Tripping on Books Presents: Old Pacific Capital

By Robert Louis Stevenson

 Main | What to See | Where to Stay | Where to Eat | Book Club Travel

The Essay

I love this guy.  I’m serious.  I can just see Robert Louis Stevenson in Monterey in the fall of 1879. Stevenson does not write about it in his travel essay, Old Pacific Capital, but he had health problems and he was probably a little love sick, too. He had traveled to Monterey from Ediburgh, Scottland to catch up with Francis Osbourne, a married woman whom he met and fell in love with in France. She had summoned him to California to help her decide if she should leave her philandering husband. Stevenson got a room at the French Hotel and visited Fanny and her children every day. But he also kept busy, walking the beaches, making discoveries, meeting people and having little oddball adventures. One adventure, or misadventure, which made me laugh out loud, was Stevenson’s effort to try to understand the cause of California brush fires. He walked up to a tree and put a flame to its moss and he wrote that it went, “up like a rocket…. I have run often, but never like I have run that day.”  Are you kidding? He’s hilarious. The essay offers a nice little glimpse into Stevenson’s visit in Monterey, but more importantly, for our purposes here, it offers a great little tour of  the town.

The Trip

Old Pacific Capital drops you down into the Monterey of over a hundred and thirty years ago. It was a sleepy little town back then. It’s changed a lot but Monterey is very proud of Robert Louis Stevenson’s time there and the way he honored it in Old Pacific Capital. So, the town has honored him right back. You’ll be able to walk around the French Hotel where Stevenson stayed which is now called The Stevenson House. You’ll see the spot where he took his meals at Simoneau’s french restaurant. You’ll see the town of Pacific Grove in a new way, they way Stevenson saw it, all those decades ago. And you’ll visit the Point Pinos Lighthouse where you’ll almost be able to hear the music the lighthouse keeper played for Stevenson. You’ll dip into Carmel and see the mission, not in the state of disrepair as Stevenson described it, but rebuilt and glorious. The piece de resistance of this tour, however, would be to stay at the former Hotel Del Monte, the “resort of wealth and fashion” which Stevenson prophesied would bring great and unforgiving change to the sleepy little town he loved and memorialized in Old Pacific Capital.

The Author

When you think about Robert Louis Stevenson, certainly, works other than Old Pacific Capital leap to mind. You might think of Treasure Island, Kidnapped or Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At the time Stevenson lived in Monterey, those works were maybe on his mind, but he hadn’t started writing them. Stevenson would eventually leave California to return home and he would earn, rather quickly, great acclaim as a writer. And the people of Monterey say it was their beaches that inspired him and put into his mind the descriptions he laid out in his adventure novel Treasure Island.

Old Pacific Capital Points of Interest


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