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Steinbeck country is at its finest in springtime. The oak trees on the rolling hills around Salinas are surrounded by a haze of purplish blue lupin. March is probably the best time to see the wildflowers bloom. Take the Monterey-Salinas Highway, Route 68, which exits Route 1 and continues for 17 miles (27 km) to Salinas.  Get off the main road at Corral De Tierra or San Benancio, to get into the hills for sublime views. New golf courses and macmansions are invading the territory so enjoy while it lasts.

Fields of lupin near Salinas

Fields of lupin near Salinas

For local dining, several places come to mind. Contemporary American cuisine finds its home at Hullaballoo, on Main Street in Oldtown Salinas. A few doors away is Shogun Japanese Cuisine, always reliable for sushi. In hot, dry Salinas, it is easy to forget that fish is hauled in at Monterey Bay less than an hour away. For authentic Mexican, my favorite is Mi Tierra on E. Gabilan St. This family run restaurant serves a spicy, tender birria on Saturdays and Sundays. This traditional goat stew is made with dried chiles, tomatoes and oregano, ingredients that perfectly capture the essence of the local Mediterranean climate. Chips arrive at the table with 3 salsas. The horchata, a sweet and cold rice drink, is the perfect beverage for such a meal.

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