Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Vacation, Day 5

Today's theme was fish. And books.

No trip to the Monterey Peninsula would be complete without going into Monterey proper (we figured), so that was where we went this time.

First up, we went to the Monterey Aquarium, guessing (correctly) that it was going to be the high point, and the one we didn't want to have to rush through. The Aquarium generally lives up to its billing, although I was a bit surprised that it seems to have less variety of fauna than the Boston one does. But Monterey is more creative in its thinking. The Jellyfish exhibit focuses on the aesthetics of jellies and how they relate to art; the shark one had a lot about sharks in culture, and how they are regarded by primitive cultures in particular. Overall, we spent about two hours looking around the place; this was enough, since (everyone in chorus, now) it's off-season and the place was relatively empty. (Aside from a thousand rugrats, there on various school field trips.)

For lunch, we wandered down Cannery Row, winding up at Blue Moon. As usual, we wound up going fancier than we planned, but it was well worthwhile. She had a sesame-encrusted salmon sandwich (with avacado, of course). I had two apps -- a bowl of really good Clam Chowder, and a remarkable fried calamari dish. I'd expected the latter to be a variant of Rhode Island Calamari, but it was actually better: delicately tempura'ed squid rings, served with a delightful dipping sauce that we guessed was composed of soy, lime juice, a dash of hot oil, scallions and cilantro. More food than I'd intended, but worth it.

We then wandered around Cannery Row for a while, and thence over to Fisherman's Wharf. As we expected, the whole thing was significantly more touristy than Carmel, and generally less interesting: a lot of tourist kitsch (some of which we bought, admittedly), but not much variety. We did wind up going into several used bookstores, though, and picked up a few random boks. We had intended to finish off with a long wander at Bay Books, which one of the guides described as "huge", but found that it was actually quite disappointing: comparable to Wordsworth during its senility. (So I still need to find a generic big bookstore to get the most recent ST:NF novel, before I get up to it sometime in the next couple of days.)

Once again, they rolled up the sidewalks at 5ish, so we went back to the hotel and put our feet up for a little while. Side-note: we turn out to be doing this entire vacation at Embassy Suites. They're a bit generic, but they fit our needs well: consistent in-room broadband, and suites for the morning. (So that she can go poke around on the computer in the morning, while I sleep in a bit.) Up north, we're at the one near SFO; down here, we're staying in Seaside, which isn't as expensive as actually being on the peninsula, but is only a few miles away.

For dinner, we went back to Fisherman's Wharf. It was a little sad, actually -- the maitre d's all hanging around their doorways, trying to attract people inside with tastes of clam chowder. (Which seems to be as important a dish here as at home.) In-season, I'm sure that you couldn't even get into most of these places without a reservation, but many of them had only two or three tables filled tonight -- and that's on a Friday.

Anyway, we decided to go into Abalonetti, which had three things going for it: (1) it was run by the same people as Blue Moon; (2) the menu looked more interesting and varied than most of the competition; and (3) most important, about a third of the tables were full, which spoke well of it. The meal was quite good. I had the scampi, which was decent although it would have been improved by tripling the garlic. She had the Cioppino, which was out of sight -- a cornucopia of different seafood drenched in a vibrant marinara sauce. I would have been jealous, save that there was a lot of calamari in the mix (squid is the specialty of the house), and I got all of that. So I enjoyed the squid rings, while she got to play around with the rest of the very messy dish.

Tomorrow: back to San Francisco. Current theory is window shopping in the Union Street district, and fish boats for dinner...

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