As we continued our way south, we began to see some farm/fruit stands offering cherries and other goodies. How could I resist? I picked up one bag which felt like about a lb. or so for $5. Also, they were offering caramel nut bars, pistachios with garlic, without garlic,(that's a first for me, but then again, with Gilroy nearby, I understood)overripe mangoes for 75 cents a piece, peaches, and licorice in colors other than traditional black or red. I took one of them for Chuck, the licorice kid.
As we pulled out, we were enjoying the sweet juiciness of some great cherries. Not a rotten one in the lot! Signs for Monterey began to appear, and so did the fog which was coming over from the Pacific Ocean. As we got off 101, we took another narrower road which promised to deliver Monterey in 14 miles. The weather changed so abruptly, turned menacingly gray, and caused me to wrap myself in my shawl. Along that strip of asphalt, we passed Fort Ord which is an military facility which is now closed. On both sides of this road were dunes, some high, others low, with very short foliages, mostly green on one side, and of stunning natural colors on the others...some deep oranges, grey and ecrus. Fascinating contrasts between rock, flora,and the steely sky.
The chill in the air became more pronounced. So we are rolling along, top down, and heat blasting on our feet. Chuck always has great ideas. Fairly desolate until we took a turn into the Monterey Exit headed off to the tourist info area. Unfortunately, they close at 5pm. However, I was mystified by the cascades of flowers in a riot of colors literally falling out of these huge wooden containers lining the shops, circling the restaurants which were blasting spanish tunes. Across the way from the Tourist Office was a large board with the area's lodging offerings. There were some couples also searching for a pillow for the night. After a few calls, it seemed most of them were either sold out, or asking for sky-high prices for Saturday night with a significant drop for any night thereafter. There were other people also attempting to get lodging, and were so discouraged, they decided to go to Big Sur.
We continued our search, going in and out of streets that were absolutely quaint. Most inns and hotels had "no vacancy" signs readily visible. Others preferred to draw you in and give you the bad news by the registration office. "Munras" is a major hotel "row", as was "Fremont" and "Lighthouse" streets. We did manage to see some breathtaking ocean views of Monterey with rocks jutting from the water and saw the real first crowd in a wooded area. There was the annual lantern festival which I knew nothing about. This would be followed by fireworks, as I listened to the hotel keeper and a local discuss. For information on this festival, go to link
Stopped at the Lover's Inn and she was willing to lower her fees from a special $189 to $135 for 3 days. That didn't work well. So remember my advice, book ahead.
It was nearing 9 pm when we pulled into one of the places we had already seen on Munras Avenue.