Monterey Trip Monterey Trip, March 2017

Monterey Trip with Nedra, March 2017

In March 2017, Marguerite's friend, Nedra Ann Johnson Mathis, came to California for a visit. Marguerite (Wheety to her family and childhood friends) and Nedra Ann have known each other since 5th grade, were in each others' weddings, and are Godmothers for their children, Gar Jackson and Elizabeth Mathis. Marguerite decided to take them on a similar road trip to Monterey, CA that she and her sister Betsy took in 2013. In the photo below you see the trip with its constituent legs: red = Escondido to San Louis Obispo; Purple = San Louis Obispo to Hearst Castle; green = Hurst Castle to Carmel (long Way around due to road outage); yellow = Monterey to Long Beach; blue = Long Beach to Escondido.


When we left on our road trip on March 22, the first stop on our adventure was the small town of Solvang. Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the Midwestern winters. The small town features facades and buildings in the traditional Danish style. We walked around in a rainy mist and stopped for a cup of coffee and sweets at a popular Danish bakery there.

Madonna Inn

The first night we spent at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. The Madonna Inn is a very unique place. It was built over several years from materials leftover from the construction business owned by the founder, Mr. Madonna. It is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and lots of cattle. The Madonna family has many businesses and ranches and has been a pillar of the community for many years. The first section was opened for business in the 1950s and now has over a hundred rooms, each of which is unique and named. We stayed in the "Fabulous Fifties" room -- a large room with a green and pink color scheme and lots of fifties memorabilia. Since the 1950s were our teen years, we enjoyed going back in time to revisit high school memories!! We had a fancy drink and appetizers in the bar and then called it a night. The Madonna Inn is famous for weddings, honeymoons, and anniversaries wherein couples reserve their honeymoon room for their anniversary year after year.

Hearst Castle

The next morning we took a short drive to the Hearst Castle. We had lunch on a picnic table right on the ocean and then parked in the lot with the Visitor Center for the 20-minute drive up to the La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill). Hearst Castle was designed by architect Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947. It was a residence for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who died in 1951. In 1954 it became a California State Park and was opened to visitors in 1958. It is adjacent to the small town of San Simeon and includes many acres of rolling green hills.

We took two tours: The first is a new tour called Designing the Dream that focused on the architecture and the relationship between Julia Morgan and Hearst. Our excellent tour guide James gave us lots of history and interesting tidbits. It is well known that Mr. Hearst (as everyone called him) changed his mind very often and this meant that Julia Morgan and her crew had to take down 18 inch concrete walls and reposition them to make the space larger or different -- this happened countless times over the almost 30 years of construction.

The second tour with James was of the kitchen and two of the three guest "cottages", the largest of which is over 5000 square feet! From the early 1920s onward, there were scores of celebrities, wealthy people, and others who were entertained royally for up to two weeks at a time. The goal was to keep people occupied so that Hearst could run his newspapers during the day. He communicated mostly by telephone and had a small plane that delivered many newspapers early each morning. Each evening everyone was required to have dinner (a 5-hour affair) in the large dining room where Hearst "held court" from the middle of the table, always with his bottle of catsup nearby. Nedra especially enjoyed the architecture tour as her father was an architect and on the faculty of the University of Florida; we both loved the kitchen and seeing how they turned out hundreds of meals at a time. The most innovative thing there was a large heated table where dozens of filled plates could be kept hot before delivering them to the dining room.

After a full afternoon, we checked into a small old-fashioned hotel called the Bluebird Inn. This is where Marguerite and Betsy stayed in 2013. The room was OK but adjacent was a lovely path down to a large bubbling creek. Sadly, it had been badly damaged during the recent flooding and was in the process of repair among many sandbags!! We had early dinner at a local restaurant and shared delicious Chioppino that is a California seafood specialty.

Carmel and Monterey

The next morning we drove to Carmel and checked into a wonderful hotel, Carmel Mission Inn. The hotel had recently been remodeled and was decorated in soft celadon green and blues. Our large room was peaceful and comfortable. After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we drove to the Carmel Mission. The mission was founded by Father Junipero Serra who was born in 1713. About 30 years later, he came to California and set out to found missions. He founded the Carmel Mission in 1771. The Mission has a rich history and has been renovated many times over the years. Then we walked around downtown Carmel and visited many art galleries. One of particular interest features the works of Simon Bull, an artist who has painted many interesting pictures of Mohamed Ali -- Betsy and Brent (Marguerite's sister and brother-in-law) purchased one of Simon Bull's Ali paintings on a recent cruise! The day ended with drinks and an appetizer buffet at our hotel.

We started the next day with a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What a wonderful place! There were several art renderings made from plastic items that are part of the Pacific Ocean "garbage pit"-- beautiful art; tragic source. A whole section of the Aquarium is devoted to saving the oceans. We also enjoyed a large exhibit of many different types of "jellies" (jellyfish). While we were there several people in scuba gear were cleaning the windows from the inside. Quite a treat to watch and the children were fascinated as they waved back and forth. Finally, a large exhibit features the important role fishing and canning have played in the history of Monterey. The Aquarium is part of Cannery Row. Cannery row is a long waterfront street. It is the site of a number of now-defunct sardine canning factories. The last cannery closed in 1973 and the buildings have been turned into restaurants and other venues. John Steinbeck and his well-known novel, Cannery Row, are set in this area.

We then drove the 17-Mile Drive, a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, much of which hugs the coastline and passes famous golf courses, mansions, and scenic attractions. We then checked into the Victorian Inn. The Victorian home that forms the basis for the Inn was built in the early 1900s and was home to many prominent Monterey families over the years. Many years later, rooms were added for guests and now the Inn is a very comfortable and convenient place for tourists. Marguerite has stayed there several times over the years with George and with California guests including her mother, sister, and a friend from Australia!

Queen Mary

The high point for the trip for Nedra was a visit to the Queen Mary. Nedra had sailed on both the Queen Mary II and the Queen Elizabeth II in the past. The Queen Mary has played many roles throughout her illustrious career and upon her Maiden Voyage in 1936. During her heyday, many considered her the only civilized way to travel! With the outbreak of World War II she was transformed into a troopship nicknamed "The Grey Ghost". By the end of the war she had transported more than 800,000 troops, traveled more than 600,000 miles and played a significant role in many major Allied campaigns. When the war ended, she transported hundreds of war brides and young children to the United States to meet their American soldier/sailor husbands. In the 1950s she was returned to luxury travel that lasted for several years but became less popular as air travel became dominant. In 1967 she was purchased by the City of Long Beach and has remained an icon in the city for almost 50 years!

We checked into the hotel into one of the original First Class cabins (A 145). The cabin was spacious and comfortable but we noticed a sign in the lobby that said "be aware that the steel walls between cabins are not soundproof. When the ship sailed the noise from the engines insured privacy" No privacy. We heard every voice and snore from the cabin next to us!!

We arrived just in time for the 6:00 historic tour of the ship which included stopping by The Shipyard where there is a wonderful 25-foot replica made completely of lego blocks (Crawford IV would love this!!). Then we enjoyed a wonderful and elegant dinner in the "Taste of Sir Winston" dining room. There were few guests that night and we had much personal attention! The Sir Winston restaurant was opened in the 1980s and is currently undergoing restoration so the temporary restaurant is in what was formerly a large First Class lounge.

A wonderful treat for the end of the trip was sharing lunch the next day with a high school friend, Ralph Kephart, and his wife Annette. Ralph owns a company called GeoAssurance that produces in-depth property reports for buyers and sellers of property. His company was recently featured in Forbes magazine ( Ralph and Annette have lived in the Long Beach area for several years and also attended our P.K.Yonge High School 50th Anniversary Reunion in 2011. As we were leaving, Ralph presented Nedra a lovely wooden box with inlays of a unicorn and moon. Ralph is a woodworker and when he learned that Clayton (Nedra's husband and also a high school classmate) had passed away in May of 2016 he inscribed this box in tribute to his dear friend and football buddy. Nedra was very touched by the beautiful gift.

After lunch we wended our way back to Escondido. Nedra went back to her home in Douglas, Georgia the next day. A wonderful time was had by both Marguerite and Nedra who look forward to seeing each other again on the May 2017 Vantage Danube River trip to Eastern Europe.

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