Since moving to California, I have wanted to visit Salinas and the John Steinbeck museum there. Steinbeck is my favorite American author, and Salinas is a central character in my favorite of his books, East of Eden. Since we had a three day weekend for Cesar Chavez Day, and I was going to kind of be in the area, I decided to spend Friday exploring there. I started at the John Steinbeck house where he was born and grew up.
The 1897 house was purchased in 1900 by the Steinbecks, and John was born in 1902. He started The Red Pony (THE HORROR) and Tortilla Flat when he was a teenager in the house. He enrolled in Stanford in 1919 to please his parents, but dropped in and out of college for six years before quitting for good in 1925.
The house had numerous owners over time, but was controversially purchased by The Valley Guild in 1973. When they bought the house, Steinbeck’s reputation was still in tatters from his reports back from Vietnam and his unwavering public support of the war in the mid-1960s. Even though his personal letters attest to the mess it was, he remained close friends with LBJ and his beliefs about the necessity of the war. Many believed that he had betrayed his liberal values. I highly recommend Steinbeck in Vietnam if you’re interested in this chapter of his life.
Anyway, going against many in the community, the Guild purchased and restored the house. It was opened to the public as a restaurant in 1974. I popped in for lunch on Friday, and it was a delight. The servers are members of the Guild who volunteer, and they wore super frilly aprons that were precious. They were so sweet and so excited to talk to people. My hostess recommended that I start with the “Steinbeck Tea” which is raspberry tea and pink lemonade. It was delicious. She also brought me some super soft buttery rosemary rolls that were heaven, but I ate them too quickly to take a photo. I would go back just for the rolls to be honest.
For lunch I had a brie and apple sandwich (NO BANANAS), and it was perfect. Perfectly grilled and buttery. I deeply regret that I just ordered a half sandwich and a salad. A SALAD? What was I thinking! FOOL.
I was too full for dessert, but wandered around the house a bit more before visiting the gift shop in the cellar. I bought a couple of books because WHY NOT.
After lunch, I drove to the National Steinbeck Center which is a museum and memorial to the author. It was really well done and the different sections were set up to explore each of his works and his time as a war correspondent.
It was really neat, and I highly recommend it if you are ever in the area. After spending a couple of hours in the museum, I walked around the downtown area of Salinas. It was freaking adorable.
I went into a few antique stores and bought more books I didn’t need, but what can you do? My final stop in Salinas was at Steinbeck’s grave in the Garden of Memories Memorial Park.
It was a day well spent. After Salinas, I drove on to Santa Cruz. I walked for a bit along the water and enjoyed peeping at some really nice houses.
I want to be rich and live by a nice ocean.
I had dinner at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and enjoyed a pint of the Madame Grey. It was a milk stout made with earl gray tea, lactose, and honey. It was really good, but it was so strong and thick that I couldn’t finish it (which was probably for the best). I had picked up some beer at the Alvarado Street Brewery in Salinas, and I grabbed a Lavender IPA from Santa Cruz to try later.
I drove about an hour north to Bloom’s Creek Campground to spend the night in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Saving the trees for Thursday!