Monday, March 3, 2014

Monterey Mini-Break: The Beach!

By our second afternoon at the aquarium, the girls were getting a bit over-stimulated and tired and cranky. So we threw on our swimsuits and headed to the beach just down the street from the hotel. 
The sand and surf and fresh air were relaxing and refreshing for all of us. The girls had a great time playing in the sand and freezing their toes in the rising tide. I had a great time picking shells and treasures from the coarse sand. 

We freshened up at the hotel and then headed right back to the beach for dinner at the Fish Hopper, overlooking the little beach where we'd been playing earlier. Jon had found a tiki bar a few blocks away, but decided he'd rather eat closer to the ocean and take advantage of the view. We certainly enjoyed the otter that swam right up to the rocks where we had been earlier, and kept an eye out for dolphins and whales in the bay.
And then it was more Downton and wine for us while the girls were sawing logs.

On Sunday morning, we planned to go running. We'll be running our first half-marathon at the end of March and our training program had a nine-mile run scheduled while we were in Monterey, so I plotted out a route in advance. I did some research to find popular routes long enough that we wouldn't have to repeat it more than twice, and straight enough that we wouldn't be constantly turning with the stroller. One recommended route was on the Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail, which happened to pass right next to the hotel. Like, we could walk out the door right onto it. Sold. I mapped out the trail, and found that if we started at the hotel and ran to one end and then all the way to the other, we'd hit our mileage pretty close and end up at a great beach for kids.

So we all slept in a bit and then got up and ready to run. While the girls were putting on their swimsuits, I shook the sand out of their water shoes. I decided the best way to do that was to open the screen-less windows and shake the sand onto the outer windows ledge. Which worked great until I dropped the shoe onto the patio of the ground-floor room below. Awesome.
There it is, just one tiny shoe staring at me and reminding me to think a little bit harder. Embarrassed, I explained to Jon and Alice what had happened. Jon asked why I hadn't just shaken them out in the trash can. I had no answer. Alice immediately burst into tears. I told her that I was sad about it too, since she probably wouldn't be able to wear it to the beach that morning, and that I was mad at myself   for not thinking of a better way to accomplish that task. But I reassured her that we could solve the problem, not on our own, but with a little help. I called the front desk and explained myself, and they let me know that someone was booked in that room but they were checking out that morning and they'd be able to get the shoe back to us after 11am. So, Alice put on her sneaks and we were out the door. 

I wish I'd thought to take some photos on our run, because the scenery was great, but my phone was in my arm band and I was concentrating too hard on finishing. It was a bit foggy when we started, and the perfect temperature for running with a nice cool breeze. We ran past boats in the bay, behind a sea wall full of sea lions, seals sunning themselves on the rocks, the wharf, and through stands of eucalyptus. It was a great place to run and it was awesome to have a different view with so much to see. And I was super proud that we finished the run with a great pace. For the first time, I was encouraged that we'll be able to finish the half!

We took a small break during the run to stop at a deli and pick up sandwiches for lunch. After we crossed the finish line, we stopped at the Lovers Point Park in Pacific Grove to eat our lunch before we headed down to the beach. We were surrounded by a lot of interested wildlife and on our way down to the beach, I had the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream and feed a squirrel right out of my hand. PSA: Don't feed people food to wild animals, and certainly don't do it out of your hand. But SO CUTE!!!

And then we slid the stroller down the steep ramp to the beach and rolled it onto the sand, and played in the sun and sand for a while. 

 Ivy loves the water but she was a little bit out of sorts (teething, hungry, tired, tired of vacation). I don't know if it was too cold (so cold!) or if she just wasn't feeling it, but she splashed around for a few minutes and then gave me these faces.

 Aw. I hate when Fun Ivy gets sad. She's got the saddest little sad face.

We played around for a little while longer and then headed back to the hotel for a little pool and hot tub action before we went back to our room to rest and freshen up.
 We had a great dinner of appetizers (and beer, obviously) at the Cannery Row Brewing Company.

And then we took a long walk down to Fisherman's Wharf so we could see some salt-water taffy being made right before our eyes.
 The only way it would have been better is if Alice could have picked out all her own taffy. But we filled a bag with a half-pound of different flavors without any trouble.
Ivy wanted everything, of course.
And Alice was pretty pleased with her bag of taffy.
We enjoyed the stroll home and we all tucked into bed, tired after a long, fun weekend. We slept in again the next morning, but got going and packing as soon as we woke up. After the girls were dressed, we dropped them off at Grandma and Grandpa's room for a bit so we could finish packing up without anyone unpacking it all right behind us. With no one helping us, we finished in a jiffy and even had enough time to sneak out for breakfast and coffee. We hit the Starbucks around the corner and then hung out at our favorite beach spot and enjoyed the foggy morning.
Then we hit up a little shop Jon had been eyeing the whole weekend and got some delicious cinnamon rolls. We ate them at the hotel, overlooking the foggy ocean, and didn't even have to share them with anyone except each other.
We settled the bill and threw everything in the car and were on the road only a few minutes after we'd wanted to be. We were planning to stop in San Luis Obispo again for lunch, but this time we had a much more glamorous destination in mind. 

We didn't tell Alice anything about the Madonna Inn beforehand, but headed straight to the bathroom when we got there. We had to walk past the steakhouse to get to the bathrooms though, and Alice was sufficiently wowed by the decor.
While I changed Ivy's diaper, Jon took Alice into the men's room so they could both experience the wonders of a rock waterfall urinal. The waterfall is activated when you step into place - a feature I suspect is relatively new. I snuck in to take a few photos. The waterfall is awesome, though I'm sure I'd appreciate it even more if I was a boy, but I thought the giant clamshell sinks were pretty rad.
And then Alice came into the ladies room with me. I thought the iridescent wallpaper was spectacular, but Alice was most impressed with the chandelier hanging over the stalls. 
The place just defies explanation. If you have the opportunity to go, definitely do it, if only to admire the restaurant decor and enjoy an enormous piece of champagne cake. We passed on the cake this time, but Jon and I want to come back alone and enjoy a weekend in one of the uniquely decorated guest rooms.
We stretched our legs with a stroll through the little garden out front and took some photos with the the lovely flowers. 

And after another three+ hours of driving and whining, our lovely mini-break had come to an end. I hope we get to visit the aquarium again soon enough to see the new "Tentacles" exhibit opening in April. We had a great time, and it was just the break we were dreaming of during our busy January!

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