John Steinbeck is one of the 20th century’s most loved and well-regarded writers and aside from creating absorbing characters and storylines he also documented the plight of many struggling for work, food and recognition on the west coast of America in the 1920s.
Works such as Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and the Grapes of Wrath provide permanent reminders of the past and are considered to be amongst the greatest examples of American literature ever written.
Steinbeck was born at the turn of the century in 1902 in the west coast town of Salinas. His first novel, Tortilla Flats, was published in 1935 and outlines the adventures of a gang of friends who are coping with life after World War One.As with many of his novels, California, in particular Monterrey, forms the backdrop to the storyline and through a blend of colourful characters and emotionally-charged themes, the landscapes of the west coast unravel as effortlessly as tumbleweed drifting across the plain.These days, California would be unrecognisable to Steinbeck and although in the 60’s he did revisit the outer border of America, in order to become reacquainted with his home country, towns such as Monterrey have become better-known for their tourist attractions as opposed to their harsh conditions..
Having visited this wonderful part of the world myself whilst on my holidays I found it a thoroughly absorbing opportunity to walk in Steinbeck’s footsteps and, with this in mind, I’ve highlighted some attractions in and around Monterrey that are well-worth experiencing for yourself.
This small and perfectly formed seaside town is famed for its beautiful scenery and the artisan community who flocked here in the early 1900’s. As you’d expect, arts and cultural landmarks are plentiful and from the sunset over the white sand beach to the famous Forest Theatre, Carmel is an idyllic port of call on the Monterey Peninsula.
Leading south from Carmel is a 90 mile section of rugged coastline that is regarded by many as one of the most picturesque stretches of the Pacific Highway. The relative isolation of this sparsely inhabited area has proved popular with artists and writers and from Henry Miller to Jack Kerouac, seals, sand and windswept shores have proved too enticing to withstand.
17 Mile Drive
Another remarkable roadway along the Pacific Coast is 17 Mile Drive which is sandwiched between the rugged rocks of the ocean and the pristine fairways of the Pebble Beach golf links. If you’re looking for an enchanting road trip which consists of lone cypress trees, scenic stops and basking sea lions, then you’ve come to the right place.
This is without doubt the best aquarium I have ever been to and well worth a visit if you’re travelling with children. The sardine cylinder was absolutely mesmerising and the attention to detail and the obvious care that’s been taken with regards to the surrounding marine ecology makes this an absolute ‘must visit’ centre on the holidays for singles itinerary.
Although the great man himself would no doubt spin in his grave if he thought that part of Salinas had been dedicated to him this still makes for an enticing attraction for fans and cultural history lovers alike. With the largest collection of Steinbeck archives and some excellent educational programmes this is a wonderful way to learn as you explore.If you want to find out more about John Steinbeck, his philosophy and the beautiful natural environment that no doubt inspired his creativity, then a trip to Monterey and the surrounding area will undoubtedly incorporate all of your wildest dreams.
Biog: Nicola is currently reading Travels with Charley and looking forward to devouring some more Steinbeck novels on her next visit to California.