Monterey County holds a very special place in my heart.
You see, when Mr. Misadventures and I first started dating this is where we went to. We were both working for the same company and although the company was very family-friendly with lots of married/dating couples who met on the job, we were not ready to let our new relationship public until we were sure it was the real deal. We had been colleagues/friends for a long time, but the whole dating thing was new.
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Our solution was to drive the short (and beautiful) 90-minute trip to Monterey County.
I started falling in love with this region when I was in high school. My father was sent to language school in the Monterey area before the family was stationed in Spain. My mom and sister and I went down to visit a couple of times and I really loved the area. Every time I smell eucalyptus, even in the middle of the Douro Valley in Portugal, I think of Monterey. Driving to Monterey County from the San Francisco Bay Area south you pass a line of eucalyptus trees when you come out on the other side of the trees, you are practically there!
I was so pleased to be able to share this beautiful part of California with Mr. Misadventures as we got to know each other better. There is so much to do and see and eat that you can go every weekend and always have something new to experience. Monterey County was the perfect place to fall in love with my future husband. The first summer we dated was magical to me and I still cherish the memories.
I consider it our pre-honeymoon.
Yep, I made that up. And I think it should totally be a thing.
I could share many of our weekend trips, but you know we are foodies at heart, so that's where I've got to start because Monterey County has amazing food and wine.
Some of my favorite memories include introducing the new boyfriend to cioppino at the famous Phil's Fish Market in colorful Moss Landing. This dish is a classic in Northern California, but Mr. Misadventures had yet to try it. With fresh seafood from the catch of the day and a little dash of tomato broth, a nod to the Italian immigrants who created it, there was nothing that my future hubby didn't love!
Mr. Misadventure would also like you to know that Moss Landing is a premium place to spot otters as well. The otters that live in Monterey County are a unique species that live nowhere else on the planet. The famous Monterey Aquarium, the BEST aquarium in the United States, helps lead efforts to ensure these adorable furballs remain protected.
My husband and I have been together for fourteen years. We've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, then in France, then back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Mr. Misadventures is French and I am a francophile and I can tell you the best croissant in the world can be found in Monterey County. Look no further than Patisserie Bechler in Pacific Grove. The Alsatian baker and his family have mastered the art of French pâtissier. Go early to get your hands on one of their decadent creations.
Pacific Grove also has the best burger in the region at the Red House Cafe and the best fish-focused fine-dining restaurant, Passionfish.
Besides great food, this charming little village is home to the Monarch butterfly and you mustn't miss the opportunity to see this noble creature at the sanctuary.
It's perfect for walking around and check out the cute homes (the two restaurants I mentioned are converted houses) and lighthouses as well.
Pacific Grove is very close to the famous 17-mile drive, great for stopping before or after your adventures there. That's what we did many times! The 17-mile drive is a tourist attraction, but one you MUST do. The coastal views are incredible, the golf courses and fancy homes are to-die-for, plus there are these guys…
As we were cementing our relationship many of our weekends were spent in the town of Monterey. We'd picnic on the beach, walk through shops and historical streets, and visit the aquarium.
We also started a quirky tradition, doesn't every couple have at least one?
Mr. Misadventures had never been to the south of the United States (we're actually getting ready to head there in the RV tomorrow) so he was unfamiliar with the food. On one of our weekends in Monterey, I dragged him to Bubba Gump's! We ordered strong margaritas (because hey, that's what Californians do!) along with shrimp boil and hushpuppies – two foods that were completely foreign to my Frenchie.
Given the fact that Mr. Misadventures had never seen Forest Gump, the decor and the trivia were totally lost on him. It's kitsch and silly, but that is one of our Monterey memories. After that weekend we rented the movie and now when we go back to the restaurant from time to time, we quiz each other.
Also that night I think the hubby had one too many margaritas because on the walk back to the hotel he accidentally proposed to me!
If you are a bookworm like I am, then you might have read any number of John Steinbeck books including Cannery Row set in Monterey in 1945. At that time, and for many decades to come, Monterey was a major sardine supplier. You can still buy canned sardines in the area, but if you are a fan of this tasty little fish (like we are) do not miss freshly grilled sardines during the season (usually April through June).
Also, Monterey has an awesome Clam Chowder and Calamari Festival over Memorial Day Weekend in May. If you like these two seafood dishes you will LOVE this festival! Fried calamari anyone?
Stay a few extra days and catch the Artichoke Festival in Castroville, the artichoke capital of the world! The festival is typically held the first weekend in June. If you don't make the festival you can still drop by one of the farm stands and buy an armful of these delicious green jewels.
Isn't Monterey County a great place to date? Especially if you are a foodie!!
It is not all about the food (okay for us, it's a lot about the food!). It is a VERY romantic area. The epic views from Highway 1, the sunsets in the bay and on the beaches up and down the coast, screams romance.
The one spot that holds the sweetest memories for us is Big Sur. It was the location of our first date.
Not only is it full of beauty, with gorgeous forests, bubbling rivers, sweeping ocean views, and gorgeous beaches, but it is a little funky, which totally appeals to us! (Hey we lived in Berkeley for 8 years and our next stop is Portland!)
Our very first date was at the Big Sur River Inn. It was the beginning of the summer so it meant the start of jazz weekends at the property. The back of the inn flows into the Big Sur River with its famous wood chairs that sit right in the water. With jazz playing in the background, we ate an unforgettable lunch, black sesame-crusted ahi tuna salad, and fried calamari. We have returned many, many times to have this same exact meal.
For a post-meal coffee, we headed to Nepenthe for drinks at Cafe Kevah. The views from this rooftop bar are stunning and it is one of the best spots to see the sunset.
It was the perfect day.
Perfect days are pretty hard to screw up in Monterey County. We've had so many great days there. It is “our place” and it's where we fell in love. I have never met anyone who doesn't feel the same once they've visited.
How about you? Have you been to Monterey County? Have some favorite spots? Do share!
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