Castroville – The Artichoke Capital of the World

Castroville, the Artichoke Capital of the World, is located nine miles northwest of the city of Salinas.  It is called this because this small city, that only has a population of 6,742, supplies seventy-five percent of the artichokes sold in the United States.

 

One of the most notable events held every year in this pleasant rural town is the Castroville Artichoke Festival, which takes place on Memorial Day. Every year, the Festival crowns a King and a Queen.  In February of 1948, Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen and William Hung (the American Idol contestant) was  crowned  Artichoke King in 2006.

 

The Castroville Artichoke festival also features a parade and an art competition in which competitors make sculptures from artichokes and other vegetables.  Foodies also flock from miles around to sample the treats produced by the produce and wine vendors in the area. There are usually cooking demonstration, arts, crafts, theatrical and musical performances and visits by celebrities.  There is also an antique car show that takes place as a component of the festival as well.

 

This old town was founded by Juan Bautista Castro in 1863. Aside from artichokes it is known for it’s wonderful mix of Victorian and Spanish architecture. The original old school house and post office, both built in the 1860s, are still there.

 

A wonderful, eccentric landmark is The World’s Largest Artichoke which was a sculpture commissioned in 1963 for a road-side stand. The artichoke is twenty feet tall and twelve feet across and stands on Merrit Street in downtown Castroville.

Culinary-wise this town is known for its dishes and street food based on artichokes.

 

A specialty of restaurants in the area are deep-fried artichoke hearts. These are artichokes dipped in batter, fried in a vat and then served up with all kinds of delicious sauces.   Hot and cheesy artichoke dip is also a specialty of many local restaurants, especially when the artichoke is in season.  These types of treats go well with the wines that are grown in nearby vineyards along Highway 101 and just south of the hills of the city of Salinas.

 

As the town is so small there are not many hotels to stay in during the Artichoke Festival. However the towns of Salinas, Seaside, Marina, Watsonville and Monterey are not that far away and are home to many beautiful hotels that often run shuttle buses to and from the Artichoke festival.   This spares you the problem of driving along California highways inebriated from enjoying the many California wines that are often offered with the artichoke delights offered at the festival.

Parkfield – The Earthquake Capital of the World

In the county of Monterey in California is a small town of 18 known as Parkside, which is often called The Earthquake Capital of the World.  The town experiences an earthquake above .6 on the Richter scale every 22 years. The motto of the town is “Be Here When It Happens”, possibly referring to the “Big One” that is supposed to devastate California.

 

The town is built directly on the San Andreas fault and is about 1500 feet above sea level in the TemblorHills. It used to be a thriving mining community and curious visitors can still visit some of these abandoned mines.  The town itself is very pretty and sits in a grove of very old oak trees.

 

The bridge across the creek in downtown Parkside has shifted more than five feet relative to it’s original position when it was built in 1936.If you have an interest in geology then Parkfield is definitely the place to visit. It is one of the most closely measured and watched earthquake zones in the world. Just North of Parkfield is the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth, which is a hole, drilled 2.5 miles into the earth’s crust that is meant to observe seismic activity.

 

The town is owned and run by a couple of families of ranchers and farmers and Parkfield is well known for its horse-shows, rodeos and equestrian-related events. It also holds an annual Bluegrass Festival. It is also the site of the Parkfield Classic, which is a collegiate bike race that has been held in the hills in the area since 1989.  This event typically takes place on the first or third weekend of October and consists of three courses: a 9, 16 and 24-mile challenge.

 

There are also many hiking trails and trails for equestrians to ride their horses high into the hills so they can enjoy some scenic views. There are beautiful valleys and rock outcroppings cloaked in fields of wildflowers; in fact there are over 200 species of wildflowers in the hills around Parkfield.

 

Parkfield is also a haven for bird-watchers, butterfly lovers and campers. There are both natural and paid campsites in the area so you can sleep outdoors at night under the stars.

 

There are also heritage style ranches in the area that also double as hotels and spas. The cuisine offered in the area tends to be the organic meat from grass-fed grazing cows in the area. This special meat from the area of Parkfield is free from antibiotics, pesticides and chemicals.