Stroll the Row, Steinbeck Style

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Most remember John Steinbeck’s classic work of fiction, Cannery Row from required school reading lists. Others, have lost themselves in the pages of the famous novel time and time again as adults. But when it comes to Cannery Row and its sequel, Sweet Thursday, the vivid pictures they paint of historic Cannery Row and the surrounding areas are unforgettable.

Straight from the pages of the classic novel, the historical streets of the Cannery Row area sit just a little over a mile from downtown Monterey and the Portola Hotel & Spa. These streets and alleys are packed full of literary history that both fans of the novel and history in general will enjoy.

There are a number of not to be missed attractions from both Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday that allow visitors to take a walk in Steinbeck’s shoes, experience the breathtaking views of the Monterey Bay and develop a complete understanding of why Steinbeck had such a deep love for the Central Coast.

Steinbeck’s Homes:

Two of Steinbeck’s homes still stand today. The little red cottage Steinbeck shared with his first wife in the 1930’s can be found at 147 11th Street in Pacific Grove. The home is privately owned, but fans can walk or drive by to get a peak of the house from the outside.

The home where Steinbeck, his wife and son lived in 1945, the year Cannery Row was published, is just a short 10 minute walk from the Portola. The Lara-Soto Adobe in Monterey, located at 460 Pierce Street, is now the Admissions Center at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and is only two blocks up from the great food and shopping in historic downtown Monterey.

 Old Fisherman’s Wharf:

Located on the water, across from Historic Custom House Plaza is Old Fishman’s Wharf, which was featured in Steinbeck’s novel Sweet Thursday. During Steinbeck’s time, the wharf was full of immigrant and native California fisherman who caught the abundance of sardines, squid and abalone that flourished in the Monterey Bay during that time. The canning industry that helped to establish the Monterey we know today gives much of the local flavor in both of Steinbeck’s works. Visitors to present day Fisherman’s Wharf  will find it lined with restaurants, whale watching and fishing charters and fun local shops to explore.

Doc’s Lab:

Still standing at 800 Cannery Row and straight from the pages of the novel of the same name is Doc Rickett’s Lab.  Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts, his friend who himself was the inspiration for the character Doc in Cannery Row, were great friends and would together collect marine life in the Monterey Bay and prep it in this facility before shipping it to schools and medical facilities.  Tours of the lab are available on select dates and interested parties can talk to the Portola concierge about availability or contact the Cannery Row Foundation.

 Wing Chong’s Market and La Ida Café:  

Located at across from Doc’s Lab at 835 Cannery Row is the Wing Chong building that was the location of Wing Chong’s Market in Cannery Row. Steinbeck referred to the market in the novel as “not a model of neatness, but a miracle of supply.” Next door to the Wing Chong building is the location of the La Ida Café from Cannery Row where Eddie, the part-time bartender, poured leftover drinks into a jug for Mack and the boys. The La Ida Café is now home to Austino’s Patisserie, where visitors can go to enjoy a cup of coffee and speculate whether the local legends are true about a under ground tunnel connecting Wing Chong’s Market to Austino’s.

Hop in the car, on a bike or put or on those walking shoes and take in the unique experience of being able to view the locations that will continue to live forever frozen in time on the pages of both Cannery Row and Sweet Tuesday.

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