aquarium

A beautiful weekend in Monterey

We drove into Monterey on Friday evening, after a stunning drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco.

Beautiful Bay on the Pacific Coast Highway enroute to Monterey from San Francisco

If time had permitted we would have stopped a while to enjoy the many picturesque, sandy bays. Some of the bays were carved deeply into high cliffs, with difficult access making them even more appealing to explore. The quiet, remoteness of some of the bays reminded us very much of New Zealand.

We stopped at one bay, which curved along the edge of the highway, to watch some incredible kite surfers catching the prevailing wind.

Kite surfer catching some air!

I often carry a small kite or two in my holiday suitcase (along with a ball, pens, paper and a couple of electronic gadgets!) and this was a perfect place for a quick fly.

Miss 4 didn’t need to run with her kite to catch the wind at this spot; on the contrary she had to cling on tight or lose her kite! I’m just glad the kite wasn’t any larger – as I’m sure she would have flown with it!

Miss 4 holding on tight to her kite

After a quick breather (literally!) we climbed back in the car, along with a burned log that Miss 4 insisted on carting along with us. She was hoping to make a driftwood house, like some we’d spotted earlier on our drive, but nature hadn’t delivered any to this particular beach.

When we arrived at Monterey we were all pretty tired and ready to relax. The beautiful Intercontinental Hotel, which hubbie had booked us into for two nights, was a perfect place to chill – and we had a room with a view.

We didn’t have much on our agenda for our brief visit to Monterey. We had all day Saturday, before driving back to Santa Barbara on the Sunday; though there was one place which was an absolute ‘must do’ and that was the incredible Monterey Aquarium.

It’s not like any other aquarium we’ve visited. The sheer magnitude of the tanks has to be seen to believed. There is a whole kelp forest, which can be viewed on a number of levels, along with an ‘Open Sea’ tank, where you feel like you’re right there, in the midst of all the action.

It’s really like having a glimpse into another world.

As well as these spectacular large scale exhibits there’s also plenty of hands on activities for younger children to learn about the ocean environment, alongside touch pools and smaller viewing windows on particular species and different environments.

And there’s the most incredible and fun jellyfish exhibit.

A very incredible place indeed!

What’s more, the waters surrounding the aquarium are absolutely teeming with life. Hubbie went to find a bottle store, to pick up a celebratory bottle of bubbles for our 15th Wedding Anniversary, and came across a beach of seals!

He did eventually return with a bottle of bubbly (after a slight Forrest Gump style detour!), along with some food from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. opposite the hotel.

A wonderful weekend with great memories.

Now, go visit the wonderful Coombe Mill in Cornwall, England, for some beautiful outdoor fun… 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Back from our road trip to San Francisco

What a trip! Exhausting with three children and a husband working hard int he office Monday to Friday! It wasn’t a holiday, but most certainly an adventure and an experience – with some amazing sights either side of the working week and a couple of incredible weekends either side.

The drive back, from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, was broken up with a two night stop in Monterey Bay. Unfortunately it took us a little longer than anticipated to do that first leg – so many accidents and half of San Francisco leaving the city for a weekend away made the driving painfully slow.

We arrived in Monterey as the sun was setting and pulled in at Summerland Beach, attracted by the large sand-dunes. It’s often the half an hour stops on a journey that stay in the mind the longest.

Summerland Beach

All the traffic was soon forgotten and the stresses washed away….

Sanddunes

Our hotel for our two night stay in Monterey was close to the waterfront, had a pool to keep the children happy and room service to keep the parents sweet. We checked in about 8pm and were in the swimming pool within ten minutes. The children finally got to sleep… they always do… eventually! Must have been about 11pm.

In the pool

On the Saturday we visited the incredible aquarium in Monterey – the best we have ever seen and truly never to be forgotten. As well has having the most beautiful aquarium tanks showcasing wonderful, exotic and breathtaking sea-life, there are also plenty of hands on learning exhibits for children to learn about ocean life. I will have to write a special post on our visit another time.

In awe

The location of the aquarium, set on the Pacific Ocean, in the most spectacular scenery, abundant with sea-life and bird-life, completed the perfection.

View from Monterey Aquarium

The beauty of the natural environment continued, as everyone promised us it would, on our drive down the Pacific coast back to Santa Barbara. There were so many similarities to New Zealand. We found ourselves remembering stunning drives along the west coast of the south island, as well as the breathtaking coast drives on the east coast of the south island – filled with equally abundant marine life.

Pacific Coast California Big SurElephant Seals dotted the beaches and whales made their migratory journey south.

Elephant seals

The landscape was rugged, with the winding road teetering on the edges of the cliff, leaving a defined cut.

Where the road had been carved out there were geological layers laid bare, exposed to tell the story of the earth; reminding us of driving through the central plateau of the north island of NZ.

The stop offs were stunning. If we’d had more time, and more pliable children, we would have lingered longer, had a drink, enjoyed the road stop cafes and live music (we did make pit stops – but flies were a problem in one place and ‘stinky seaweed’ smells in another…).

As we got closer to Santa Barbara we pulled up at a beach to fly kites and cover each other in sand, before the last hour of the drive.

Kite flying on the beach

It was with relief we pulled in at our ‘home’ in Santa Barbara. It is a stunning home, but not our home and all of the children said as much in their own ways, which touched me deeply.

Our three year old said, ‘Mummy, how many nights now here, before we go back to Wellington? I do love it here though.’

Our ten year old said, ‘I don’t feel the same way that I used to feel when got back to our home in Wellington after a trip away.’

And our seven year old said, ‘Mummy, it is nice here, but I don’t feel like I am back home’.

Nevertheless, it is great to be back and have time to get reacquainted with all our belongings that only arrived from New Zealand three days before our road trip away.

The older girls have played together all day, from riding on their bikes down the lane by the house and swimming in the pool, to board games of Dragonology and ‘Bingo’ games! They’ve dressed up as knights and ran around the house brandishing swords and shields, whilst young Alice has played with everything imaginable – from play dough and matching games to painting and imaginary games with ponies and trains. We’ve swam in the pool and sang along to songs. I haven’t managed to get any of them out to the local supermarket so I could stock up on washing powder and essentials – but they can wait!

Our minds are busy digesting all that we’ve seen and done this past week. It’s good to have ‘down time’ after a trip away!

It’s going to take me a while to sort through the hundreds of photographs and get them printed off for the older girls to add to their scrap books (which should then keep them busy for a while!).