Driving from San Francisco to Monterey reminded us that we were living in a densely inhabited part of the world. We were used to empty roads in Australia, New Zealand and, even, Hawaii. But the coastal bit of California is full of people and cars.
Eventually we got to Monterey which seems a remarkably well heeled town. It has, for California, a long history, and is the place where the flag of the USA first flew in what had been part of Mexico. That was 1846, which is a very long time ago for California.
Monterey is on the coast and just offshore is a whale highway with lots of different kinds of whales heading north in spring time and south in autumn. So we decided to go on a whale watching trip. As far as whales were concerned it was a dismal failure. We saw the breath of what we were told was a Grey Whale, and glimpsed the back of another but nothing that could be photographed. But we did see a pod of Risso’s Dolphins which have a very shark-like fin.
And some Sea Otters.
They get shellfish from the sea bed then lie on their backs using a pebble to extract the food from its shell.
But the stars of our trip were the Californian Sea Lions which have taken over Monterey harbour. They are all over the place- on buoys,
on the breakwater, in vast numbers,
and on any convenient surface,
convenient for the sea lions, that is.
Sea Lions and Sea Otters were in danger of extinction not so long ago; obviously their numbers have increased enormously.
Harbour Seals have also recovered their numbers and we saw some just along the shore from the harbour – I don’t think the sea lions would let them into the harbour!
Monterey is a big fishing port, but it was even bigger in the first half of the last century. Cannery Row, John Steinbecks novel, is set in Monterey, and the street with all the fish canneries has been renamed after the novel. And at the end of this street is the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
This puts on a marvellous show with all sorts of marine creatures on display. Their specialities however, seem to be jellyfish and sea horses.
There are several sorts on display.
Sea horses are, in general, less spectacular than the jelly fish, but there are exceptions.
There are lots of other fish on display but those from the nearby kelp forests caught my eye.
And, having come from various coral reefs, I was impressed with their reef displays.
There is a lot more to Monterey than just whale watching and aquariums – there are some rather good restaurants and Pebble Beach golf course is just along the coast, but we eventually set off further south to Xanadu. Well actually not there but the place which inspired it in the movie “Citizen Kane” – Hearst Castle.
To get to the castle you have to park at the visitor centre and catch a bus up a very winding road to the “Castle”. William Randolph Hearst, who built the place stayed there as often as he could and invited guests to stay, and to keep him entertained. So there is Hearst’s “house” modelled on a Spanish cathedral, and several guest houses. He bought works of art from all over Europe to furnish the place and had others made to order.
His inspiration was eclectic and Greece inspired his outdoor swimming pool.
The front of Hearst’s house is rather grandiose.
And this is continued into the living room.
And the dining room.
Chris and I got some interesting ideas for decoration when we find a place to stay.
Hearst had a strong sense of taste and some of it was good, some less so. And he had the money to indulge it
We left the castle and went a couple of miles up the coast to see another conservation victory. This is the survival and spread of Elephant Seals. These were almost extinct a few years ago but a ban on hunting has seen their survival and multiplication.
Their numbers are now considerable.
But they are still ugly beasts. No doubt their mothers love them.
Then we headed south to Santa Barbara and, the next day, San Diego, of which more in the next post.