Feeling safe in the knowledge that Mr F was not clinging forlornly to a piece of flotsam somewhere, I planned to make heavy use of the waffle machine on this morning. It turned out to be remarkably easy to use thankfully and soon I had a large plate of steaming waffles, drizzled liberally with maple syrup and without any burnt fingers at all. Well, perhaps just a couple.
Today, we were hightailing it to Monterey Bay: home of the giant kelp forests and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Big deal I hear you cry! Yes, very big deal! In fact, allow me to digress somewhat...
Many, many years ago when I was a mere snotty-nosed kid, I had a bit of a thing for rock-pools and for 'bit of a thing' read obsession. Every summer weekend my parents were plagued with constant requests to go to certain Dorset cove called Kimmeridge. It was a good few hours drive away, but in my rock-pooler's eyes it was as Papua New Guinea is for Mr F. In other words, utopia.
Armed with net, bucket and limpet-winkling knife (or net, bucket and limpet-winkling parent when I was really young), I would spend many happy hours up to my boot tops in the briny sea. I soon bored of filling my bucket with shore crabs however, so I graduated upwards to a new adversary. Blennies: a small swine of a fish blessed with the ability to out-wit small children and oft times, limpet-winkling parents too. On the rare days when I caught one, I deemed it a job well done.
Following Mr Bellamey's instructions, all my captives were carefully returned whence they came at the day's end - particularly since an incident of fish smuggling was unfortunately uncovered in the car by one hot afternoon. My overly good-natured parents put up with all of this with amazing good grace.
Mother was usually happy as Larry as long as the sun was out, she was coated in a thin film of factor 3 tanning oil and wasn't asked to get involved in anything fishy. She did, however, make wonderfully sustaining sandwiches which could keep me going for extended rock-pooling hours.
Father, on the other hand, could be found up to his thighs in the deepest of pools, producing so many winkled limpets that it nearly became Dorset's largest economy after cream teas.
Armed with this endless supply of ammo, I became the bane of every small fish and marine invertebrate within 100 metres.
Anyway, all this parental support and indulgence led me to decide at age 11 that I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up. Forget hairdresser or pop star, I wanted a fully equipped marine lab on the Californian coast no less. And where exactly in California? Monterey Bay, of course, where the kelp forests lay.
See I knew I'd get back to the original point of the story...albeit eventually! So as you can see Monterey held quite a draw for me and although I no longer hunted blennies, I still felt the aquarium's call.
The drive from Half Moon Bay went past field upon field of pumpkins ready for Halloween. The TV news reported that the national crop had failed that year and pumpkins were in short supply - we didn't see any evidence of this. Just how many pumpkins does a country need after all?
The road climbed and meandered through scenic pine forests and cabins hidden in the woods. We stopped for a quick bit of birding enroute so off Mr F went with bins and camera in tow. It was a real scorcher of a day so I opted to hang out near the car and chase the elusive butterflies that kept flitting past. Failing to get even slightly close with my camera, I went to read the info sign instead. Apparently the area was reknown for pot growers. All I could smell was pine needles though.
The drive into Monterey was via the town of Castroville which turned out to be the artichoke capital of the world. Huge cultivated fields of the little spiky devils stretched out on either side of the freeway, accompanied by a forest of shacks selling the said vegetable. Several entrepreneurs were offering, in typical healthy US fashion, deep fried artichokes - a great way to turn a perfectly good non-fattening item into something the complete opposite. We elected against stopping to try one.
As a result of the huge spray jets watering all the artichokes in the world, Monterey slowly appeared through the permanent low-lying mist. We were here for 5 nights, a positive millennia for us, and we planned to use every day to it's full. In order to fortify us for this upcoming excitement, we had a nutritious dinner at the local serve-yourself ice cream parlor - hmmm, perhaps we should have stopped for deep-fried artichokes after all?!