Our stay at Steinbeck’s Traveler’s Cottage

Sleeping in a famous writer's guest house

I traveled to Monterey for a conference. The conference was spouse-friendly (short working sessions, plenty of free time, and excursions for spouses), so my wife came along. When I registered, I had the option to stay at the conference center hotels, but my wife and I like to stay in interesting and quirky places. The Steinbeck Traveler’s Cottage, which we found on AirBNB, was the perfect experience for us.

The story of Traveler’s Cottage appealed to me because I’m a writer. Steinbeck had a big influence on Monterey so we chose the cottage as a way to have an experience relative to the community we were visiting. Steinbeck owned this home in the 40’s and lived here while writing a couple of his earliest works. There are actually three residences on the property; a main house, a guest house, and the cottage. The cottage sits at the back of the property, furthest from the street, in a private courtyard with a private entrance and parking space off the alley that runs behind the house.

Check-in was easy. The host sent instructions for the lockbox before we arrived. The address and instructions that lead to the alleyway parking space were clear. The parking space was a bit of a squeeze but big enough for my SUV.

Walking into the courtyard for the first time is a treat, The well-groomed space contains a four-person seating group and a picnic table and presents the front of the cottage beautifully. The cottage itself is equally well-presented in baby-blue paint with white trim and neat landscaping. Everything outside is trim and clean and perfect. A great first impression.

Inside is just as nice. Wood floors, simple furniture, lots of light, interesting artwork, just lovely attention to detail. Inside we found fluffy towels, plenty of bed linen, a heater, a fan, an ironing board and iron, coffee, sugar, and a French Press, pretty much anything we needed for our stay.

Right in the heart of Monterey

Traveler’s Cottage is in a convenient location, close-enough to the Monterey Aquarium and Cannery Row to walk (downhill one way and a bit of a hike home) and only a little over a mile to Fisherman’s Wharf and the conference center. We found the cottage and its surrounding neighborhood pleasantly quiet at night.

Speaking of night-time, the cottage had both good overhead lights as well as table lamps and night lights for a variety of moods. There was a bookshelf with mostly Steinbeck work (I had never read Cannery Row and got through most of it on this visit - a real joy to read Steinbeck’s work in a place connected to him). The guest book is super thorough and included background on the place, instructions on the remotes, the heater, and other appliances, recommendations for local restaurants. It also included guest letters and notes going back five or six years.

The hosts were great. I had a challenge with the lockbox and called for help. I got an immediate answer. We received a text the next morning making sure we were happy with everything. It felt like they had us in mind and that it mattered that we had a good stay.

The place does have a couple of quirks - there is not a lot of room for two to move around in the bedroom. The kitchen entry requires navigating a couple of mean steps with a low overhang that is tricky in the middle of the night. The cottage is also very small overall - the size of a hotel suite or a tiny house. But quirks are what make a place like this a unique experience compared to the homogeneity of the modern hotel.

I had only a couple of manageable challenges. Neither of things are complaints, just observations. There is a beautiful hand painted sign on the outside of the cottage facing the alleyway. The night we arrived was windy and the signs knocked against the wall annoyingly. I wadded some paper towels and stuffed them behind it to quieten it down and I hope the host amends this permanently. And under the category of beds-are-very-subjective, I found the bed overly soft and wished I could have done something about it (or, if there was some kind of control that I could change the firmness of the bed, it was more obvious than it was). This critique definitely falls under the category of personal preference though - my wife loved the bed.

That’s it. We would happily, gladly, without reservation, recommend Traveler’s Cottage to a couple (three people at the most) who are planning a stay in Monterey.

Here's a link to the Traveler's Cottage on AirBNB.

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