Our life-long quest to visit as many of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die has brought us to destinations near and far. We've been to other continents and visited places in our own backyard. Monterey, just south of the San Francisco bay area, takes only a few hours of driving to get to from our home in Southern California but it might as well be in another country. Our recent trip up north to visit Monterey changed our view of the very state we live in.
Like many Californians, we both despise and love our state. We've got a messed up budget, bad traffic, everything is always on fire and we're over crowded. On the other hand we have the best weather in the United States and some of the most amazing landscape on the planet. When I think about California, my opinions are based on my life growing up and living in Southern California. I've been known in the past to resist leaving my zip code at all costs. While its not entirely true I'll admit that much of California doesn't jump out at me as being a place I want to be a tourist. Doesn't Rome or London just sound so much more exciting?
I've been to Monterey a few times but always as a kid. This time I went as an adult. An adult who can drive. Part of this trip's appeal was our decision to take the 101 north to Monterey. If you've never driven north on the 101 but you've seen the 5...just imagine the exact opposite. Bends in the road, green trees, things to look at, and an ocean. Part of the fun of this trip was the drive up!
After hanging out in Monterey for a few days I noticed that I was feeling the same way I did in Sorrento, Italy. Life seems to just make sense in Monterey. Maybe its the coastal way of life with its seafood-rich diet and proximity to beautiful water but I've been finding that people living close to the sea are far more calm than those of us in the suburbs. But is it just Monterey? Is this city just a fluke in an otherwise stressed out and toxic state? The answer is NO.
On our way back home we decided to take PCH (a.k.a. Highway 1, a.k.a Pacific Coast Highway) most of the way home. For a long time, I practically lived on PCH in Orange County but up north its a far different stretch of road. It reminded me of the Amalfi Coast drive but with less terror. One of the best things we've got going for ourselves in this state is our vast coastline. Driving south on PCH put us right on the edge giving us a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. On one particular stretch, we stopped every couple of miles to get out and marvel at the sapphire blue water and crashing waves on the rocky shoreline. This drive is a must-do for anyone who calls this state home. Its a slice of California that must be experienced to truly appreciate what we have here.
I think that may be the overall lesson we learned on this trip. We were confronted by the sheer beauty California has to offer and were reminded that despite its problems, this state is really quite an amazing part of the world. Perhaps its living here that has desensitized us from what we have all around us but I'm glad we made the effort to rediscover where we live. Monterey is a shining example of one way we Californians have chosen to live. Its just one city in one part of the state but its a perfect example of what this state has to offer those who choose to explore.