Book Club Travel

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Connecting the Dots

Here’s the deal. Old Pacific Capital is just a little essay. At first, I thought there’d be no way to make an entire book club weekend based on an essay. But, I started thinking about my book club. Many of the girls would WELCOME a small essay.  The smaller the better – in fact – as long as the adventure is big. So, when I explored the markers of Robert Louis Stevenson’s stay in Monterey – I decided to write up a weekend.

Old Pacific Capital


Arrival at Navy Gateway Inn and Suites

Tour the grounds for signs of old Hotel Del Monte

Dinner at Trident


Stevenson House Tour

Jules Simoneau Plaza Walk

Bike to Pacific Grove

Picnic Lunch on Lover’s Point

Point Pinos Lighthouse Tour

Fandango for Dinner

Book Discussion


Visit Carmel Mission

Check Out and Departure

                     Getting Around                 

If you’re flying, you can fly right into Monterey. However, those flights tend to be more expensive. You might find flights into San Jose or San Francisco a little cheaper. No matter which way you come you’ll definitely need a car to get around because you’ll be traveling from Monterey to Pacific Grove and then to Carmel. There’s also the bike on this tour.  The bike trail in Monterey is fantastic and I think that would be a GREAT way to see the town.

Building the Excitement

Here’s what I would do.  Robert Louis Stevenson mentions a few things in his essay he’s assuming we know about.  We don’t.  It’s just not 1887 any longer and we haven’t just sailed in from the British Isles and we’re not Monterey locals.  So you could close the gaps before the book club weekend gets going.  I would assign each member of your book club one of these and have them come prepared to talk it.

General Sherman   Vasquez the Bandit   Dennis Kearney   David Jack

Guy Fawkes Night   Mr. Blackmore   Cornhill Magazine   Emema

Talking it Over

Right off the bat, in the first line, Robert Louis Stevenson brings in General Sherman’s description of the Monterey Bay. How do you think he happened across that comparison?

Discuss how he compares Monterey to a battlefield.

It’s said that Stevenson was inspired by the beaches in Monterey and that he used the beaches when he came up with the story Treasure Island.  Stevenson certainly talked about them a lot.  Pick out some descriptions of the beaches that you like and discuss.

As you already know, I love the line, “I have run often, but never like I have run that day.”  Stevenson had a dry funny sense of humor.  Talk about that.

What do you think about Stevenson’s description of the woods after a forest fire?

Stevenson talks about the Chinatown that existed at the time of his visit along the water.  The Chinese who lived there were basically run out of town.  How do you think Stevenson would have felt when he heard that news?

How does Stevenson think the “hotch-potch” of races in Monterey during the time of his visit would turn out.  How did it?

Who does Stevenson call land-thieves, land sharks and land-grabbers?

What does Stevenson mean by, “But the day of the Jesuit has gone by, the day of the Yankee has succeeded, and there is no one left to care for the converted savage.”

Robert Louis Stevenson made social commentary about what was happening in Monterey with the arrival of a tourist hotel.  Talk about his prediction and what happened in real life.

Literary Loot

Old Pacific Capital takes you to Monterey before the time of the Aquarium and even the robust tourism business that city experiences now. There are many jumping off points for gift bags, bed turn down gifts and prizes for big winners.

Treasure Island 

In Old Pacific Capital:

“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 around, even in quiet weather, the distant, thrilling roar of the Pacific hangs over the coast and the adjacent country like smoke above a battle.”

What to do:

Get a copy of Treasure Island.  You can give it away as a prize.  But before you do, highlight beach descriptions that remind you of descriptions of Monterey beaches.  See if you can prove the theory that Stevenson had the beaches of  Monterey in his mind’s eye when he wrote Treasure Island.

Carmel Mission Cross Stitch Kit

In Old Pacific Capital:

“The church is roofless and ruinous, sea-breezes and sea-fogs, and the alternation of the rain and sunshine, daily widening the breaches and casting the crockets from the wall.”

What to do:

This Carmel mission cross stitch is one idea.  It would be fun to have a craft that has to do with the mission.  Look around for those kits that include supplies to build a mission.  I believe they’re out there for all the California missions.

Monterey Jack Cheese

In Old Pacific Capital:

“It was while he was at the top of his fortune that Kearney visited Monterey with his battle- cry against Chinese labour, the railroad monopolists, and the land- thieves; and his one articulate counsel to the Montereyans was to ‘hang David Jacks.'”

What to do:

It turns out that David Jacks was the talk of the town of Monterey at about the time Robert Louis Stevenson visited.  He was seen by many as a scoundrel.  But he did come up with, depending which story you want to believe, Monterey Jack Cheese.  Since Stevenson mentions Jacks, I think it would be only right to trot out some of the guy’s cheese at your book club meeting.

Imperial Tokay

In Old Pacific Capital:

“He was shown, by way of answer, a huge vat where all the liquors, from humble Gladstone to imperial Tokay, were fermenting together.”

What to do:

Here’s why I love doing this.  I had never heard of Imperial Tokay.  Now, I know all about it.  It’s a wine made in the Tokay mountains in Hungary.  You can go to Christie’s Auction House where a bottle of the wine went on sale recently for just 2,910 dollars.  But I think I found a place where you can order a bottle for a little less.

International Basket

In Old Pacific Capital:

“In my little restaurant at Monterey, we have sat down to table day after day, a Frenchman, two Portuguese, an Italian, a Mexican, and a Scotchman: we had for common visitors an American from Illinois, a nearly pure blood Indian woman, and a naturalized Chinese; and from time to time a Switzer and a German came down from country ranches for the night.”

What to do:

As a nod to Jules Simoneau and his French restaurant and all the nationalities that gather there, you could put together a basket that includes french bread, salami, some Swiss chocolates,  maybe some Scotch and some Chinese fortune cookies.


Here is a list of songs you could buy on iTunes to make CD’s and hand out or just make one and play it through the weekend.

Johnny Comes Marching In by the US Marine Corps Band

Monterey by Eric Bordon

Surf’s Up by The Beach Boys

Beach Combing, Mark Knopfler, Emmylou Harris

Wildfire by Michael Martin Murphey

The Mission Bell by Dave Stamey

The Indians singing in the Carmel Mission might have sounded a little like this.

Romance by Robert Louis Stevenson put to music by the New Swingle Singles

Literary Links

Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Osbourne

Watch a mini-documentary about a Stevenson’s relationship with Fanny Osbourne here.

Watch this for an accounting of Stevenson’s time in California.

Robert Louis Stevenson Poetry

Listen to From a Railway Carriage, a poem by Stevenson.

Listen to Songs of Travel, a poem, by Stevenson.


This clip shows the kind of Fandango Stevenson might have seen.


A short history of Monterey is spelled out here.

You can check out where Stevenson was buried in this link.

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