The Monterey Bay Aquarium is no joke. I first visited two years ago with my friend Katie and I've been dreaming about it ever since. This is one of those places for which you set aside a chunk of change; between the entrance fee and lunch in the very good cafe, a visit here will blow any road trip daily budget out of the water. However, it's absolutely worth it.
For the most part, the layout of the aquarium allows you to view exhibits without being crowded by other visitors. I spent a long time watching a school of sardines swirl around and around in an ever-changing ballet of predator avoidance. I visited the starfish, including the small fuzzy ones that hang out in towering piles, circled by yellow fish searching for crumbs. There is also a large pool you can reach into and feel Manta Rays slide beneath your palm, which is completely mesmerizing.
There are a couple of clear wave tanks that you can access from the massive outdoor patio or walk partially into from the inside of the building. Kelp floats back and forth in the man-made tide while fish swim in the lower portions as the water cascades overhead.
The octopus wasn't interested in visitors on this visit and I wondered if it was the same one as last time. I read The Soul of an Octopus last year and had a moment of wondering how this incredibly intelligent creature was faring in the tank, if it has connected with its caretakers in the same way those in the book did. I hope so.
I spent a long time in the jellyfish exhibit, especially in front of my favorites, the Egg Yolk jellies; I could watch them move around for hours. Once again, I was puzzled by how they can all hang out together and not get completely snarled up in a big rat's nest of tentacles. One of life's great mysteries that I'm not sure I want the answer to - it's fun to turn over in my mind.
Eventually I made my way to Salinas to meet up with my friend Callee and her son Keenan at Salinas City BBQ. It was the first time I met Callee in person and she was every bit as wonderful, warm, and funny as I had expected. I've been following her on Instagram (@calistalee) and reading her blog, A Fettle Fine Thyme since I discovered her through my friends Katie and Molly on my last trip to California.
I was really feeling the relentlessly rainy weather and wasn't my regular self, but spending an hour with Callee and Keenan lifted my spirits considerably. Evenings like this are the bright side of social media, for sure!
In the morning I woke up to yet more fog and began the drive to Albany in a sort of magical blankness. I kept pulling over to take photographs, repeatedly passed by commuters none too pleased with my slow pace. For those of you keeping score, I don't miss having a job yet.