Monday, February 15, 2010

Family Vacation #1 (of 2010)

I have always been the vacation planner in our family. I'm just a planner in general, so it suites me. Dreaming of places to visit and crafting a vacation months in advance is fun.

A few months ago I had the lightening bolt realization that ARG will only be with us for four more years (!). If we're going to make fun, family vacation memories, we'd better get started. Yes, we go to San Diego twice a year. But we stay at Hubby's folks' house, and we visit with the extended family the whole time. It's not a "real", or at least not a "nuclear" family vacation.

So my goal for the next few years is to get us on two or three "real" family vacations each year. Of course, my challenge for the next few years is funding said vacations. I wish I knew how could earn some money. I guess we'll be camping a lot. But camping in February is not ideal, to say the least. So we had to bite the bullet and pay for a hotel this time.

We decided to go to Monterey for our first family vacation of 2010. Part of the reason we chose Monterey was that Hubby's sister was going to be there on business, and we could visit with her for a day.

As we drove south on Hwy 1 Saturday morning we saw the fire trucks and ambulances heading north. "Uh oh," said Hubby "That's not good". We learned later about the monster wave that hit the Mavericks spectators and workers during the surfing contest. Yikes.

ANYways, the drive down was fine. But don't ever stop in Davenport for a mocha. I paid $4 for the lamest, smallest mocha known to man. It was like warm coffee flavored milk with a hint of cocoa powder. Blech. My vacation kick-off treat was a flop.

The first place we visited, and the highlight of our trip, was Point Lobos State Preserve. The waves were epic that day. We hiked on a trail that took us up high to rocks with a sheer drop down to the crashing waves. We enjoyed the spray of the super-high waves (though I had to keep a death-grip on MiniMe who has an astounding lack of fear for personal safety).

At the next amazingly beautiful view we saw whales! Spouts! Fins! I was jumping up and down. My family thought I was weird. But it was exciting! At many other unbelievably gorgeous vistas we gawked at the stunning beauty of the CA coast, and then took way too many pictures (see my FB album if you care). Gnarled and windswept cypress trees, dramatic shoreline, purple irises, giant waves and a blimp!

We met up with sister in law (SIL) at Pt. Lobos and headed out on another trail. Massive crashing waves. Beautiful warm sun. Whale spouts. Magical pelicans flying RIGHT NEXT to us. Can you tell I had a good time? Sigh.

It was a bit of a come down to land at our hotel. The Quality Inn of Monterey. Meh. It's the kind of place you'd be happy with if you got a screaming deal. The rooms are... OK. Clean, but reeking of who knows what kind of toxic chemical cleaners. The bathroom was miniscule. But we didn't get a screaming deal. In fact we paid way too much. More than I usually pay for a hotel room. I had no idea I planned our vacation the same weekend as the AT&T Pro Am at Pebble Beach. Oops.

The good thing about the hotel was the indoor pool and hot tub. The kids had a blast swimming and swimming and swimming. It's not that the pool was so supreme. Just that it was a pool. Kids are not too picky about where they swim.

Knowing how much we spent on the hotel made paying for meals even more painful for me. I admit that I am a bit of a stinge, in general. I like to think of myself as "frugal". So, paying clost to $100 for dinners is rough for me. I usually made Hubby pay and figure the tip and all that. I avoid it and pretend it isn't happening. But the restaurant - "so and so's Chowder House" - was actually very good.

Oh - and an unplanned benefit of being in a hotel room: we got to watch the Olympics! We have no cable at home, and the Olympics is the ONLY time we really miss it. That was fun. Now we're jonesin' for more.

On Sunday we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium after an incredible walk along the shoreline trail. Thanks to a friend (thank you! thank you!) we had four complimentary passes, and only had to pay for MiniMe to get in. What a great aquarium. There is so much to see, and it is so attractive. MiniMe was especially overjoyed by the exhibits. It warms a mommy's heart to have her little one run squeeling to an exhibit and shouting "Mommy look at this......(fill in aquatic life form)!" It was awesome. ARG was not so into it. He is such a teen. After watching a show in the little theatre, he wandered the aquarium for hours on his own, only meeting up with us at lunch time.

One of the coolest things we saw was a sea otter on it's back with a baby on it's belly out on the bay. We looked through those monstrous telescope type things that are on the aquarium deck. It was the epitome of cute.

After another afternoon of swimming we topped off the day with amazing food at a Lebanese restaurant: cucumber salad, shwarma and baklava. Mmmmm. OK, I confess. We also walked down to the Crepe shop on the main drag and I had a chocolate and fresh strawberry crepe. I didn't share. Hubby used the words "devour" and "inhale" when describing it later.

When your oldest is 13 and your youngest is 5 it is not easy to find activities that appeal to everyone. We had hoped to go kayaking, but the swells were just too big and they weren't renting. So it was really a MiniMe weekend. In keeping with that, we visited the fabulous Dennis the Menace park two times. ARG protested, but it was too good to pass on. And MiniMe was thrilled. Swings, a climbing wall, multiple play structures with unique slides (the bumpy slide was especially fun - I tried), a hanging bridge, a maze - all surrounded by a lake with paddle boats paddling around. Very cool.

So, all in all, it was a great trip. I wouldn't go back to that hotel (and I was really excited to wash all our laundry and shower when we got home). But we don't need luxury and perfection to have a great time.

Next trip is in May: camping three nights at Jenkinson Lake in the Sierra foothills. Wahoo!


Beth said...

Oooo. That brings back memories.
Teens are hard to please though.

So where's the link with all the photos?

Sue said...

Beth - just look at my FB account.