Monterey

The stout lady from New York settled herself in her seat as the train began its half-hour run from Castroville to Monterey.

“Today’s Wednesday,” she calculated aloud, “We’ll rest at Del Monte this afternoon, and do the drive they talk about in the morning; and then couldn’t we be in San Francisco tomorrow night?”

That’s Monterey to most tourists—Del Monte and the Seventeen Mile Drive; only not quite all are so grudging of time as the stout lady. Give it a week, if you can, and if you are of a contemplative mind, disposed to the study of a romantic past and a picturesque present, after you have seen Del Monte, go on to the old town of Monterey, and there put up at a little commercial hotel on Alvarado Street that any traveling man can tell you of. It has a modest little entrance, which you will surely walk past in the dark and have to inquire your way back of the tamale man at the corner; but once in-side, you will find a wide hearth where a woodfire glows and crackles, a dignified black cat answering to the name of Nig, who, properly approached will sit up on his haunches like a dog and shake hands, a bed above suspicion and a delightful table (if Charley, the Chinese “boy,” still does the cooking), all for two dollars and a half a day.

Or, if there are two or three of you and you have a taste for the independence of light-housekeeping, you may do as, perhaps, you havé doue in Europe, stay the night at the hotel and the next, morning, walk the streets in quest of the familiar sign of “Furnished Rooms to Let” in cottage windows. Such apartments you will find most to your taste at Pacific Grove into which Monterey insensibly merges at the south. Here, as at Santa Barbara, the flowers are fat and chubby from the tonic of the sea air. Roses, pelargoniums, heliotropes, pansies, nasturtiums, irises, pinks, poppies and callas nod a welcome to you at every turn, and you will almost miss the sign you are looking for, because of the luxuriance of its floral framing. Yes, you will like it at Pacific Grove, settled in your cottage rooms, with a bit of porch to yourselves, a view of the ever-changing beauties of sea, the perpetual music of the surf, the perfumes of the garden, and, like as not, a crabbed old Chinaman with baskets swung from a yoke across his shoulders, to bring you fresh fish as often as you want it.

To be sure, Pacific Grove lacks the historic inter-est and down-at-the-heel picturesqueness that is old Monterey’s, but to the heart where the love of nature dwells, it makes rare appeal, with the solemnities of its encompassing pines and its sunny, wind-swept, turfy downs, bright with sea-daisies, California buttercups and eschscholtzias, and ending suddenly at the sea’s edge in perpendicular cliffs and huge rock-masses drenched with spray, that re-mind you of New England’s coast. But whatever the season, be sure to bring warm clothing; for it is a coast of chill fogs and searching winds at times, and the times are not predictable.

A dingy, little, yellow electric-car runs at decent intervals between Pacific Grove and Monterey for the benefit of non-pedestrians; but pleasanter than track of steel is the old foot-pathway that Steven-son doubtless often trod, along the downs that skirt the sea, and the sweet, grassy lanes that lead through the settlement of Chinese fishermen with its racks and trellises for drying nets, and queer ideographic signs and smoldering joss-sticks to placate the devil withal; and on past the shops of the jolly Japanese boat-builders, to the spider-legged pier of the oil company where tank steamers lie tied up to bobbing buoys and suck into their hollow holds the black petroleum piped hither a hundred miles from Coalinga beyond the mountains. So do we come to the little creek’s mouth, now all but choked up, where tradition places the landing of Padre Serra in 1770 and, perhaps, of Vizcaino in 1602, when this caballero of fortune discovered and named the bay of Monterey, describing it after a fashion so much in the style of the florid California advertising literature of to-day that, for a hundred and sixty-eight years, no subsequent passer-by seemed to recognize the place. Here we may climb the hill of the Presidia, where our Government maintains an army post, and sitting upon an antique Spanish cannon in the old earthworks at the top, look out across the town and the bay to the dim arm of land thrust seaward beyond Santa Cruz, hiding another that the old Spaniards named Punta de Ano Nuevo—the Point of the New Year. Below us at our backs, upon the sunny parade ground, the bugles will be playing if the troops are drilling, or perhaps there is baseball on the Presidio diamond between noisy nines of the infantry and cavalry. Soldiers, in fact, are a cherished feature of Monterey, and we run up against them at every turn, singly or in squads at street corners, on the water-front watching the fisher-folk, loitering about saloon doors, or discussing enchiladas in the Spanish casas de comida and abalone steaks in Wo Hop’s Chinese restaurant.

Monterey’s streets, except where Americanism is creeping in, have the charm of country lanes. They fork off at unexpected angles; along their grassy borders run footpaths, and behind old adobe walls with tile copings are tangled gardens that smell sweet and bear fruit and are the happy playgrounds of little children whose prattle in the Spanish which seems Monterey’s only proper tongue, falls pleasantly on your ear. It is in these streets of the older town that the quaint adobe houses stand, whitewashed and galleried and square of roof, which link Monterey so vividly with the period of Spanish supremacy. They are but few now, these out-at-elbow aristocrats of a day that is gone, but they give to the whole place a flavor of unmistakable gentility. Most have been identified with the part in history they have played, and to such are affixed modest labels of identification. The events recorded are, as a rule, more interesting to Californians than to others, as they have to do mainly with the capture and first occupation of the State by the United States—not altogether a savory memory. The picturesqueness of the buildings, however, and the indefinable atmosphere of romance that clings to all las cosas de Espana, are of a universal appeal, and so Monterey has been a home to the bearer of more than one honored name in literature and art. The one all know is Robert Louis Stevenson’s. A dilapidated adobe mansion in a decaying part of the town, passes for a house in which, thirty-odd years ago, he had lodgings for a few months and slept rolled in his blankets on the floor. Above the door is a sign, weather-beaten as the house, reading : “R. Stevenson House.” A carriage painter makes use of a room or two for his simple needs and a couple of Spanish families are quartered in other rooms. The rest is given over to vagrant winds and bats.

One must not, however, confuse the R. Stevenson of the sign with the R. L. S. of immortal literature; for Monterey, it seems, has harbored Stevensons and Stevensons, as I learned. Seeking something more picturesque than the barren front of this structure with its broken plaster and gaping windows, I come upon a partially shut-in quadrangle in the rear where the sun brightens into a dozen lovely tints the time-stained walls, and where a sagging outside stairway leads alluringly to an upper story. Here trees cast dappled shadows on the grass and lazy murmurs drift in from the unseen street, and here Rosalia Ybarra, in a calico gown of startling hues and designs, appears to do washing in her intervals of labor. To-day the sun is very pleasant along the old wall and she is enjoying its warmth, the while watching little Marquitos play in the mud. Seeing me open my camera she would inject Marquitos into the picture; but he, from inntile shyness, drifts into the shadow of the steps, rRosalfa’s evident disappointment. It is arranged, however, between us to get the muchachita well in the sunny foreground, and though he ducks his head at the cannon-like instrument pointed at him, the shutter snaps before he escapes to the shade again. So Rosalfa claps her hands and laughs comfortably and gives me her address that a print may be sent her. She is very friendly, is Rosalfa, good-humored and fat, and, though we have never met before, ready to inform. Oh, yais, señor, she know’ Mr. Stevenson ver’ wail—he ver’ reech gentleman what own’ ver’ much houses and get good rent. Yais, he was die’ now, but one time ago he live’ in this house—ver’ fine house in them day’ —what you call hotel, and many people they use’ to board this house. Books? Oh, yais, he write books, too—ver’ reech man, Mr. Stevenson. Adios, and the señor would not forget to send the picture what he make?

From Monterey you may motor, trolley, drive or foot it to Del Monte it is only a mile. If you go by vehicle, have your driver take you the longest way round through the glorious woodland which envelopes the hotel on all sides—a wildwood of native pines, cypresses and oaks in gray draperies of hanging moss, huge eucalypts and countless blooming shrubs. And, if you walk, follow the same devious way. And after you have wound round and round-about for the best part of a mile, like a knight-errant of old in search of at enchanted castle, suddenly it gleams out at you through the trees —the red roofs and spirelike chimneys and pinnacles of the hotel, islanded in a lake of emerald lawn dotted with English daisies and ordered beds of flowers. While architecturally the hotel is less imposing than the Coronado, it is this sylvan approach that makes a visit there a memorable experience in life, and you do not get it in its fullness when you enter from the railroad station which is already well in the midst of the grounds. One might dream away days sitting in the shade of the magnificent trees or lingering among the beds of exotic bloom, or getting lost and found again in the bewildering labyrinth of the cypress maze, or contemplating the grotesque wonders of the cactus garden defended by the humiliating notice, „All persons are requested not to cut their names or ‘ initials on the cactus leaves.” Truly a high seat in heaven is meet for these philanthropic souls who throw their parks open to the American public, knowing the vandal instincts of the race.

The automobile era has elongated Monterey’s Seventeen Mile Drive into a thirty-five mile drive now; but the original seventeen holds the cream of the matter. Contemplative travelers of sound wind and limb, may advantageously walk it, taking a day to the adventure, with camera and a bit of lunch along, unless they prefer to spend the price of an abalone chowder at Pebble Beach Lodge, a rustic outpost of the hotel half-way round the circle. The essential charm of this famous drive is the untouched natural beauty of the park-like region it traverses. Man has made a road and then, with unwonted modesty, withdrawn in Nature’s favor. The entrance is barred by a toll-gate whose “open sesame,” if you are a rider, is California’s hackneyed “two bits”; but the pedestrian passes free to his heritage. For nearly two miles, the hard gravel road, old enough now to have all its lines softened by time, winds in sun and shadow, opening ever new vistas through a forest of native pines, where Stevenson loved to walk. Years after, when he was writing “Treasure Island,” Mrs. Osbourne tells us, he drew on his memories of this Monterey country for descriptions of the place of the buried gold in that immortal story. Bracken and shade-loving blossoms brighten the interspaces under the trees, and the peace of Arden fills all this lovely woodland where the song of the southwest wind, blowing from mid-Pacific isles, is caught in the pine-tops, and the murmur of the surf upon the hidden shore sounds fait to the ear; till, by and by, the forest parts like a curtain and lo ! the green turfy downs, stretching to the sands where the surf breaks white, and, beyond, the blue waters of the Pacific, sparkling in the sun.

And then for another two miles or so, we saunter along these joyous downs where birds are singing and wild flowers raise their pretty faces to ours; or we clamber out upon the rocks and watch the sea-lions sunning their oily hides on rocky islets amid the surf, and the solemn pelicans drifting on deliberate wing in quest ‘of fish, which they stow in their ridiculous portmanteaus of bills. And so on to a wilderness of yellow sand-dunes beyond which rises wind-swept Cypress Point whose grotesque trees, their gnarled and’. twisted boles capped with flattish crowds of verdure of so rich and deep a hue that they seem like moss-islands in the air, were a land-mark of the Spanish pioneers. Non-botanical Montereyans tell you these trees are the same as the cedars of Lebanon, but they are of quite a different genus. As a matter of fact, the species is found native nowhere in the world, except along a narrow strip of coast about two miles in length in the immediate neighborhood of this Cypress Point, though the tree is now introduced into cultivation in many places. A little further and we look into the blue depths of Carmel Bay, named by old Vizcaino who, over three centuries ago, christened the little stream that empties into it El Rio de Carmelo, out of regard to three Carmelite friars who formed the ecclesiastical department of his expedition. To the same sheltered shore, Don Gaspar de Portolâ, one November day in 1769, on his way back from the re-discovery of San Francisco Bay, came searching for the lost harbor of Monterey. Being unable, from Vizcaino’s fanciful description, to recognize Monterey Bay just around the corner, he trudged it back to San Diego, with his half-starved command, having first planted upon a. hill, not far off, a great white cross. Six months later, Portolâ came again, and with him Serra and his Franciscans. The cross still stood looking to the sea; but about it strings of shells were festooned, and before it, as before a shrine, were offerings of feathered arrows, and the flesh of animals and fish. The natives, it seems, had found it rare “medicine”; for at night, so they said, the white arms stretched out and filled the darkness with supernatural fires, reaching even to the stars. Doubtless it had been a mute preacher in the wilderness, preparing the way for Serra’s apostolic work. The cross is long since gone, but the Mission church, which Serra built in the lovely Cañada del Carmelo, still stands partially restored, and before its altar are interred the ashes of the Father and of Brother Crespi, who labored with him in this remote vineyard of the Lord.

No glimpse may be had of the old church from the. Seventeen Mile Drive which, turning inland from the Bay, penetrates flowery woodlands by hill and dale, back to the country road that leads again to Monterey; but there is a footway that may be shown you, down through a dingle and across an arroyo and up a fragrant piney hillside, through a turnstile—I declare, it seems like a bit of England-to the back gates of the quaintest, most entrancing and most homelike of all California beach resorts, Carmel-by-the-Sea. Moreover, it is beloved of the Muses, and traveler folk with a taste for literary pilgrimage, like to include it in their itineraries. Though not yet in its teens, Carmelby-the-Sea is as old-timey a looking village as you will find in a summer’s day—a friendly little collection of flower-embowered cottages and tasteful bungalows with inviting gardens, in the heart of a pine forest, so combining the natural charms of seaside and wildwood. Here Mary Austin has her tiny “winter wickiup” and high in a pine tree be-hind it an aerial work-roam. Here, too, are homes of the novelist sisters, Grace MacGowan Cooke and Alice Mae Gowan, of George Sterling the poet, of David Starr Jordan of educational and piscatorial fame, and of a dozen more, as yet less known. Artists of the brush also crop out on every hand, as one strolls about; there is an Arts and Crafts Club and a Forest Theater whose pillars are primeval pines and whose roof the sky; and there is no railroad within five miles.

And down the main street of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a short mile, lies in pastoral loveliness the vale of Carmel with the domed Mission in its midst, and beyond it the shining waters of the bay and the Sierra Santa Lucia, by whose grim passes and dizzy steeps, treacherous to the foot, the Spaniard Portolâ and his leather jackets, the Credo in their mouths,* came and went in quest of Monterey’s elusive bay, missed it, and came again and found it.