Guest Post: Walking in Steinbeck’s Footsteps on Monterey’s Cannery Row
Littered with souvenir shops and chowder houses, Cannery Row is a popular stop on most any Monterey itinerary. But for Steinbeck fans it holds an added appeal, as the author took many of his Cannery Row characters and places from real life – his
real life. Today it takes a bit of imagination to conjure up images of Mack and the boys prowling through this tourist Mecca, however it’s still possible to get a few glimpses of the sites that came to life in the award-winning book.
Parking is at a premium in the area, and the police diligently enforce street parking regulations. That said, the best parking option is the Wave Street Garage, located between Prescott and Hoffman Streets. The $10 daily parking fee may seem a bit steep, but in the long run it’s much cheaper than a parking ticket.
The garage also features good wheelchair-access, with plenty of accessible parking near the elevators, and ramp access down to street.
The best way to begin your Steinbeck walking tour is to head north – in the direction of the smokestacks – and cross David Street. Continue on for a block, until you find the American Tin Cannery Outlet on your left. An unlikely stop on a Steinbeck tour, this outlet mall has a good collection of historic photographs on display, so it’s a great place to get a feel for the old Cannery Row. The majority of the photos are located near the information booth, where you can also pick up a map of the area.
After you’ve completed your walk down Memory Lane, cross the street and head back to the smokestacks, where the Monterey Bay Aquarium marks the head of Cannery Row.
Although it’s not a Steinbeck site, take a walk down Hovden Way just to the right of the aquarium, for a great ocean view. There’s no charge for admission and there is level access out to the viewing point. It’s also worth noting that a very clean accessible restroom is located just across from the aquarium will-call window, on Hovden Way.
It’s also nice to know that this Steinbeck walk is one that anyone can do – wheelchair-users, slow walkers, moms with strollers – as it’s level with good sidewalk access and curb-cuts at every corner. Some of the historic buildings may have a step or two up to them, but for the most part the businesses along the way are also accessible.
The first official stop on your Cannery Row Steinbeck tour is Austino’s Patisserie, located at 851 Cannery Row. Formerly Kalissa’s Café, this was the inspiration for the La Ida, one of two bordellos mentioned in Cannery Row. As you may recall, this is the place where Eddie the part-time bartender poured all the leftover drinks into a jug, for the Mack and the boys to enjoy at the flophouse.
Next door, you’ll find the Wing Chong Market, which became Steinbeck’s Lee Chong’s. Although it’s a souvenir shop today, you can still see the historic Wing Chong sign out front. It’s one of the few surviving vestiges of the once prominent Chinese community on Cannery Row.
Although not mentioned by name in the book, the Sea Pride Cannery was located just across the street. In the book Steinbeck called it the Hediondo Cannery, but it’s believed that this is the site that inspired its literary creation. Be sure and take note of the overhead walkway, which remains intact today. This property is not open to the public, and the only sign of its former life is a Sea Pride Cannery decal on the sidewalk.
The best preserved Steinbeck building on Cannery Row is located just down the street at 800 Cannery Row. Pacific Biological Laboratory became Doc’s laboratory in the book, and former owner Ed Ricketts served as Steinbeck’s inspiration for Doc.
Although this building isn’t open to the public, the front façade is particularly striking.
Continue your stroll down Cannery Row, just past the Intercontinental Hotel, where you’ll find a nice coastal overlook in the back. There is level access out to the ocean, with several interpretive plaques and historic photographs on display It’s a good place to get a feel for how difficult the cannery work was, plus there’s also a great view.
Wrap up your Steinbeck walking tour with a visit to Steinbeck Plaza, just down the street. You can’t miss it, as it’s prominently marked with a bust of the author. Formerly the site of a Portuguese whaling station, today the modern plaza is filled with shops and restaurants.
And although it has absolutely nothing to do with Steinbeck, don’t forget to stop in at the Fish Hopper, located on the waterfront behind Steinbeck Plaza. There’s level access to this Cannery Row mainstay, which serves up the best clam chowder in town. It
makes a great lunch stop, and I guarantee you won’t go away hungry!
Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy Harrington is the author of several accessible travel guides including the classic Barrier-Free Travels; A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.barrierfreetravel.net). Here newest title, 22 Accessible Road Trips; Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.22AccessibleRoadTrips.com) features 22 driving routes across the United States with information about wheelchair-accessible sites, lodging options, trails, attractions and restaurants along the way. It’s a great resource for Baby Boomers, couples, families, or anybody who wants to hit the road. Candy also blogs about accessible travel issues at www.barrierfreetravels.com.