To San Francisco and Beyond! (Day one and two of our Trip up the Coast)

I am already going through withdrawels from my roadtrip up the California Coast last week!

As you may recall, I mentioned in a previous post that I took care of planning the hotels and my hubby the on-site entertainment. I am happy to report that our new vacation planning sytem worked WONDERS! Not only did we arrive in one piece to Monterey, we also managed to catch up on Adele's latest album along the drive.

At our first stop in Monterey, we stayed at the Portola Hotel and Spa. Because we planned our trip early, we secured a courtyard view room when we reserved the Aquarium Package. In hindsight, the upgrade to the courtyard view room wasn't neccesary since we were only there for one day and the privacy curtains were missing from our private patio. Go figure!

The rest of the amenities that came with the package, including the breakfast, freshly baked cookie upon arrival and two-day Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets were well worth the extra expense. But our favorite hotel amenity was the location: walking distance to the Old Fishermans Warf, Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium! The location is something to also consider when you are traveling with pets, like we were. Because of our close proximity to grassy areas and pet-friendly retailers, we were able to walk Chatito three times a day without missing out on sight-seeing and shopping.

Our first evening there we were able to comfortably walk and view the local sights, return to the hotel to relax and then enjoy an amazing dinner at The Old Fishermans Grotto. The grotto is recognized for their award-winning clam chowder and the freshest fish in the area. My hubby enjoyed their lobster special of the day and I ordered the salmon dinner. Both were amazingly fresh, delicious and the service was unbelievably friendly!

The following day we started with the breakfast at Jacks restaurant, which was located in our hotel. Our breakfast buffet included a delicious variety of breakfast favorites and made-to-order delicacies, including omelets, pancakes and waffles, fruit...and I could go on! Although our breakfast was included in our vacation package, I would enjoy dining here again - whether or not I stayed in this hotel again. Yes, it was that good!

Our day continued with a nice stroll through Cannery Row on our way to the Aquarium. (Note to my fellow travelers: I highly recommend that walk instead of driving through town to enjoy the beautiful scenery and breath the fresh air!)

Although the Aquarium is a great place to visit at any time of the year, I prefer going during the summer because the weather tends to be a bit milder/nost as cold as the rest of the year.

The aquarium has received various awards for its exhibits and programs. Some of which are available to see and tour year-round. For this visit, we were excited to see the newest attractions, including the Hot Pink Flamingos and the Secret Lives of Seahorses.

My favorites still include the Sea Otter Exhibit and the Jellies! Of course, several interactive exhibits, have an at-home compenent that are fun for the entire family!

I also recommend that you visit the aquarium as early in the day as possible to miss out on the summer crowds. Once you view all the exhibits and enjoy the free activities, you can easily enjoy lunch at the Aquarium or walk back through Cannery Row. We opted to take the free trolly back to our hotel.

Our ten-minute trolly ride back gave us a slightly different view of Monterey than what we had seen earlier. We also had the advantage of a late check-out to allow us the opportunity to walk through the pier with Chatito while getting a quick bite to eat before we he headed out to San Francisco.

Some would say that Monterey tends to border on high-end travel because of the hotel cost, spa's and seafood-heavy restaurants. But even those traveling within a budget can enjoy a great seafood meal, like we did, by simply ordering to-go from any of the Pier restaurants that offer a good variety of seafood options, including clam chowder, Mexican-style seafood and other seafood favorites.

Don't forget to take some hand-made salt water taffy and candied nuts while you are there!

(more of our San Francisco travel adventurs in my next post!)

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