28 April 2013


One of the things on my to do list on my recent trip to California was see the ocean. Although I live on the East Coast and the Atlantic is not so far way, there is something about the Pacific that holds a special place in my heart. So one day we went for a drive down to Monterey.

An important town in early California history, Monterey once had a thriving fishing industry and was home to writers and artists. Today it's better known for its aquarium and marine wildlife, and is the home of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.

Our first stop that day was the touristy Fisherman's Wharf to check out its noisy residents—sea lions who hang out on a floating dock. When I would visit as a child there was an organ grinder with a monkey who we would give a quarter to and a candy shop that sold big boxes of caramel popcorn. The monkey is long gone but the boxes of popcorn are still there.

Monterey is also John Steinbeck country (the author grew up in neighbouring Salinas) and the town's Cannery Row should be familiar to readers of his work. Although the area's sardine canning factories have been replaced with restaurants and shops, you can still find some small reminders of the former thriving industry.

Passing through Cannery Row, we headed out toward Pacific Grove, stopping to take in the beautiful ocean views. It was pupping season for harbour seals, and I immediately spotted a mama seal and her baby on the rocks below. They stayed for a while, gathering some sun, before wiggling back to the water and swimming away.

What I hadn't expected to find were the colours that greeted us. Only certain hardy flowers thrive along a coastline. One of these is the "Pride of Madeira" whose large, blueish-purple flowers shaped like large bottle cleaners can be found all around Monterey. And then there is the ice plant, which I'm used to seeing without blooms. Its pink/purple flowers are nothing special close-up but look at a large swath of them as they snake along the coastline, and they're magnificent.

Isn't it lovely? But the main beauty was the Pacific Ocean. I stood and watched the waves breaking against the rocks while birds dived down. I love the sight of water—it's calming and comforting. I've often been tempted to get a recording of the ocean to listen to when I can't sleep; the ebb and flow of the water is as good as any lullaby.

I could sit there all day. 

Photos by Michele.

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