have been to the Monterey/Carmel region so many times during the
past few years, but most time we made them as one-day trips and
never had time to explore the area in depth. We decided to go to
Carmel and stayed there for a few days, so we didn't have to
travel too far for this Christmas. With a few days, we can go
around places with much slower pace and do not have to worry
about driving home before dinner.
The First Day ...
- Pacific Grove [Gallery]
Pacific Grove is a small town located at
the northwestern tip of the Monterey Peninsula. Millions
of Monarch butterflies migrate south from Canada,
generally traveling 80 miles a day, and arrive in
mid-October to cover the pine, eucalyptus and willow
trees in and around Pacific Grove, and they will
overwinter until Feburary. The special thing is that
migrating Monarchs have never been to their destination
before. In fact, several generations of Monarchs have
lived and died since last year's butterflies departed. We
went to the butterfly sanctuary located on Ridge Road.
It's a very small area just like a backyard in someone's
home. Although we didn't see impressive number of
butterflies, we did see a few dense clusters of
butterflies on some trees.
Lighthouse, the west coast's oldest working lighthouse,
is on the rocky coast of Pacific Grove. Unfortunately, it was
not open when we visited this time.
- 17-Mile Drive [Gallery]
||The 17-Mile Drive is a twisting,
turning road which encompasses much of the
natural and man-made beauty of the southwestern
Monterey Peninsula. The 17-Mile Drive is also
close to the home of some of America's rich and
famous, and we can see many big mansions along
the way. There are many golf courses on the
Monterey Peninsula, including Pebble Beach Golf
Links. Although the 17-Mile Drive offers many
nice vistas along the ruggy coast, I still feel
that the $8.00 entrance fee is too expensive. In
my opinion, High way 1 around Big Sur and Point
Lobos offer even better views of the coastline.
The exit of the 17-Mile Drive is leading right into
Carmel-by-the-Sea, a small town founded at the turn of
the century (or should I say the last century) as an
artists' and writers' colony. Art galleries, antique
stores, gift shops, and fine restaurants are everywhere
in the downtown. Our hotel was right in the downtown area
so we can just walked around for dinner and
window-shopping at night.
The Second Day ...
- Highway 1 [Gallery]
||We all got up early because we
planned to go to Hearst Castle today and it'll be
a long drive on Highway 1 (it took at least 2.5
hours to drive). We started driving at about 7:15
AM, and just in time to catch the light before
dawn. The 90-mile section of Highway 1 between
Carmel and San Simeon, often called "Big
Sur", is considered the most dramatic
coastal road in the US. There are many turnouts
that I could not resist to stop at a few turnouts
to take some photos although it was too cloudy
for most of the time (I wish it was foggy instead
- Hearst Castle [Gallery]
Castle was bulit in 1919 by WR Hearst (1863-1951),
creator of the largest publishing empire the world had
ever known (at it's peak in 1935, he controlled 26
newspapers, 13 magazines, 8 radio stations, 2 news
services, and a film company), and Julia Morgan, a famed
San Francisco architect and the first woman to graduate
from Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. By 1947, Hearst and
Morgan had created an estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres
of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways. The castle is
full of Hearst's European and Mediterranean art
collection. Hearst Castle was donated to the people of
the State of California in 1957 and became a State
Historic Monument. We took the Experience Tour at
10:10AM, and the tour last about 1 hour 45 min with the
round-trip bus from the visitor center to the castle.
Although the tour itself was not strenuous at all, we
found it was quite a challenge to keep Iris in the group
without running away and touching all those art
collections. The Experince Tour also includes tickets to
a 40-minute large format National Geographic Movie about
WR Hearst and his castle.
- Piedras Blancas
From Hearst Castle take Highway 1 North 4.4 miles, there
is one of the elephant seals' breeding sites at Piedras
Blancas. Most elephant seals were lying still during the
day, which makes them not a very interesting photo
subject. There were quite a few people visiting here, in
fact, I think there were more people than elephant seals
on the beach.
- Highway 1 / McWay Cove Waterfall
It's another long way to drive back on Highway 1. On the
way back, we stopped at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State
Park, and took an easy 1/4 mile trail to the hidden McWay
Cove Waterfall. It is the one of two waterfalls in
California that flow into the ocean (the other one is in
Point Reyes). Since it is not very visible from Highway
1, it remains as a secret for most people.
The Third Day ...
I went to the Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey for sunrise.
Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and no good light at
- Point Lobos State Reserve [Gallery]
Point Lobos is
claimed to be "the greatest meeting of land
and water in the world", an
extravagant comparison but remains unchallenged.
We took the Cypress Grove Trail and Sea Lion
Point Trail, passing through costal scrub and
woods to cliffs with dramatic and spectacular
ocean views. At Sea Lion Point, we spent a lot of
time there just to see the waves tumbling around
- Carmel Mission [Gallery]
|Established in 1770, Mission
Carlos Borromeo Del Rio Carmelo is one of the
best restored California's Missions. Carmel
Mission stands today as a monument to the great
missionary of Padre Junipero Serra who left his
home to the Western wilderness to teach
California's Native Americans. The mission and
the gardens are not big, but Linus liked to read
the visitor's map and lead the way, so we circled
around the mission many many times until we have
covered all the grounds on the map.
The Last Day ...
- Monterey Aquarium [Gallery]
We are the member of the Monterey Aquarium this year, so
we have been to the Aquarium at least 4 times this year
already. One advantage of the membership is that you can
enter the aquarium one hour earlier than the general
public on certain days. It is important to avoid crowds
for some exhibitions (for example, the seahorses). As
usual, we were impressed by many exhibitions (Jellyfish,
the Outer Bay, etc.), then we had an early lunch at the
cafe (my favorite clam chowder), and then spent the rest
of the time at the kid's favorite: Splash Zone.
Going Home ...
We were lucky that there was only one rainy day during our
entire trip, and we spent the day indoors (in the Aquarium) most
of the time. The weather in the Monterey Peninsula was mild in
winter and the atmosphere for Christmas in Carmel was certainly
warm. Taking vacation at places near home was not a bad idea at
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