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An Escape to Monterey

I normally don't call in to radio shows to try and win contests, but one day on the way to work, my phone was sitting right there on the console and the radio announcer was urging me, "Call in and win!" So I did. And I won.

The prize was a full weekend at Monterey Bay, which included hotel, dinner, and admission to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I couldn't believe I'd actually won, and I couldn’t wait to go on my trip!

Monterey is known for being an ideal place for a romantic getaway, and even if it wasn't, the matter of who to bring along on my winning trip was a simple one. I took my wife.

We stayed at Monterey Hotel, which is a historic building that's been standing since 1904. I have a penchant for all things vintage and was enamored with the suite, which was the most lavish room I've ever stayed in while on vacation. Every piece of furniture looked antique, and maybe it was. The television almost looked out of place.

The suite was quaint too, with two steps down into the main sitting area, and a small staircase leading up to a room that was so small, the bed almost filled the entire space. The walls in the bedroom were lined with books and it was like sleeping in a princess's tower. The view of the Pacific coast was breathtaking from up there!

We weren't about to spend the whole weekend indoors, so as soon as we were settled, we headed off to explore the sights. "This place has one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world," my honey told me. "I don't want to play golf, but let's check out the scenery. There's a seventeen mile drive. It's supposed to be beautiful."

I enjoy scenic drives, so that's how we spent our afternoon, cruising through trees and along the spectacular coast. We talked and relaxed into vacation mode.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was getting late. The sun was setting and we were worn out from all that driving. What is it about driving that is so exhausting? We ordered room service and a movie and curled up to enjoy a night in, something we rarely had the chance to do.

The next morning we were up bright and early, eager to try out the hotel's continental breakfast. It was a vast spread, better than most. We feasted on fruits and pastries then washed it all down with delicious gourmet coffee. Since we were down in the common area, we decided to tour the hotel. The grounds were small, but amazing, and included a gorgeous outdoor patio complete with an enormous stone fireplace. I was completely impressed.

I had never been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and was anxious to use the tickets I'd won. We took a guided tour and perused the many observatories that let you view sea life in its natural habitat.

The Aquarium is built right into the ocean, and from the docks at the back of the building, you can see birds and fish habitats and watch the sea otters swimming around. There were a few little shops too, and we enjoyed perusing the souvenirs and pretty things that they sold.

By dinner time, we were both starving and could not wait to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much, since I'm not a big fan of chain restaurants, but it was the kind of feast you can really sink your teeth into. All that deep fried fish and hush puppies! It was absolutely perfect with a light ale and all the fixings like dipping sauce. By the time we were done eating, I was so full I could hardly breathe.

It was the perfect way to end the day, with a big hearty meal. We were sort of bummed that the weekend was almost over but we still had one more attraction to see before heading home.

Sunday morning we loaded up the car and checked out of our hotel. Then, we headed over to Salinas, which is just a little less than twenty miles from Monterey and we visited the National John Steinbeck Center. Both my wife and I had recently read Steinbeck novels and had become quick fans of the literary hero.

Even though the hotel was elegant, the Aquarium was fascinating, and Bubba Gump's Shrimp was delicious, the John Steinbeck Center was the most interesting thing we saw that weekend. There's something about stepping into the real world of a man who helped shape history that really stirs and inspires.

It was the perfect way to end the weekend. Within hours we were pulling up into our driveway, sad that our romantic getaway was over, but eagerly looking forward to the next one. Now, I always call in when the radio is promoting a contest, although I doubt I'll win anything like this again!