Saturday, July 14, 2012

Monterey stop

Stevenson House / French House where Robert Louis Stevenson stayed while in Monterey, California
Picture source

Last summer I posted on visiting Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and the memorial commemorating his stay there as detailed in The Silverado Squatters. The hike up to the top of Mt. Saint Helena provides one of the best views I've seen of the surrounding wine country. As I found out then, Stevenson had quite the stay in California. If you find yourself in the Monterey area, you can visit the house he stayed in while waiting for his future wife's divorce to be final. Yeah, it's complicated.

You can read about his stay in the area in his chapter "The Old Pacific Capital" from Across the Plains: With Other Memories and Essays .

The Bay of Monterey has been compared by no less a person than General Sherman to a bent fishing-hook; and the comparison, if less important than the march through Georgia, still shows the eye of a soldier for topography. Santa Cruz sits exposed at the shank; the mouth of the Salinas river is at the middle of the bend; and Monterey itself is cosily ensconced beside the barb. Thus the ancient capital of California faces across the bay, while the Pacific Ocean, though hidden by low hills and forest, bombards her left flank and rear with never-dying surf. In front of the town, the long line of sea-beach trends north and north-west, and then westward to enclose the bay. The waves which lap so quietly about the jetties of Monterey grow louder and larger in the distance; you can see the breakers leaping high and white by day; at night, the outline of the shore is traced in transparent silver by the moonlight and the flying foam; and from all round, even in quiet weather, the distant, thrilling roar of the Pacific hangs over the coast and the adjacent country like smoke above a battle.

Be sure to contact the State Park number ahead of time to find out when tours of the Stevenson House will take place—you'll want to see the inside of the house and the Stevenson exhibits as well as wander the grounds. While in the area, be sure to visit some of the other literary-related places I've mentioned in previous posts. Robinson Jeffers' Tor House, in nearby Carmel, is a favorite of mine. Further down the road is the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

I have not mentioned bookstores much, but I'll begin to correct that here. Within a block of The Stevenson House are two bookstores that require plenty of your time if you like browsing used books. The Old Capitol Books has plenty of full, tall shelves, the high ceilings with fans lend an open air to the place even though you're dwarfed in the stacks. The quality and range of books call for extended browsing. The nearby Carpe Diem Fine Books is quite a different store: believe them when they say they have a "special emphasis on the history and literature of California and the West." There were several beautiful old sets I would love to have, but I'll need to save up for those purchases. Thanks to Cynthia Haven for providing information on this shop.


Jonathan Chant said...

Very enjoyable. What a fine writer he was. I live near to Bournemouth, another place where RLS lived which you can read about here:

Dwight said...

I've been to a few of the places he's stayed, but unfortunately that isn't one. I should have provided the overall link for his visits: In the Footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson.

seraillon said...

Two weeks ago I happened upon the Stevenson house by accident while wandering through Monterey. Alas, it was early evening, so the place was closed, but I took some photos of the outside and vowed to visit next time - and, thanks to your reminder - I'm determined to get to Tor House next time too.

Dwight said...

Definitely book Tor House in advance--their schedule seems to depend on when docents are available. The last time I took a tour the docent was from Palo Alto. They definitely have a dedicated group to lead the tours!