Sunday, November 02, 2014

California! Part 2

Monterey was named by a Spanish merchant-explorer, who landed in 1602 after a seven month voyage from Mexico, and found abundant fresh water and wild game. California’s Gold Rush in 1849 bypassed Monterey  for San Francisco, leaving the community as little more than a sleepy Mexican fishing village, which was how the town looked in the autumn of 1879, when a feverishly ill 29-year old Scotsman arrived by stagecoach, flat broke and desperately in love with a married woman.

Robert Louis Stevenson came to Monterey for fresh air and to see Fanny Osbourne, whom he had met while travelling in France two years before. He stayed three months, writing occasional articles for the local newspaper and telling stories in exchange for his meals at a saloon restaurant. He started writing Treasure Island here and used Point Lobos as inspiration.

 Point Lobos state natural reserve
In an essay, he foresaw that the lifestyle that had endured here was no match for the ‘Yankee craft’ of the ‘millionaire vulgarians of the big bonanza’ like Charles Crocker (one of San Fransisco’s Big Four railroad barons). Crocker proved Stevenson right by opening the lavish Hotel Del Monte in 1880, which helped turn the sleepy town in to a seaside resort practically overnight.

Along the waterfront you come to Cannery Row, remaned after John Steinbeck’s portrait of the rough and ready men and women who worked in and around the thirty odd fish villages here. During WW2, 200,000 tonnes of sardines were caught and canned each year. 

Steinbeck, Cannery Row

A year after Steinbeck’s celebrated novel was published, the sardines were more or less all gone, and the canneries subsequently abandoned. Today, the old canneries are flashy restaurants and shops, selling knick-knacks, toy otters, and the like.

Highlight – Monterey Aquarium, and Kit, the otter.

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