As you make plans for a weekend getaway, keep this in mind: Carmel and Monterey are a quick two hour drive south of the San Francisco. For those with an appetite for some of the best wine tasting and gastronomic treasures around, it’s time to get going. Recently, my husband and I made the trip – staying in unique properties and enjoying the verdant region with its knock-out views.
44395e060
Monterey’s historic Cannery Row was our starting point. Don’t dismiss this out of hand as “too touristy.” The area is steeped in history as the epicenter of Steinbeck country. It’s the ideal place to jump start the fun. We checked into the InterContinental The Clement Monterey – the perfect location (for us and the car). The modern hotel sits on Monterey Bay (and a national marine sanctuary) and fits into its seaside locale with a weathered exterior and boardwalk. The interior is upscale and inviting and the rooms are comfortable, spacious, loaded with amenities and many have views of the main street and the scenic bay (some with balconies). From here, it’s a quick walk around town.

 

We strolled over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, inhaling the salty sea air along the way. This popular venue inspires conservation of the oceans through “teaching” exhibits of sea life. From sharks to jelly fish, sea turtles to penguins, there are wonderful displays to be discovered, including the reinvented Open Sea wing.

 

For lunch, we tried the Monterey Bay Aquarium Restaurant – Cindy Pawlcyn’s latest adventure serving up fresh, local and sustainable creations. Every seat has Bay views – all the better because with borrowed binoculars and a guide, you’ll be able to identify the birds you spot. Hog Farms grilled asparagus, wild Pacific Dungeness crab cakes and the Thai style mussels are hits.

 

Afterwards, we set out on the Cannery Row Wine Walk. Each tasting room has a unique vibe and friendly staff.
A Taste of Monterey (representing more than 70 wineries): Don’t miss the 2007 Cobblestone Chardonnay and Boëté’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc.
Scheid Vineyards: Find great Reserves, especially the 2007 Chardonnay and 2006 Claret. Their 2008 50/50 is a unique Cabernet/Syrah blend.
Baywood Cellars: Try the sweet wines – the 2003 Symphony Late Harvest, 2000 10-year Tawny Port and the Grappa Limoncello.
Pierce Ranch: The 2010 Albariño 2007 Tourbillon and 2007 Tempranillo are outstanding.

 

Dinner that night was at the hotel’s C Restaurant, where we experienced a spectacular view of the marine sanctuary, the setting sun and the endless ocean. The restaurant is an avid follower of the Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program – you eat only what’s sustainable. Since local ingredients rule, we opted for the smoked trout sashimi with radishes, cured lemon and miso-yuzu vinaigrette, pork shank terrine with Dungeness crab and beluga lentils, and caramelized day boat sea scallops served with a porcini mushroom-leek stew. We paired local wines with each delectable course. It was an easy elevator ride home to be lulled to sleep by crashing waves and glow from the fireplace.

 

The sunrise over Monterey Bay the next morning was stunning. On our way south to Carmel, we stopped at Morgan Winery, tucked into a shopping area just outside of downtown. Bright and airy, taste both Morgan and Lee Family Farm wines including the 2008 Double L Syrah and the 2008 Garys’ Pinot Noir.

 

From there, it’s a five minute drive to the picture perfect (and one of the pet friendliest) towns – Carmel-by-the-Sea. This charming enclave is home to shopping, galleries and cafes.
44381d950
Carmel’s scenic beach is a must see. Then it was lunch at Cantinetta Luca with its colorful interior, brick lined walls and wood-burning oven. The classic Italian food is simple and rustic. We ate the best grilled king prawns with corona beans, roasted peppers and salsa verde as well as house made salumes and a funghi pizza with criminis, spinach and gorgonzola. All this was matched with vibrant Italian wines; it was heaven.

 

Wine tasting in Carmel is easy – stroll the streets and courtyards and stop along the way. Figge Cellars: The 2009 Pelio Chardonnay, 2006 Syrah and 2008 Paraiso Pinot Noir are not to be missed. Cima Collina: Favorites include the 2005 Hilltop Estate Pinot Noir and 2009 Tondre Grapefield Riesling. Caraccioli Cellars: Love the 2006 Brut Cuvee, 2008 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir. Galante Vineyards: Enjoy the 2005 “Blackjack Pasture” Cabernet, 2008 “Olive Hill” Petite Sirah and an interesting blend in the 2007 Grand Champion.
44372a730
The lush Auberge Carmel is nestled in the midst of downtown. It is a serene and beautiful French country oasis. This Relais and Châteux offers luxe accommodations in a boutique setting. The landscaped courtyard was awash in bright flora and a lovely place to relax. Each of the 20 rooms is distinctive; all boast rich fabrics, warm interiors and large bathrooms (some with soaking tubs).

 

Dinner at L’Aubergine, the cozy 12-table restaurant in the hotel was memorable. Four luscious courses featured ingredients delivered by local farmers. The amuse bouches were awesome, especially the English pea sponge cake with pea purée and pea shoots.
44365e060
Luscious hamachi with sea beans, sea water, bonito jelly and uni was just one of the four courses. Others included ocean trout with crispy skin and halibut with sea lettuce, oyster and pig tail. And the international wine selections were incredible. We ended the delicious evening with a strawberry cream cheese parfait.

 

Next morning, the full breakfast (included with our room) gave us the fuel to make the scenic drive home.

 

It’s always the time to visit Monterey and Carmel. You know you’ll eat, drink and sleep well!

The now famous UFO crash site of 1947 has become the International Research Center and UFO Museum. Go for the fun of it! The museum, located in an old movie theater on Main Street, is open daily from 9 – 5 and attacts visitors from all over the world. Admission is free, and you are encouraged to take photos and use your video camera.
You’ll find some very simplistic displays, movie sets, photographs, and drawings of every kind of unnatural or inexplicable occurrence you have ever heard of, from aliens to crop circles.
4473f4770
There is a world map which lights to show where sitings of spacecraft, sitings of aliens, and pieces of UFO’s have been seen or found. There are hundreds from every continent except Africa.

One of the most frightening displays is a manikin doctor staging an operation on an alien figure, but it is from a movie set. One of the most convincing displays is of the quotes about alien space craft sitings from U.S. Presidents, and Army officials, and Astronauts.

Be sure to read the first-hand accounts of the local Roswell citizens who were actually involved in the finding of the 1947 crashed UFO. The most convincing story is from a nurse who told about personally tending the alien beings involved in the crash. Ironically, she was immediately re-located abroad and died mysteriously within two years. The undertaker’s report is the most convincing of all. There are newspaper accounts of the news report the day after the crash was found, and the following week the Army debunks the report and says the “craft” was a weather balloon.
4471f4350
Although the little museum is obviously not highly funded, there are fascinating stories and reports from all over the world. If you are a UFO enthusiast, plan to spend hours reading them all. You can also do computer research or file your own report of sitings there in the library.

If you are a non-believer, go for the fun of it. The gift store is worth the visit just for some most unusual gifts.

“Grandma, why are you so pale?” Six-year-old Emily asked as the jet roared upward toward the clouds.
My palms were wet, my throat dry and my knuckles white as I clutched the arms of the seat.
Emily relaxed and looked out the window to observe Earth growing smaller. “Look how little the houses are,” she said, excited about her first flight.
My ears closed. I swallowed.
“Can you see Westerville?” Emily asked.
My eyes shut, I took a deep breath and sighed.
“Where’s Clintonville? I wanna see my house.” Her forehead was against the window.
“It‘s down there.” My voice trembled.
“Why don’t you help me find my house?”
I swallowed hard. I didn’t want to scoot over and look out the window, I might tip the plane.
I felt the plane level off and opened my eyes. The pretty flight attendant was giving her little speech on how to get out of the plane in case of an emergency.
She smiled and her voice was cheerful as she pointed to the emergency door.
“We step onto a cloud?” I asked beneath my breath.
“You’re funny, Grandma,” Emily said, giggling as she unfastened her seat belt.
“And the seats become floating devices,” the attendant was saying.
I thought.
I continued to sit stiff, my seatbelt snug as I clutched the arms of the seat in a death hold.
“Would you like coffee? Or a soft drink?” The flight attendant stood above me.
“No thank you,” I said. How could I hold on to the arms of the seat and drink a cup of coffee?
“You think we could see an angel?” Emily asked, looking out the window.
“I hope not!” I believe seeing angels is for the next life.
The attendant noticed my seatbelt was still fastened. She smiled, raised her eyebrows and gave a shrug to another attendant.
The plane shudderd.
“We’re experiencing a little weather,” the pilot’s voice came from the speaker. “Please remain in your seats, seatbelts fastened.”
I smiled smugly at the attendant as she returned to her station.
“This is fun,” Emily said. “Just like a carnival ride.”
It was only a short time and the plane ride became smooth once more.
“Feel free to move around. We’ve passed over the weather,” the pilot announced.
“Peanuts?” The attendant was standing over me again.
I carefully reached up for the tiny package. “Thanks.”
Emily was munching on her peanuts. “They’re good. I’ll eat’m if you don’t want’m.”
I slid them toward her.
There were happy conversations all around the plane.< Don’t they know how far we are from the ground? Don’t they know one wrong move and we’re doomed?>
Emily continued chatting happily and looking out the window.
“Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for landing.” The pilot’s voice again.
“Weeee!” Emily said as we began to descend. “Everything’s getting closer. Isn’t this fun?”
I closed my eyes and breathed a deep prayerful sigh.
“And we get to fly home, too!” She shouted happily.
What ever was wrong with trains? I wondered, clutching the arms of the seat.
the end