Friday, February 28, 2014

Monterey Mini-Break: Aquarium Day 1 & 2

Last Thursday, Alice's school held a Jog-A-Thon to raise money for new shade structures over the play yards. Alice was so. excited. I promised her double rainbow pigtails for the event, for good luck.
So excited. Practicing her running, and showing off her double rainbow pigtails.
Her class came on to the running track all together and then the music started and they were off. Alice seemed a little bewildered at first, lots of the other kids took off at full speed and some of the other kids hung back and she was sort of all by herself prancing and galloping along. They played Chariots of Fire and the theme from Rocky, and I won't lie, I got teary. Another mom asked if it was weird that she got emotional, but I assured her that she was not alone. It was just so cute. 

They all made medals with their names and got stickers every time they finished a lap. I couldn't keep count, but Alice ran the whole time and I'm pretty sure she finished way more laps than the ten stickers on her medal.
On one of her trips around, I gave her a high-five and then she had to stop on every subsequent lap to hand out high-fives to me, Jon, and Ivy. 

 Afterwards, we all enjoyed a little carnival with games and treats and face-painting. Ivy and Alice both especially enjoyed the croquet.
We brought a picnic lunch and ate it in the grass amidst all the festivities before hopping in the car for a long drive up the 101. Our first stop was for dinner in San Luis Obispo. Jon was looking forward to eating at Woodstock's again to see if it lived up to his memories. Luckily, he realized that our favorite local joint right down the street beats the college fav, which is great because I just can't drive to San Diego or SLO for pizza.
We made it to SLO for dinner around 4:30, a little later than the girls' usual dinner time, and then they fell asleep pretty quickly after we got back on the road. The rest of the drive was a little nerve-wracking in the dark, but there weren't too many cars on the road. We finally made it to the hotel and got the girls' beds set up and everything situated, and then it was time for a little bedtime bottle and cuddle. 
We tucked the girls into bed and plugged our headphones into the iPad to watch Downton Abbey. The headphones drowned out any sounds of fussing but let us be a comforting presence in the room while they fell asleep. With a glass of wine in hand, it was a perfect set-up and maybe the secret to sharing a hotel room with our little darlings.

The next morning, we had enough time to head out to find coffee and stroll around the hotel's ocean overlook before the aquarium opened. We stayed at the Clement Monterey, which inexplicably had the best rates in town. After reading a bunch of recommendations and checking rates all over town - including the next town over! (Monterey Beach Resort, and Embassy Suites), we decided we couldn't beat the rates right next door to the aquarium. It was super convenient and a really great hotel. 

We got to the aquarium right when it opened, and the girls were instantly captivated. Jon's parents joined us on the trip, and they were excited to watch all the wonderment. 
 I was super excited about the cuttlefish. They are amazing creatures and it was so cool to see them up close. They were super curious about us, too. I just wished we could have seen one try to hypnotize us with it's strobing skin!
And of course, the jellyfish were amazing. The display in the Open Sea exhibit is just so beautiful. They are absolutely mesmerizing to watch, like the best ever lava lamp. I couldn't stop snapping pictures of them undulating and drifting along.  

Alice loved watching them and learning about the different kinds. I was excited to remember and teach her that the Moon Jellyfish are in the genus Aurelia.  

Alice loved this little hidey-hole under a wave that would rush over every few minutes. You could get an up close and inside look at how the wave moves through the water. 

There was another little tunnel that went under the very start of the wave, and Alice loved hanging out in there under the rushing, thundering water.  You can see the wave pouring over the top of the tunnel in the photo above.
I made sure we visited every touch pool, though Alice is always a little hesitant. She did a great job, and even pet a sea cucumber. I was wearing Ivy in the Ergo and took her by one of the pools where there were no other visitors and the volunteer working was so sweet, she picked up each little plant in there and held it up for Ivy to feel. In contrast to Alice, Ivy loves to touch and explore anything and everything, and was very gentle with each plant. 
We headed back to the hotel for a little afternoon rest. Ivy conked out immediately while Jon, Alice, and I watched Jacques and Julia give some fish filets the French treatment. Alice loved it. 

For dinner, we headed to the super convenient Bubba Gump restaurant right next to the hotel so I could get my shrimp fix. I ordered the "Shrimpers Heaven" and could not have been happier. Alice was excited about her shrimp mac & cheese, Jon was excited about his fried chicken dinner (not a big shrimp fan), and Ivy was excited to eat food. It was great.
And when Alice was all done eating her dinner and mine, she got up to entertain Ivy. 

 After dinner, we hung out in front of the restaurant while Alice burned off some energy dancing and twirling all around, and Ivy played with Grandpa's dog and practiced her walking.
 We took a little walk back to the hotel and enjoyed the touristy sights of Cannery Row.

 I ducked into a candy shop to show Jon an adorable Grumpy Cat plush ball and Ivy got a huge kick out of it. I almost wish we bought it for her.
Back in our room, we tucked the girls in and settled in for more Downton and wine. Utterly delightful.

Everyone slept in until the girls woke up, and then we headed to the aquarium for round two. The hotels sell two-day tickets for the regular one-day price, so we thought we'd take the pressure off and take our time exploring over two days. We wanted to see the few things we missed and spend more time at the things we'd enjoyed from the day before. Like the wave hidey-hole.

 Ivy had slept through the jellyfish on the first day, so we went there first while she was still awake. She enjoyed them but was definitely more interested in practicing her new walking skills.

 We made sure to see the Jellies Experience exhibit, too, since we'd missed it the day before. There were even more kinds of unusual jellyfish, like upside down jellies and these super cute little blue and brown varieties.

upside down jellies

 We all really enjoyed the Pacific Giant Octopus exhibit. Alice and Jon got to see all the good action on both days, including one of the octopuses fly across its enclosure. I love the octopi.

 We all also enjoyed the sand dollar exhibit, seeing them standing upright, covered in fuzz.
 Up in the "Coral Kingdom" area, there was a little tunnel for the kids to crawl through with small tanks inside. Ivy LOVED walking through it with all the big kids and stopping to see the fish up close.

 And then there was a play area with rocking sea horses, a play structure, dress-up area and some stuffed friends to play with. Ivy and Alice had a great time playing on everything and going up the stairs and down the slide. So cute.

And then Alice dressed up like an octopus, who had to go down the slide, naturally. I caught her going down the slide with a fish puppet on her arm, too.
If you have the chance to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, definitely do it. We had so much fun with the girls and I can't wait to go back! Soon, I'll write about and share some photos from the rest of our little mini-break.