Small Town Changes

When I catch the travel bug, I get it bad. The idea - an image or a description, maybe - of a place worms its way into my brain and emits an irrepressible urge to go there and see it in person. I start planning routes and checking prices - even dreaming about the trip, in some cases. And once the seed has been planted, I can't ignore it. Going is never a question of if, but rather when.

Due to work, my travel radius has been considerably shortened, but that didn't stop me from zooming around on Google Maps last week, trying to determine the furthest possible day trip I could make without feeling too rushed, while also in the company of my uncle and elderly grandfather. 

So on a sunny weekday that I had off, the three of us piled into the family minivan and took off down the highway toward Monterey. I had never been; uncle and grandpa last visited well before I was born.

The winding two-lane highway rocked me to sleep, and I awoke to a view of boats dotting Monterey Bay. Having grown up in Seattle and driven along Puget Sound almost every day on the way to gymnastics practice, I find it comforting to be able to see water. We began our day at Cannery Row, essentially a condensed iteration of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf (read: touristy and commercialized but still oddly charming). We broke for lunch at A Taste of Monterey, a wine tasting bar and bistro with a panoramic view of the bay. As the first diners we had our pick of the tables, selecting one right by the window, which we didn't realize until later had the added bonus of a steady stream of excrement falling outside thanks to the birds perched on the roof. Ah, the beauty of nature.

Upon my prompting we took 17 Mile Drive along the edge of Monterey Peninsula, through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, which, despite their modest names are disturbingly garish. Going southbound along the route there is beautiful, rugged coastline at the right and, on the left, velvety golfing greens bordered by faux chateaux and plantation throwback mansions with tacky names like "Villa Eden del Mar;"* the latter a blatant juxtaposition of two of the most pressing issues facing society - the drought and wealth disparity. At each scenic view point that we stopped at along the route, grandpa looked out with great interest and repeatedly lamented the lack of visible sea life relative to his previous visits.

Leaving the manicured enclave of the 1%, we continued down to Carmel to visit the Mission Basilica. Carmel-by-the-Sea, as it's formally known, is quaint and picturesque, full of cottage-style houses and a pedestrian-friendly "downtown" comprising small, local businesses. Likewise, the Mission is a lovingly restored and therefore photogenic complex with a beautiful garden, perhaps at odds with the dark history of Spain's religious conquests. 

We didn't make it as far south as Point Lobos, also on my travel bucket list, but I'm saving that for another day.

*Do semicolons belong inside or outside of quotation marks?