Monterey Birthday Extravaganza

Originally published on 28 August 2015.

Just when you thought Steve and I were going to be hanging up our traveling gear for a while, we packed it all up again! This time we took a domestic trip to beautiful Monterey, California! My friend Valarie’s birthday is the day after mine, so we like to celebrate together when we can! This trip was a bit delayed, but we got it in the right month!


Here are some fun facts about Val’s and my friendship:

Valarie was the first friend I made after I moved to DC! She and I met at a volunteer dinner before the Cherry Blossom Festival in March 2008. We found out our birthdays were just one day apart, and we’ve been friends ever since!

We both married older men… and they’re both named Steve!

The picture that pops up on Val’s phone when I text or call her makes me look like I’m picking her nose. We were stuck in traffic on the way home from a Train concert.

And lastly, if you didn’t figure it out yet, we’re goofy together!

Val and I have been planning this trip since May, so we had been excited for a while, and the day had finally come! My Steve and I rose early on Friday and headed back to our home airport. Whoever Steve calls to pick us up and take us to the airport, they’re pretty great. They’re always early, so we are never waiting for them–which is good, since we like to cut it close! I desperately needed some coffee, and luck for us… a new Starbucks opened across from our gate! Woohoo! And we were off. The good thing about flights from the east coast to the west coast is that you really only lose a couple of hours, even though you’re flying for about 5!

The drive from San Francisco to Monterey was a nice one, and surprisingly swift. I guess we missed the morning rush! We stopped for lunch downtown on Cannery Row, right on the water. It was a little chilly, but the food was good, and the views were beautiful, even on an overcast day. After lunch we took a romantic stroll along the trail that goes through town, and eventually, the sun came out!

Time to check in! Val and her Steve were still on their way up from Camarillo, so my Steve and I made a stop at Trader Joe’s for some weekend food essentials and found our Air BnB. We would have the two bed, one bath house to ourselves for the weekend! After putting away the groceries and settling in to rest for a while, Val and Steve arrived about 3:00 or so. It was a happy reunion! Steve and I had only seen them once since their wedding last year, so it was great to catch up!

The four of us drove to town to check it out (just a couple of miles away), and them made our way to Val’s friend’s house, just a couple of communities over. They have a beautiful farm! Their house is from the 1800s (I think she said maybe 1880s?), and though they’ve added on over the years, they’ve made a real effort to keep it antiquated and charming! If I’d had my wits about me, I would have taken a picture of their awesome kitchen! They even have an authentic stove that’s over 100 years old!

Oh, and they have a dog friend!

So sweet. Dogs love Steve, and Steve loves dogs!

Oh, and they have a swing!

So fun. Her friends are originally from Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of DC–what are the odds? Anyway, Val knows her from working at National Geographic. Maybe they were friends of friends, something like that. But they welcomed us like we were all old friends! So sweet.

Saturday morning meant it was time to run! By the time I got back, Val and her Steve were showered, ready, and prepping for breakfast!

There are a couple of things you need to know about Val and her Steve. Val likes to try her hand at EVERYTHING! She has crops in their backyard–avocados, oranges, blood oranges, lemons, key limes, sapotes, onions, tomatoes, and more! And they have chickens–hooray farm fresh eggs! The other thing is that her Steve is an amazing cook! We ate very well both mornings!

Val’s friend, Brett, got there eventually, so Steve kindly made him an omelette and we all got to know him! He has been living in Israel making olive oil-based soap using Old Testament ingredients. Val has the most interesting friends! He joined us for an afternoon at the world-renown Monterey Bay Aquarium and lunch at the famous Cindy’s Waterfront Restaurant as well.


Something else you should know about Val is that she has a degree in marine biology, and she loves the cephalopods–those are the octopuses and such. We got an education going through an aquarium with her!

Don’t forget: don’t flash the octopus! Can you see his tentacles? Here are some more sea creatures:

After a fun afternoon of sea creature time, we decided to get some grub at the famous Sardine Factory (Monterey got its start in the sardine business) to fill the gap until ghost tour time.

Talk about some fine dining! I literally felt like I was on the Titanic, it was so over-the-top grandiose. I loved it! Do I wish we’d been in fancy clothes because I like to play dress-up? Sure. But we were treated with kindness and were well attended-to, even in our touristy street clothes! I highly recommend it, even f you just get some appetizers and soup like we did.

On to the ghost tour! We saw some of the oldest sites in town, heard some tantalizing tales, and had great fun, but the story that stuck out to me most was the one about a “doctor” who actually poisoned people! The population of Monterey went down 40% each year he was in practice there! And as it turned out later, he actually wasn’t a doctor at all, he just told people he was! There’s a restaurant now in the house he used to live in called 1833 (the year this doctor showed up in town). Eat there if you dare!

The next morning looked like a good one for another run! I usually don’t run two days in a row, but it was just so pleasant, and I felt really great, so I did it! It was great! My Steve ran that morning, too, and on my way back to the house, we met in the middle, gave each other a mid-stride smooch, and continued on our respective runs! I thought it was cute. Wish I got a picture of that!

We met back up at the house with Val and her Steve, and he outdid himself with breakfast again! We had marinated steak breakfast tacos with ingredients from their urban farm again. Amazing! We readied our selves and checked out of the house, then set out to explore the famous 17-mile drive on the coast! We took our time and enjoyed the views.

We stopped briefly at Pebble Beach, but there was a bit of excitement upon our arrival… one of those famous California fires! Not to make light of it at all–it seems no one was actually hurt–but it seems an A/C unit caught fire on the roof. Several fire engines came out, guests were evacuated (and given perrier instead of water, of course), and the firemen took care of the problem.

We browsed around at the expensive shops and enjoyed the flowers and greenery (hotels and resorts can water more than most others in the state), then hopped back into Val’s car and headed to beautiful, adorable Carmel-by-the-Sea! (AKA: “Carmel”)

It was getting on into the afternoon, so we needed to find some place for lunch. We found a cute little cafe on the most adorable little street you ever did see! There are trendy little shops and restaurants, a wonderful little lavender shop called AJNE (we talked to the owner and her husband–so nice!), and there’s even a Dr. Seuss art gallery! Made me think of my mama. She loves the Cat in the Hat! They had prints of the originals for sale!

After a delightful lunch and window shopping excursion, it was unfortunately time to head back to the house and pick up our rental car. For a long weekend trip, it sure was short! But then, time is always too short with good friends!

We made it to the San Francisco airport, despite some incredible traffic, and wandered around until we figured out where to go. We grabbed a couple of wraps for supper (because sometimes you just have to buy airport food), and waited for our flight to board.

So there we were, all settled in for the cross-country redeye flight:

He looks bright-eyed, but he was sleepy!

The flight back was uneventful (well, except for the screaming child in front of us who was, by the way, old enough to have his own seat). I didn’t get any sleep on the plane but hey, what else is new? We both made it through Monday, and that was the goal!

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