Sunday 16 March 2014

California: Day Thirteen - Monterey Aquarium, Santa Cruz, San Francisco Airport

There had been a bit of confusion and changes to our flight home, but ultimately we ended up on the overnight flight leaving San Francisco at 10:45pm. This worked out well, as it gave us another full day to sightsee and make our way back to the bay area.

We had breakfast at the hotel, which was delicious, and checked out by 9:30. We got to the Monteray Aquarium by 10:00, and skipped all the lines having bought our tickets through the hotel. I hadn’t been much of an Aquarium person until I met Brian. He brought me to the Baltimore Aquarium, and then the Atlanta one, both of which I enjoyed. Each time, he always talked about how Monteray was the best, and was no comparison to either. Brian had been here last when he was around 16 years old and things have definitely changed.

Brian remembers it being very informative, with amazing displays of marine life. Now, it is more along the lines of a children’s aquarium, as there are a lot of interactive areas, play areas and very basic wording and descriptions. It was still enjoyable, but Brian and I both agreed the Baltimore one is much better.

There is an option for however you want to open the door 
 This aquarium is also very concerned with social awareness – so entire areas have been redesigned to teach children about problems such as overfishing and water pollution. While I understand the need for this, I don’t think entire sections had to be shut down and replaced.
This made us giggle!
We had a fun time, and got to see a lot of interesting things, but the experience didn’t match the price in my opinion. It was almost $100.00 for both of us to go, and we zipped through all the areas within 2 hours. I also found myself bored at times, not having learned anything new unlike the other two we visited. I would recommend this attraction to people with children, but not adults by themselves.

After leaving the aquarium, Brian and I started the drive back into San Francisco. We made a few stops to space out the day and the drive. Our first one was in a small town for coffee. I took a few minutes to run into the nearby CVS where the salesclerk flirted with me in a very bizarre and inappropriate way. I then made my way over to Peets to meet Brian, where I found him being lectured on sunscreen by some random woman. The strange encounters didn’t end there, as when Brian ordered his coffee, he got another mini lecture on how fair-trade organic coffee is much better for the world. Those three experiences had us happy to leave whatever small town it was!

We stopped for a late lunch in Santa Cruz, a college town a few of Brian’s friends had moved to after High School. The downtown area seemed nice enough, but everywhere else was pretty run down. I was surprised walking along the main street at how many different people and organizations were trying to sell, beg or educate. Just along 2 blocks there were about 6 people – two musicians, 1 beggar, and 3 tents set up for various causes and initiatives.

We had lunch at this small authentic Mexican restaurant that had good reviews. We sat in this little outdoor courtyard in the back of an old hotel, and it was packed. The food was really good – and exactly what it advertised – real Mexican food, not Tex-Mex. It was another spot we would have never found/gone to normally and it turned out to be awesome.

I don't know what I was saying or doing in this photo! 

Or this one… and there wasn't even a margarita involved!
Leaving Santa Cruz, we hit horrible traffic heading back into the city. We mistakenly turned off at the wrong exit, and had to backtrack almost 30 minutes. I found us a different route, which allowed us to skip a bit of it, but we were happy we left so much time to get to the airport. We did detour a bit when we passed through Cupertino, as Brian wanted to drive by the Apple Headquarters and Campus. I couldn’t believe how massive their building is! It has 6 different building entrances, and spans over the entire area of the loop that takes you around it.

After taking a few photos, we got back on the highway and proceeded directly to the airport. Returning the rental car was a breeze, but loading up all our stuff was a challenge. We ended up using two luggage carts! At this point I realized I really must work on my packing skills when it comes to future travels.
I know - this is insane!

Check in and security was simple enough, and soon we were at the gate waiting. We picked up some sandwiches and cheese platters at the Napa Farm Market to take on the plane with us since we knew they weren’t going to be serving anything. We ended up waiting at the gate much longer then planned, as the plane that arrived from NYC needed maintenance done. Our fight ended up being almost 1.5 hours delayed, but was fortunately able to make up some of that time in-air.

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