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Miles from Monterey

We’d originally thought about going to Alcatraz on Saturday, but it turns out that all those stories about the cruise tickets selling out in advance are true, even when it’s not peak season. (We’ve learnt our lesson, and already have our tickets booked for next weekend.)

So, the back-up plan was to head to Monterey, and see the aquarium, Cannery Row, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

However, the first order of the day was to stop at the Alamo depot at San Jose Airport, and exchange our hire car. The Dodge Avenger that we’d got originally had developed an intermittent fault with the left indicators (or turn signals, as they call them over here). Every so often it would start flashing twice as fast as it should (as if it had an old-fashioned relay and a bulb had gone), and the rear light cluster would flash in odd patterns. Sometimes there was a beep from the dashboard too, just in case we hadn’t noticed the problem.

A call to Alamo’s 1-800 number (unfortunately, not free from a UK mobile), and they were happy for us to exchange it at our convenience. We drove in to the depot, got a receipt, got offered a choice of new car, and drove out in an almost brand-new Chevrolet Impala. Much nicer to drive than the old one: not so much wallow from the suspension, a more direct feel to the steering, and over twice the power. Must behave ourselves, I think the CHiPs are quite strict…

An easy, scenic drive down to Monterey, and we managed to get parked just off the famous Cannery Row without realising it to start with. Conveniently, the Aquarium is at one end of this, in one of the old cannery building, and the first thing you see when you go in is an exhibit of old boilers and machinery from one of the canneries.

I’ll let the rest of the pictures speak for themselves, rather than trying to give a guided tour of the whole aquarium, which must be the biggest and best I’ve ever been in. But I guess their location does give them something of an advantage over Whitley Bay Sealife Centre…

[I took loads more photos than this, but the camera doesn’t really do justice to most of the exhibits; dark, blurry photos of fish-shaped objects aren’t particularly interesting.]

 
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Posted by on Tuesday 13 November 2012 in California

 

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Welcome to the Hotel California

(Yes, yes, I know the title’s a bit obvious, but it had to be done. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other cheesy song references to come in the next four weeks.)

After a couple of slightly delayed flights, we made it to California, picked up a car, and drove to the hotel. It seems that the admin staff had done a good job of the bookings, because there were none of the slightly-anticipated extra charges that we thought we might get with the car, although we did get asked if a mid-sized car would be big enough for the two of us. We didn’t realise that the American definition of “mid-size” means a Dodge Avengeralthough there’s plenty of space, it’s not as beefy as it looks. It must just have the two-litre petrol engine, because the automatic gearbox drops down a gear on a slight incline on the freeway, and drops down two if you actually want to accelerate. You just need a bit of a lack of mechanical sympathy, and it seems to go OK.

It felt a bit unwieldy getting out of the car park, and getting to the main road was a bit unnerving due to the poor road markings and lack of decent lighting, but we made it to the hotel without hitting anything, which is always a good start. We were offered a choice of first floor (i.e. ground floor, really) or sixth (fifth) for our rooms, and went for the top floor for the peace and quiet. The drawback of this is the world’s slowest elevator… of course, this being America, the stairs are a bit of an afterthought for emergencies only, so we’ll just have to be patient.

The room/suite isn’t too bad, despite it looking like it’s time-travelled from the 80’s, even though the hotel was only built in 2002.

You enter the suite via the study. Desk, chair, lamp, phone. What else would you expect?

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Next is the kitchen, with a decent-sized fridge-freezer, two ring hob, sink, dishwasher, coffee maker, table and chairs, and a 1400W microwave oven! I don’t suppose I can use it to cook pizza, which is a shame, but I can produce industrial quantities of popcorn…

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The lounge has a two-seater sofa-bed, armchair, coffee table, and the first of two big LCD TVs. You can probably see from the carpet and the suite why it looks like it’s left over from 1980-something.

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The bedroom has a very soft double bed, with far too many pillows. Not a brilliant night’s sleep last night, but I suspect a lot of that was due to my internal body-clock being completed confused.

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Just off the bedroom is the washbasin and wardrobe, with a separate door to the bath and toilet. The thing that looks like another door on the far right of the picture is just the reflection of the bathroom door in the mirror-fronted wardrobe.

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The view’s not too bad, although this panorama doesn’t really do it justice as I had to shoot through the glass of the bedroom windows, slightly towards the sun, and the haze is obscuring the nice view of Mission Hills in the distance.

I had a nice pre-breakfast run this morning, down to Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge and back. A bit of a change from Tyne Riverside Country Park!

Now it’s about time we went out to explore the local area and find some lunch… more later…

… or there would be, if we hadn’t spelt all afternoon driving around all afternoon for the sake of saving the company 10 or 20 dollars on a mobile hotspot. More another day, I think…

 
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Posted by on Sunday 4 November 2012 in California

 

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