With only one full day left of our time by the sea, we had crossed off almost everything on our wish list. Intentionally, the only things left were activities accessible by foot from our front door. The first activity on our list was to roll out of bed and walk across the street to catch the morning sunbathers, floating around Lake El Eserto. Herons, gulls, ducks, geese, mud hens, all call the lakes, barely big enough to be called ponds, home. Surprisingly two of many taking advantage of the park so early in the day, we set up at the end of a mini pier outside of the playground. Ryan shot a handful of species including a very dominant resident that we had seen the day before—easily the largest heron he has yet to photograph.
El Eserto Park is directly across the street form the Monterey Bay Lodge. It has a fun, easy exercise course, which makes working out during vacation slightly less painful, the Dennis the Menace Playground, named after the beloved character created by Hank Ketcham, a local celebrity, and my favorite thing to watch, swan paddle-boating. There is something about starting your day off by watching smiling, happy families paddle around in ginormous swans, that makes it impossible to not feel pure joy. I saw some really strong sock and sandal combinations that morning.
With the feelings of accomplishment sweeping over us, having already been out and about before coffee, we headed back to the hotel by way of a gas station. Beer had been elected for breakfast.
Two bottles of breakfast later, with great plans of exploration, we set foot, camera in hand and headed in the direction of Fisherman’s Wharf. The walk from the hotel over to the pier was so short we almost felt ridiculous for never walking it before. It was literally a volleyball court and boatyard away and not only have we always driven there but one time in our life we actually took a taxi. Although the wharf is always a destination for us, usually for a meal or two, never have we taken the time to pass by the harbor. Docked fishing boats, all in rows, most of them vacant, waiting for their next day of work, seemed to have a cast of sadness to me. They looked lonely and bored. Some of them poorly kept and some too clean, like they hadn’t worked a day their whole lives. Thank goodness for the people training their large poodle how to swim to lighten the mood and mask the creeping depression with humor.
The wharf had all the signs of summer. Warm sun, patrons galore, restaurant attendants trying to lure you in for crab cakes, a man with too many parrots and children everywhere. Working our way through the bustle of people, combined with having nothing but beer in our stomachs, made for two hungry scouts. Selecting a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf is an art form. You want somewhere that says its well established but not somewhere so old that they stopped caring. You want something that serves seafood but not somewhere that smells like the ocean. Most importantly, you want something that has a view worth staring at but not one where people can be staring right back. Nino’s Wharfside fit all the right criteria. It wasn’t too new or too old, it had all the seafood staples without the scent and it had upstairs window seating available, allowing us to look out without worrying about someone looking right back. People watching is one of my favorite past times but I like to feel disconnected, observe from afar and not be observed as well. I think that’s formally referred to as a “creeper”.
After eating multiple heavy meals in a row since our arrival, I was craving something fresh. We started out with beer and calamari. The calamari was delicious but it only strengthened my craving freshness. I decided to go with the Crab Louie Salad which was clean, cool and crisp. I felt like I could feel enzymes replenishing my body. Babe had a grilled chicken sandwich with french fries, it was exactly what you would expect. He gave it one big thumb up. Served it’s purpose. The best part of Nino’s, I believe, are the views from the upstairs windows. We had the best people watching we have seen in a long time. The star of the show was the small terrier inside of the ticket booth that kept jumping out of the window, causing the ticket seller to come out, grab him and put him back inside the ticket booth, on repeat. I could hear the clown circus music kick on, in my head, every time he jumped out. Co-starring as the second best cast member was the random gentlemen from 1984 in his full black leather suit, complete with loafers and hat. He seemed to be selecting passersby at random and either trying to sell or purchase something from them, unsuccessfully incognito.
Reenergized and rehydrated, we left Nino’s to complete our self-guided tour. We popped into a couple of classic tourist shops carrying traditional items like sea shell everything and halloween masks… Next we ran into a crowd admiring a gentleman’s traveling, exotic bird collection, on wheels. Sort of felt like we had seen everything after that.
Window shopping our way past the sweet shop and exiting the wharf we wondered over to the Monterey State Historic Park. What felt like an abandoned old western movie set with minimal tourist visitors on a Sunday afternoon, was shockingly quiet and peaceful. It would have been a great place for a picnic. After snooping around the courtyard and garden area of the park we walked across the road to Peter B’s Brewpub. Although the bird and butterfly inhabited courtyard was lovely, the sunken outdoor patio area of the brewery, with cushioned bench seats facing a windowed big screen TV, wasn’t a bad runner-up. If it had been just a little bit colder and later in the evening I would have requested our table’s miniature fire pit be turned on. We will be back.
Unable to resist the third candy shop we had seen that day, we spent far too much time and little too much money on Zotz, Jelly Beans and Chocolate Rocks. I’m a sucker for a sweet shop. See what I did there?
The walk back was shorter than I thought it was going to be. After all those years staying in the same place, in the same room, around the same time, we had no idea so much was so readily available to us without having to drive and deal with parking. To lessen our load that day, we each left the hotel room committed to one camera and one lens. Between Ryan and I, with our different set-ups and different eyes, we walked away from the day with great shots and a huge feeling of accomplishment. It had been a good day and it was going to require an equally great night with minimal movement, my legs were shot. Settling into the room, famished and sore, our next move was obvious, pool party and pasta. With the hot tub all to ourselves we took full-jet advantage and soaked our aching muscles. Reaching the end of our stay, we were content with finishing off the beer and doing absolutely nothing. Grabbing pasta from the Lakeside Grill, the restaurant attached to our lodge, we had our own going-away party for ourselves in the room. Our beer-for-breakfast themed day of photo-walking had made the ideal encore to our vacation and had left us immobile.
We pushed every minute of our five days to its max. All of our quests had been conquered and we had discovered numerous new resources for next time. Delicious meals, beautiful ocean views, shopping, relaxing and plenty of photography. Every stay ends up better than the year before.