Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Road trip: Monterey and Carmel

November 30, 2012
jellyfish monterey aquarium

Start from the beginning of our motorcycle road trip.

One of the crazy things about traveling at the end of November in the Northern Hemisphere is it gets dark early and light late. We were tucked into bed by 6:30 every night, and weren't awoken by the sun until around 7:30. That's about 12 hours of sleep, compared to our usual seven or eight, which was fortunate because we lacked adequate caffeine among our rations. If you remember our last trip, I lauded car camping for making it possible to bring luxuries, most notably our stovetop espresso maker.

This time, there was no doubt that the coffeemaker wouldn't fit and we didn't have time to stock up on instant coffee before leaving. We did, however, have chocolate-covered espresso beans and a stroke of genius: Heat the milk, crush up the beans, and voilà, a mocha latte (after all, we had succeeded in making iced coffee in a wine glass in Argentina). But this was not fated to be one of our better ideas. We ended up with slightly flavored milk and much less of a caffeine buzz than if we had just eaten the beans. It was our last attempt at home-brewed coffee for the rest of the trip.
Farmland near our campsite

Caffeine-deprived, but functioning nonetheless, we boarded the bike for a quick 40-mile sprint to Monterey. We followed the signs to the aquarium, the main attraction in Monterey, where I discovered one of the biggest benefits of motorcycle travel: parking is a breeze. We pulled up in front of the aquarium and scooted the bike between two cars. No need to pay for the $10 lot, or even for a meter. Then we refueled at a touristy, but surprisingly tasty, diner and paid up to see the sea life.

We started in the kelp forest, explored the secret world of seahorses (creepy), marveled at jellyfish tentacles and hung out with Zuri the penguin, while trying not to run over too many little children. I was disappointed there weren't bigger sea animals, like seals.

fish kelp forest monterey aquarium
penguins monterey aquarium penguin monterey aquarium
jellyfish monterey aquarium anchovies monterey aquarium

I also came to the realization that I can't trust the LCD screen on my camera. Everyone was snapping photos of the jellyfish, most with their iPhones (Android might have a good market share in the rest of the country, but the Bay Area is Appleland). Watching this, I couldn't help but envy the sharp colorful photos they were taking, especially compared with the muted colors of mine. I wondered how a phone camera could take better (or at least equally good) photos as a digital SLR, until I remembered that I wasn't seeing the photos, just their representation on the screen. iPhone 5s have a retina display; my camera decidedly does not. iPhone users get instantaneous, gorgeous feedback when they take a photo; I just had to trust my camera (though I'm still impressed that the iPhones could handle the low light of the aquarium). I had fallen into this trap before. I love this photo I took in Argentina, but when I originally saw it on my camera, I couldn't understand why the colors were so washed out. It was only when I uploaded it on my computer that I could appreciate it. A good reminder to trust my camera, but not its screen.

Because there weren't any campsites nearby, we sprung for a motel in Monterey, which turned out to have a surprisingly nice bathroom and comfortable bed (for only $80!). We checked in and drove over to Carmel for some real coffee (finally!) and to see the town, which my grandmother called "a little piece of paradise."

ocean ave carmel california
carmel by the sea california

We watched our second sunset of the trip on the beach. The dogs seemed to be having the most fun.

pebble beach carmel ocean
surfing carmel beach
sunset beach carmel

We trusted Yelp for a dinner recommendation, which led us to Dametra Cafe. A small restaurant serving Mediterranean food and run by Jordanian and Syrian owners, it was a cute and delicious dinner spot. The other restaurants in town sounded pricey and mediocre, so we were thrilled to claim one of the last available tables. We even got free baklava at the end of our meal and enjoyed an unusual rosé made from Spanish Rioja grapes (accustomed to ordering rosés in Argentina, I translated rosé to rosado when ordering, without realizing it).

- Steph

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