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SITTING ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY

By Autumn Rhea

Whenever I think about the Victorian time period, visions of stiff upper-lipped, broad shouldered women in tight bodices comes to mind. Luckily, after a recent trip to the Green Gables Inn in Pacific Grove, California (near Monterey) all of those old fashioned ideas have been dissolved into soft floral impressions and cozy tea-time sessions amidst blazing fires.

The Four Sisters Inns’ Green Gables Inn, one of nine bed and breakfasts across the United States owned by Roger and Sally Post, has been transformed from a private home into an 11-room, quaint bed and breakfast which caters to all kinds of travelers. The 1888 Queen Anne mansion provides a different experience for each guest, ranging from the bed’s style to the method in which the bed is turned down each night. The Inn opens a doorway into a more refined era, without all of the pretense often associated with the 1800s. Elegant furniture, blending different floral patterns and prints together carefully, creates an escape from modern life. Even the windows, fixtures and woodwork are all original to the house.

Shirley Jensen, designer at Forget Me Nots, described the decorating process. “The late 1800s was represented in a dark, heavy style. Dimly lit rooms were the norm. I try to reinterpret the time in a more attractive way, by maintaining a warm, frivolous feeling.”  Jensen explained that the usual colors for the Victorian time are not used either. “It’s all about blending colors and patterns. I try to keep things from matching too much. I also pull small light sources together, to create a certain ambiance. A combination of all of these techniques seems to create a rich texture.” She said the main goal was to make a room inviting to the guest. “I want it to look like someone’s grandmother’s home, without all of the stiff formalities. We want this place to be inviting.”

The Green Gables Inn’s most dramatic guest attraction is the view of Monterey Bay. The panoramic window views provide glimpses of whales jumping and locals enjoying the open bay air on bicycles and rollerblades. The view breathes a peace that can only be felt there. The powerful surf pounds the sea wall and you just feel an amazing calm.

The Four Sisters Inns have begun yet another business venture. They have joined Country Inn Specialties, in developing a new cereal blend, tailored for specific inns which contain fruits and nuts indigenous to the Inns’ location. “Country Inn Specialties” were designed to give a taste of enjoying the bed and breakfast atmosphere, when they are eating breakfast in their own homes. The Greyfield Inn Blend is a Southeast combination for the Inn in Cumberland, Georgia. The Inn at Ormsby Hill Blend captures the taste of Manchester, Vermont and The Green Gables Inn Blend was developed specifically for the Monterey, California Inn.

While visiting the Green Gables, I was able to enjoy several tourist attractions. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is within walking distance of the Inn and provides an insight into the mysterious underworld of the Pacific. Over 300,000 marine plants and animals call this aquarium home, ranging from the monstrous octopus to the microscopic jellyfish. The trip is definitely an all day endeavor, in order to fully experience the aquarium’s life. The highlight was a petting zoo, where curious “rays” allowed us to pet their wings, while they made the rounds around the pool.

The local restaurants offer all kinds of delectable tastes. The first place I discovered was called Fandango. While there, I was treated to an extensive course meal with a wine tasting lesson, offered by Duane Harris, a wine educator and consultant. Fandango had a warm atmosphere, conducive to everyone - ranging in dress from T-shirts to tuxedos. Harris treated me to a quick overview of certain wines’ taste and history as well as how each was matched with the Mediterranean  cuisine. He threw in a few jokes, keeping the lesson entertaining and unpretentious. I learned the art if “swishing” red wine properly and left with the notion that I would be able to order the “perfect” wine at my next meal.

Another restaurant I discovered was the Stokes Adobe. Its “California Mediterranean” cuisine was impeccable and definitely spoiled me. The menu included marinated eggplant, warm duck confit salad and even chocolate lava cake. The most memorable event came when the chef added truffles to our dish. It all made for a special dinner to be remembered long after the night ended.

A quaint establishment I found was the Grove Homescapes gift shop. The artistically crafted building offered everything you can imagine, including candles, sculptures, plants and flowers and specially designed furniture. While browsing the store’s aisles, Mitsuko, Gammom, floral designer, offered a Japanese floral arrangement seminar. She collected various random bits of foliage, branches and amazing orchids and combined them within seconds into a breathtaking arrangement. With a stealthy chop, she managed to make a simple stick and an odd flower fit together gracefully, as if it were their destiny. I learned how to create a napkin floral design that if I can only find the time, I hope to recreate for a friend at breakfast.

Some more great tourist attractions include the Cannery Row area, where John Steinbeck lived and wrote about the daily sardine canning activities of the 1940s, The Monterey Peninsula, world-renown golf course capital, including Spyglass, Poppy Hills and Pebble Beach. Carmel, known for its artist community celebrity mayors, 40,000 acres of wine country and the 17-mile drive along the Pacific Coastline. 

The locals shared several interesting facts with me about their community. In 1947, a young woman named Norma Jean was crowned Castoville’s (located in Monterey Bay) first “Artichoke Queen.” Of course, this green vegetable queen later became the famous Marilyn Monroe. In Carmel, you must have a permit in order to wear high-heeled shoes and there are no addresses posted on homes. (Giving outsiders directions can get very creative) Butterflies are a protected species in Pacific Grove, where the annual migration included thousands of Monarchs per year and the fine for butterfly harassment is $1,000.  I still haven’t figured out what constitutes harassment to a butterfly.

If you are longing to escape the buzzing of city life, or you have a nagging curiosity about the magical Pacific Highway, or you just can’t wait another day to see one of these thousand-dollar butterflies or maybe you just are suffering from tea party withdrawal, listen to those inner questions and take a trip to Monterey and stay at the Green Gables Inn. It’ll erase that stiff upper-lipped Victorian woman from your mind forever.

For more information:

The Green Gables Inn
104 5th Street
 Pacific Grove, CA  93950
(800)722-1774
(831)375-2095

Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey Bay, CA
(831) 648-4888

Forget Me Nots Design
Shirley Jensen
P.O. Box 7318 Carmel, CA  93921
(831) 624-9080

Fandango
P.O. Box 51639
Pacific Grove, CA  93950
(831)372-3456

Stokes Adobe
500 Hartnell Street
Monterey, CA  93940
(831) 373-1110
http://www.stokesrestaurant.com

The Grove Homescapes
472 Lighthouse Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 656-0864

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