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Published: August 28th 2012
Highway 120 out of Yosemite is another long & winding road.....but early on a Saturday morning, most traffic was coming towards us, so we enjoyed a relatively smooth drive west.
The road was out further along due to a rockfall, and a temporary bridge took us across to a single track road the other side of the Merced River: quite some mess, it certainly makes you appreciate how easy it is for communities to get cut off when Mother Nature decides to let rip !
We sat for 10 minutes waiting for a huge freight train to get moving at one point, then filled up with gas in Los Banos. Asked the attendant for a good recommendation for brunch, and he came straight back with "Eddies
, up the road a short way". A cracking example of where it was worth asking local advice - even if it had been owned by Larry for over 30 years......we were in a sea of Taco Bell/McD's/CarlsJr/, and Eddies turned out to be a proper little gem ! Massive cinnamon rolls, Eddies McMuffin (properly cooked stuff here), "Country Benedict" and more.....great food, nice friendly waitress and altogether a good stop :-)
we went, in search of Garlic.......actually, in search of Gilroys, self-proclaimed World Home of Garlic, but also home to a huge Premium Factory Outlet, and a chance for a little retail R&R. We finally arrived after noon, and spend the next 5 hours trawling around, getting various bargains along the way. Mental note, the one thing we still needed to buy was another bag.....
Then down to Monterey for our next AirBnB stop, at a peaceful artist home.....& wow, even if I say so myself, I have picked some cracking spots !
Evan was a truly charming host, welcoming us into their home, intruducing us to Zeus, their 3-legged blind terrier....a delightful creature, he was coping with all the incidents & accidents thrown at him with a dogged determination (see what I did there ?)....
The weather, on the other hand, had taken a sudden turn for the worse......much cooler than we had enjoyed for the previous 3 weeks, suddenly whale watching seemed like it could have been a really dodgy decision....
We unloaded bags, chilled out with a cheeky beer and introductory chat, then Evan recommended Julia's vegetarian
restaurent a short distance away. It sounded like
he knew them well, so we invited him along for the evening.
What a great choice ! Beautifully prepared food, and a real change from some of the *ahem* junk food we had eaten during this trip. The staff were super friendly, perhaps because Evan was there, but I think they were just genuinely interested in the ambiance of the little place: nice evening !
.....& with enough food to last for our breakfast, taken early on the Sunday morning.....geared up with some loaned coats from Evan (just in case - it was a hazy cool morning), we set off to Monterey Fishermans Wharf, to meet up with John & Jan, our old friends who have now been living in California for almost 8 years. Great to see them looking so well.
They had recommeded a particular whale trip - the Monterey Bay Whale Watch
- having used it in the past, and we headed out of the harbour at 9am, with our "boat host" Kate enthusing about the otter mummy with a baby on her tummy just in front of the boat !
We had taken a precautionary Dramamine just in case of rough water out of the
harbour, but in the event, it was incredibly
smooth. We heard of radio tales of a whale spotted somewhere out in the ocean, and we headed off to find it.
It was about an hour of pretty fast motoring, and we caught up with a larger boat that had headed out just before us to find they had got a blue whale nearby! Wow, they are big creatures, even from one or two hundred yards away.
The next couple of hours was spent crusing around, and whilst we spotted many of the *cough* infamous "Wake Whales", we finally spotted 3 different blue whales.....& then a massive
humpback which graced us with one lovely dive, the classic tail fin arcing out of the water before a deep plunge.
We also had some ocean sunfish perform a spectacular dance very close to the boat, flipping their fins around. It was only later in the aquarium that we saw how large the bodies were under the water - very odd creatures !
Many pelicans were also spotted, with a couple buzzing us and landing in our wake. What a hugely prehistoric looking bird they are.....and how untidily they land
After almost 3 hours, it was time to head back, but finally, and much to Kate's enthusiastic excitement, we saw a Fin Whale with it's slightly hooked fin.
All in all, we have to say this was a brilliant
boat trip. At the end of the day, these are really "whale hunting" trips (without the harpoons!) - there is no guarantee you will see even one, and we were very lucky to 'catch' the 5 we did.
On the way back, the sun had come out, and the sea shone with a brilliant sheen. Sadly, so did our faces, as we had forgotten to pop sunblock on (given the hazy start), and for the next few days we would all feel the effect of that !
Back on dry land we were all rather hungry, so headed to the end of the pier for a delicious lunch. To our huge entertainment, a salty old sea dog rowed his small boat past the pier.....flat end first. Reckon he could be redefining rowing, with a backwards rowing action (he was facing the flat end whilst rowing 'backwards"). Just wrong !!
Sated, we then moved on to
Monterey near Cannery Row, parked up, and headed into The Aquarium.
An amazing facility: I had been once before, but the "displays" are all changed regularly, and right now there was a superb jellyfish one (with funky hippy music backing it) as well as a great Seahorse (& bizarre sea dragon) section too. The octopus was "splatted" full on against the glass, which looked particularly odd.....& huge!
Steve & Ellie loved it: he was particularly interested in the areas where you could touch the rays/starfish/kelp and learn more. Even Christine got her arm wet stroking the rays in the "petting pool" !
One of the main pools had a plethora of sealife swimming: no idea how they weren't killing each other.....hammerhead shark, turtle, all kinds of fish from small to large.....a proper mix, with small fish swimming in small shoals (& looking terrified!) at the bottom. Elsewhere there were all manner of fish so well disguised even their mum's couldn't find them.....
Around 6:30 I discovered the place was open an extra couple of hours this evening with a live jazz band striking up in the main entrance, and with a complimentary Pino Grigio, we continued
to enjoy the ambiance.
Finally, around 7:45, we headed out, and decided to finish the evening off in a good old English Pub (with a local amber ale or two to help remind us where we were!). John got his fish & chips, Jan got her cider & we all enjoyed a bit of banter with the bartender from Coventry :-)
To round off, we passed on our BBQ & coals in the hope it would find a useful home somewhere, and "home" we all went.
A fantastic day enjoyed by all !!
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