Cannery Row in Monterey….

 

Old sardine factory now converted

Cannery Row in Monterey is no longer a stink, as the author John Steinbeck portrayed this once important centre of sardine fishing. Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row is 70 years old this year and this part of Monterey was the source for his own literary inspiration. I’d been warned that Cannery Row is over commercialised without a trace of the world that Steinbeck immersed himself so many decades ago but I have to say in my excitement that I wasn’t disappointed.

Monterey Bay and Cannery Row

The strip of road that is now maintained with comfortable hotels and bijou eateries and boutiques is peppered with atmosphere. Maybe it is the romantic in me that easily conjures up images of John Steinbeck and his friend the marine biologist, Ed Rickets shooting the breeze over the cool blue bay.

Steinbeck statue

 

Formerly Wang chung market

One of my favourite stops is the souvenir store formerly called Wang Chung Market – I picture Steinbeck’s character Lee Chong behind the counter serving out some ‘old tennis shoes whiskey’ but in his place could well be his pretty Asian great-grand-daughter selling crystals and incense.

The stench that Steinbeck wrote about has wafted across the bay and is replaced by the smells of chocolate, warm waffles and creamy chowder. My children are fascinated by the ice cream store and want to explore the Aquarium. It’s a spacious building that draws us gently through the history bit and in to the real action. The sea otters, sharks and touch pools abound and it’s a place where the whole family get lost for an hour.
We dine at Lover’s Point and our host at the Beach House restaurant informs us that the lovers who came here in the nineteenth century were Christians who choose this spot to praise the Lord. The view is spectacular and food of the high standard we have come to expect as we have travelled up the Pacific Coast Highway.

At the Beach House Monterey

The Monterey Bay area is filled with places to pay respects to the great author John Steinbeck and only a twenty minute journey from Salinas, the town where he was born and spent a much of his life. The main street is now home to the Steinbeck centre which is well worth a visit with artefacts that the author owned. Including the truck that he used in his travels across the country with his poodle Charley. The house where he was born is now a restored and much loved restaurant run by dedicated local people who give their time freely to ensure its continued upkeep. The food is delicious and the family are wrapped up with nostalgic mementos that we will be able to take with us back home.

The room where Steinbeck was born

 

Steinbeck House and restaurant

Steinbeck house

The land around Salinas is known as the salad bowl of america. Fields stretch into the manicured yonder ending at the lilac tinted mountains in the distance. It’s still very much the beautiful rural land that attracted so many from the dust bowl in the thirties. The curator at the Steinbeck Centre tells me that his grand-father came from Oklahoma during those years as we pass by the display for the Grapes of Wrath. California is in its fourth year of drought and this year heralds another very dry summer. Steinbeck’s thought provoking novels and messages appear to be just as relevant today and they were when he wrote them. It is wonderful to see his legacy respected and accessible for literary fans who chose to visit from all over the world.

 

Taking the kids to the Steinbeck Center is the perfect way to bring literature to life.

For more information visit the The Monterey Visitors Bureau at this website see monterey
The Beach House restaurant website http://www.beachhousepg.com/
Don’t miss out – visit The Steinbeck House – http://steinbeckhouse.com/
The visitors centre is on Main Street Salinas http://www.steinbeck.org/

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