Monterey Bay Aquarium to Marin Joe's

Our morning in Monterey started early.  We didn't have a lot of time to spend at the aquarium before heading north so we wanted to be there when they opened. One thing about road trips or traveling in general is that it's easier to pack once you've left home.  At home, you still have the option of taking or leaving items.  Once you're already on the road, it's just a matter of putting everything back in the bag. Each time you do it, it gets faster.

The weather the next morning was cool with grey skies and some wind.  Perfect for going indoors for a few hours. First things first though.  We needed coffee and having passed this spot the night before, we were hoping we'd got lucky finding a hidden gem.

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Thankfully, we did.  Bright Coffee is sorta tucked away.  Sharing the space with a little artisan shop called Lilify. Our barista had obviously consumed plenty of coffee himself but that didn't stop him from making a perfect cortado for me, americano for Paul and an epic hot chocolate for Ellie. 

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Cute cup design

Cute cup design

After grabbing our surprisingly good coffee we headed to the aquarium.

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I've not been to every aquarium out there but of the many I have been too...this one is amazing.  I'd say it's on the smaller side in overall scale but what they fit into that space blows the competition away.

Kelp garden

Kelp garden

They're known for the three story kelp garden, which is quite a site, and the lovable sea otters. Plenty of "oohing" and "aahhing" there.

Ellie taking a photo at the sea otter feeding

Ellie taking a photo at the sea otter feeding

What I enjoyed the most this second time around (I was here once before about 14 years ago) was the Open Sea and Tentacles exhibits.  Each completely different yet equally mesmerizing. To view a bait ball with your own eyes as well as a thumb sized cuttlefish changing colors was memorable to say the least. 

Bait ball forming

Bait ball forming

One of the art pieces throughout the aquarium. Almost as cool as the animals themselves.

One of the art pieces throughout the aquarium. Almost as cool as the animals themselves.

Not actually in the tentacles exhibit but all on it's own, was the first Giant Pacific Octopus I've ever seen actually moving.  This sucker (no pun intended) was walking along the aquarium wall like it was showing off.  Posing for photos.  Very cool indeed.

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The bonus of doing the AirBnB with the aquarium passes was we were also offered a two for one pass to do a behind the scenes tour.  What a cool opportunity to see inside the inner workings of the aquarium, learning about how they feed the animals and maintain the salt water systems. Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the few aquariums close enough to the ocean to actually pump water directly into their system.  Definitely worth the time and money to do the tour. Especially being taken up above the large tanks to see the sharks swim around and to get up close with the resident Albatross Makana used for the Albatross encounter.

Our time at the aquarium ended too quickly but we also felt like we saw all the highlights.  Time to head north to meet Paul's family in Corte Madera for dinner at Marin Joe's.

Arriving in San Francisco is unlike anything else.  I never tire of the view approaching the Golden Gate Bridge. I can take photos every single time I drive over it.  It's also always better being the passenger. Plenty of time to look.

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It's hard to describe a place like Marin Joe's.  It's classic. Old school.  Reminiscent of a diner run by the Italian mafia at one point? A menu that has barely changed because why mess with perfection?

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Piano bar serving mile high martinis with crackers and cheddar cheese spread (to be found at the snack bar in the middle of the room). Weird. Yet fitting.

Hendrick's martini and complimentary crackers and cheese. 

Hendrick's martini and complimentary crackers and cheese. 

After enjoying our drinks we were shown to our booth.  You know, the large half moon kind. Like any good steakhouse should have. One thing you have to order when you're here is their special chard or spinach if you prefer.  Made table side with lemon juice and parmesan cheese. It doesn't even matter what you order. This will be the perfect veggie side dish. Trust me.

Our waiter making the special chard

Our waiter making the special chard

I opted for the trout, rice pilaf and special chard, half of which I took to go.

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Other can't miss dishes. The Caesar salad, meatballs, white beans, fries, sand dabs or zabaglione. Really, I doubt you could go wrong no matter what you choose. The hardest part is the actual choosing!  Enjoy.

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Overflowing zabaglione with vanilla wafers.  Ellie looks pleased to dig in!

Overflowing zabaglione with vanilla wafers.  Ellie looks pleased to dig in!

Ciao for now.