that there were whales to be spotted (we thought that being on the water would be too cold for us). Unfortunately, it was not Monarch Butterfly season (they arrive in November and leave in late February).

For our first dinner we went around the corner to the Fishwife, which was recommended by Pam, at the front desk of the Howard Johnson Pacific Grove. It was very good. In this post, we will just name the restaurants where we ate during our stay. For our full reviews, click here to read our 2014 Monterey Peninsula Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM.

On Wednesday, our first full day in the area, we did chores and had our car washed. For lunch we went to Paprika Cafe, a tiny place owned and run by a Lebanese man who grew up in France. Dimitri had his version of an Egyptian dish called foul. He was happy.That night we had dinner at a Greek restaurant called Epsilon and had a wonderful meal and a fun time talking with our neighboring table (who have lived in Monterey). 

On our second full day, we hopped on our bikes and went to Pebble Beach on the 17-Mile Drive. The Pacific Grove gate (which charges cars $10) was really close to our apartment. By biking, we were admitted for free. It was a windy and cool day but gorgeous--no fog yet--it was not June yet. It was a fabulous way to see Pebble Beach, the views, the houses, the golf courses, the sea otters, the Monterey cypresses, the cormorants and other birds and the wildflowers--particularly the orange tufted poppies.
The iconic Monterey Cypress in Pebble Beach
We biked the most beautiful parts of Pebble Beach.
One of our views while biking the 17-mile drive
When we got to The Lodge at Pebble Beach we stopped for lunch. We chose the Bench as our restaurant there.  The spot is lovely and our server, Vincent, was good.
Us at the Bench at the Pebble Beach Lodge for lunch in our biking togs
By the time we got back to our apartment, we had biked 16 miles. That night we went to Carmel for dinner at La Bicyclette. Carmel is a really pretty place with seemingly more upscale houses than Pacific Grove or Monterey. Our meal at La Bicyclette was very good and again we had a fun time talking to the people at the neighboring table (one Carmel resident, one visitor).

On our third full day we went to the Farmers' Market in Monterey and went to an upscale men's shop in Carmel called Khakis (where Dimitri found nothing he liked). We had our first bad meal--lunch at Sea Harvest in Monterey. That night we went to Petra, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Pacific Grove. It was a wonderful meal.

On our fourth full day we went to the Carmel Valley to hike at the Garland Ranch State Regional Park. We went to the Carmel Valley because we thought it would be warmer there (it was) and the park looked like it would be good. It was great. We saw lots of wildflowers, including  the darling orange tufted poppies. The only one Audre recognized was Indian Paintbrush. The trails were shaded, mostly and sandy but plenty wide. There were oak trees and flowering trees and bushes as well.
Audre at Garland State Regional Park
We climbed and had good views of the Carmel Valley. It was about 65° but in the sun it was warm enough. On the trail on way back the wind was definitely on the cool side. A display near the visitors center had vases of wildflowers, all labeled. One display were blue dicks, wine cup clarkia, wood mint, goldfields, Chinese houses. The volunteer at the visitors center was friendly and helpful. It was very nice. After our hike we had lunch in the Carmel Valley at the Vineyard Bistro. It was warm and pleasant sitting on the patio and we had a nice lunch. That night we had dinner in Pacific Grove at Passionfish. Dimitri wasn't wild about the sturgeon but the meal was generally very good and so was the service.

On Sunday, our fifth full day we took a 2 1/2 hour bike ride along the Pacific Grove and Monterey coast, some of it on the Recreational Trail. We had a great time and because it was Sunday (and Mother's Day) it was crowded with people. On Sunday night we had a lovely meal at Bistro Moulin in Monterey.

On Monday morning we had breakfast at First Awakenings in Cannery Row and it was excellent, with excellent service. After breakfast we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium ($69.90 for 2 seniors) and spent the morning there. It was all that it was cracked up to be, but not more.
The jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
In the afternoon we went to the Del Monte Shopping Center in Monterey, again to look for clothes for Dimitri. We found nothing there. In the afternoon we went to the Pacific Grove Farmers Market and got some fabulous strawberries and terrific roasted almonds and pistachios. For dinner on Monday night we went to the Monday Night Adventure Dinners ($23 each) at Il Vecchio, a restaurant recommended to us by the concierge at the Lodge at Pebble Beach. It was very good and we each put on a pound! 

On Tuesday we hiked at Point Lobos State Natural Preserve ($9 entry for seniors). It was beautiful but one hardly needs to pay $9 for beautiful hiking in the Monterey Peninsula.
The seals below us while hiking at Point Lobos State Natural Preserve
After hiking we went to The Barnyard in Carmel and had lunch at From Scratch. It was good and the patio was lovely. For dinner on Tuesday night we went to a highly recommended farm-to-table restaurant called La Balena in Carmel. We did not like it and would not recommend it.

On Wednesday we drove 2+ hours to San Francisco to scope out accommodations for our one month stay in June. We came up empty but had a nice Chinese meal in Chinatown before driving the 2+ hours back to Pacific Grove.

On Thursday we did chores and ate leftovers for lunch in our apartment. For our last supper in the Monterey Peninsula we went to Persian Grill and had a good meal. Our stay in the Monterey Peninsula was great fun. We did well by it and it did well by us.

On Friday we were off to our Couples Massage Workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. We were excited.