Lunch with Steinbeck, dinner with Forrest


On the drive down the coast from Santa Cruz to Monterey the scenery was stunning, most of the time. The last few miles, we headed inland along Highway 1 across flat, fertile plains, dedicated to agriculture. The fields were full of people hand picking artichokes and sprouts. We saw signs advertising kiwis and strawberries too. These fields stretched out as far as the eye could see, between the sea and the mountains. Despite the obvious fertility, there was something else, the vastness, the intense human labour. This was a place where people worked the land by hand. Unlike the vast corn fields, that glow in the sun, this was not a place of beauty.

I had not then made the link between this valley and John Steinbeck. He was born and raised in Salinas, the town sitting in the middle of this plain. He sometimes worked the land to earn some money as a teenager, but mom was a teacher and dad was in business, so they were comfortably off, as you can see from the house.

We visited the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas and had lunch in the family home, now a restaurant run by volunteers. having read Mice and Men recently, I knew immediately that this was the landscape that it had been set in. What surprised me, was how much he had written and the diversity of his work, he was even involved in a Rogers and Hammerstein musical Pipe Dream which flopped.

I was also interested to learn he and wife number three lived in Somerset for a short while and his best friend was a marine biologist Ed Rickettswho did some ground breaking work in the Californian coast.

What interested me the most was that in the sixties he took himself off in a camper van to tour the USA with his poodle, Charley as a companion. He documented this trip in a book called Travels with Charley. As someone who is currently on a mini road trip in the states and on the first stage of a round the world trip, this book is now on my must read list.

Bill Bryson has been my travel,writer of choice till now. I suspect that I will be adding Steinbeck to the list.

We ended a busy day at Cannery Row, just to neaten of the Steinbeck connection. Now a place dedicated to entertainment not the sardine industry, with upmarket shops jostling against tourist tack and high end restaurants next to family chain, it’s a good place for a Friday night dinner.


And because it was there, we could resist posing for these photos outside the place we ate.



7 thoughts on “Lunch with Steinbeck, dinner with Forrest

  1. Hiya, just looked up Steinbeck and his Charley book, as had never heard of him. There are a number of assertions that some/much of what he wrote was fiction, but what appears to be huge respect for him conveying things well about America. What did you learn at the centre about his travel writing? Maybe you could write a part-fiction about your travels? ….


  2. Pingback: » Escape in a Good Book

  3. Hi Coral and Phil, I didn’t realise you’d gone ! So sorry I never got to say good luck have a great trip. Looks like you are having the time any how. Am not so good at this blogging thing either. Didn’t we sit in my yard not so long ago, when did you leave ? Lisa


  4. Hi I read the book earlier this year and really enjoyed it. He seemed to love meeting people along the road. How much of it was fiction, not sure, didn’t come across to me that way.


  5. Pingback: California Dreaming – Synchronicity and Of Mice and Men | travellingcoral

  6. Pingback: California Dreaming – Happy Birthday John Steinbeck | Travelling Coral

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