Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms
Monterey is still the ultimate get-away – the region rich in natural splendor and full of historical significance, tranquil and contemplative, drawing throngs of couples and poets to its pristine shores.
And as we wind back the clock to John Steinbeck’s real-time movie-stories of the canneries and the fishing skiffs, we immerse ourselves in a city beyond age and beyond comparison; simply, what other place lingers at the edge of the ocean a stone’s throw from the missions that mark the pilgrimage of the priests through the new-born vales of California?
Yes, even though the country is going through periods of immense change and turmoil, Monterey remains much the same as Steinbeck left it – its cool crisp waters and lilting swagger combining to promote a less frenetic pace.
I know what you’re thinking: “It all sounds grand, but how do I afford it?”
Notwithstanding the current national recession, Monterey still offers some real bargains in terms of lodging; with careful planning, you can easily spend sustained time here without breaking the bank.
And if you’re thinking of a long weekend down the sea-shore in 2011, you can do it relatively sensibly by exploring the Inns of Monterey, with careful attention due these two stylish and representative venues:
Some might sneer at the Victorian Inn because it incorporates “Best Western” into its moniker. But to take this view of the inn would be a grave error, since this is one of those rare finds – comfortable and refined, with a design that stresses family and value. The Victorian Inn is located mere steps from famed Lighthouse Avenue on Foam Street, just a few blocks from the beach-front, about 10 ‘foot-minutes’ from the canneries and the Monterey Aquarium. Although laid out like a hotel because of its size (over 70 rooms), the interior of the inn feels like a quaint bed & breakfast; there’s a coziness to the rooms which are ultimately defined by the marriage of two simple words – spaciousness and elegance. Booking at the Victorian Inn is more like staying in someone’s house – marble gas-driven fireplaces and stately furnishings fore-go pomp and circumstance, enveloping travelers in the natural splendor of the city. To this end, seek out the private patio-balcony that frames each room and have your morning coffee out there, watching the fog roll in over the water. In essence, this is what Steinbeck was writing about in those books: This port-city beyond static monuments of time, this wild assortment of landscapes, its people scurrying about the salty countryside in the midst of their intimate routines. Here, from the balconies of the old Victorian, one is able to experience one thousand scenes as they flow and unfold; here, as you commence to write your own personal version of Cannery Row.
The Victorian Inn offers complimentary high-speed internet access; an honor-bar; luxuriant beds with plush pillows; a big, clean bathroom stocked with high-quality toiletries; mini-refrigerators; a very good continental breakfast boasting high-quality pastries and an ultra-rich cup of coffee; a staff that goes out of its way to make your stay problem-free and meaningful; select rooms reserved for travelers with pets; and a nightly wine & cheese hour featuring an assortment of top quality California wines. Additionally, a downstairs ‘community’ computer allows quick email checks if you’re on holiday and without a laptop. However, the best part of the deal is the price – rooms range from $79-$250, with a high of $380 during special events. For this kind of treatment in a similar port-city like San Francisco, you might expect to pay another 60-100 bucks a night.
The Spindrift Inn is a bit different than The Victorian (even though they remain sisters in the same Inns of Monterey family). First-off, The Spindrift is located right on McAbee Beach in the belly of Cannery Row. Here, you can smell the salt and the sea drenched in the remnants of the men who fished these waters centuries before. While The Victorian is defined by value and simplicity, The Spindrift is all about luxury – this hotel that has the feel of layered velvet blooming in-between the toes. The Spindrift is modeled after the hotels you’d likely find in Europe, and the totality of its experience recollects Venice or some B&B off the Mediterranean coastline – a place comprised of the hands of countless generations who came together as one to build the walls and the doors and the floors, working together to keep the inn alive on a daily basis. And while The Victorian is more in line with a family outing, The Spindrift speaks to a romantic hideout for two. This is the kind of inn you seek out for your honeymoon or to propose to your fiancée – the waves whispering in the distance as you reabsorb yourself in ancient ideals of love and soul. Rooms feature some of the most comfortable mattresses to be encountered in any hotel room – with feather bedding the proverbial ‘cherry-on-the-cake.’ Marble baths, posh bay-view window seats and wood-burning fireplaces add a sophisticated dichotomy to the experience as travelers step through multiple worlds in the same room.
There are many things that set The Spindrift apart, not the least of which is the fact that the inn overlooks the water: You can actually open the window and hear the otters and seals breathing in the night, the foam of the current lapping at the window panes, singing this personal lullaby. Also note the complimentary silver-tray breakfast that features a fine array of continental foods; a nightly wine and cheese reception (expect memorable fare here, as the wines and cheeses echo selections you’d see in the best restaurants); and on-site dining at Paradiso Trattoria – an extra that allows you to eat well without ever touching the car keys. Prices range from $169-$350, with a high of $700 during special events (while special deals – Romance Package; Aquarium Package; Wine-tour Package – give travelers some ability to create a very affordable vacation).