Sue De Lapa
Boats float at Monterey
Get Outta Here
On the Beat
Friday, November 27, 2009
Steinbeck Country: I was dunking a shrimp in a bowl of hot sauce on Cannery Row last weekend when a woman across the table asked, “How do you compare Monterey with Santa Barbara?”
Well, first of all, Santa Barbara never had that colorful era where huge canneries sucked zillions of sardines from the sea and packed them off. Now the sardines are long gone and so are the canneries, replaced by hotels and seafood restaurants.
This is John Steinbeck Country. His colorful lore is as much a part of the ambiance as bowls of warm calamari and old-timers’ stories at the Sardine Factory bar. His 1945 novel Cannery Row was a hit just as the sardines were starting to run out.
Nor does Santa Barbara have sea otters lolling around in the water in easy view of hotel guests and tourists gobbling crab, salmon, and, of course, shrimp. Monterey still lives off the sea.
Both towns sport tourist-magnet wharfs. Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf is more of an excursion onto a wide-open pier with a few eateries, while Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf is wall-to-wall with restaurants equipped with large windows offering views of Monterey Bay and the marina, the better to please tourists as they knock back drinks and dig into plates of good old seafood.
By Sue De Lapa
Once it was a cannery.
Both cities relish their relationships with the sea, but Monterey took a giant step with its prime attraction: the Monterey Bay Aquarium, located in the old Hovden Cannery. Sue and I strolled the place for hours, drawn to the surrealistically beautiful jellyfish and the popular seahorse exhibit. Yes, seahorses, tiny, delicate fellows bobbling about behind glass. Kids knelt in wonder. Alas, the Aquarium’s star, a great white shark, was gone, evicted after a too-close encounter with a huge tuna in the giant tank. There wasn’t much left of the tuna, from what I heard.
I recall someone wanting to build an aquarium near our East Beach some years ago but the plan soon sank.
Let’s see, more comparisons. Santa Barbara boasts its millionaires’ haven, Montecito, while Monterey has its low profile, high-end Carmel, a few minutes away. It’s the cute, ultra-neat sister of Monterey’s brawny, blue-collar cannery worker who learned to cook and opened a restaurant.
By Sue De Lapa
Sardine exhibit at the Aquarium.
Carmel is also Doris Day country. The inviting, stylish bar at her Moorish-style Cypress Inn is a locals’ hangout. Dogs are welcome too.
But in truth there’s no real comparison between Santa Barbara and Monterey. There’s only one cool, waves-on-the-rocks, remember-the-sardines Monterey and only one warm, Mediterranean-looking, palm-studded Santa Barbara, where the sea washes the beach and where the water’s actually warm enough to swim in. (I don’t though.)
Aquarium visitor at jellyfish tank.