I can’t believe it took decades of being a California native to discover and visit Carmel, California. Had I known what I was missing it would never have taken so long. It is the perfect location for a quick and magical getaway, whether a weekend or a week; I was there for three days and nights. From the moment I arrived everything seemed like a painting.
Just a quick flight from San Diego to Monterey Regional Airport, I was up and down in under an hour. The airport is small and efficient with rental car service on-site for easy pickup. I knew I had lunch reservations but since it was only 9:30 am and it was a beautiful sunny day I took the opportunity to begin my day with the famous “17 Mile Drive” in Pebble Beach, one of the most scenic drives in the world. The drive, mostly along the Pacific Ocean, also winds through the breathtaking Del Monte Forest. There are at least 17 stops along the way, including Pebble Beach Golf Links and Resort which is unlike any other public course in the United States.
Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Carmel are all within minutes of one another, so I circled back to Monterey for lunch at Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar. Dining on the heated deck was lovely for experiencing the marine wildlife this region is known for as seals barked and seagulls watched closely for any leftover without invading my space. It was perfect. Before heading to Carmel, I made sure to visit the charming and captivating Cannery Row, snooping in all of the unique trinket and souvenir shops.
The skies were blue and the sun warm as I headed to Carmel where I checked in to the sweetest and most comfortable room at Horizon Inn. My room, appointed with a gas fireplace and ocean view deck and sunrise view from the front porch was delightful. Carmel is comprised of many little family inns instead of big hotels, which adds to its charm. I learned that many of the innkeepers are third and fourth generation as inns are passed down and kept in the family. The location is a short walk up the hill from Ocean Avenue which is the main street through Carmel by the Sea. No need for a gym when you can enjoy the ocean air while getting your exercise in. Each morning by 8 am, a sweet picnic basket was at my door filled with a more-than “continental” breakfast to accompany my tea or coffee courtesy of the Keurig in my room. My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer so I could actually spend as much time in my room relaxing as I did exploring Carmel.
About exploring, Carmel is as charming and magical as a village comes. I was overwhelmed with delight from the moment I arrived. Whether you are looking for a beach where the sand is like powdered sugar or you prefer dining and wine tasting, this village has it all. I enjoyed an array of perfectly prepared meals at establishments where architecture is as unique as the meal. La Bicyclette featuring European Country Cuisine created with local ingredients reminded me of lunch abroad. They also raised the bar on how I will now expect my tea to be delivered for the rest of my life! I never wanted to leave. Meandering the over 45 secret passageways in the village works off lunch and readies one for dinner. Award-winning Grasings Coastal Cuisine is an excellent choice for a meal reflecting stylish simplicity with fresh ingredients from the Carmel Coast and Central Valley. I devoured a perfectly prepared 6 oz filet mignon partnered with roasted potatoes and a side of sautéed mushrooms. The wine list at Grasings is about as thick as an encyclopedia for those who are wine connoisseurs. As for dessert, I will always say yes to a lemon tart and this one officially has taken first place. The final restaurant meal for me on the trip was from Anton & Michel, my favorite part was the empty plate I stared at after devouring, alone, a plate of duck pate and brie for two! Perfection.
This was definitely a food trip. If the restaurants alone were not enough for someone who delights in culinary flavors I also enjoyed seven stops on the Carmel Food Tour. A guided culinary and wine tour where we sampled (hardly, each stop offered full servings) from an array of baked goods, chocolate (nearly everyone’s favorite stop), grasshoppers (you read that correctly), fish tacos, Italian dishes, and of course, wine. While all of the food was delicious, my favorite stop was Carmel Honey Company. So much so, I attended a 45 minute private class on how honey is made, its benefits and tastings of a variety of local honeys paired with gluten-free crackers, fruit, and cheese. The class was led by company founder and beekeeper, 15-year-old, Jake Reisdorf. His story is as good as the honey.
And if all of this wasn’t enough, I was also a guest of The Taste of Carmel Annual Chamber of Commerce fundraiser where even more restaurants and wineries sampled their delicacies and drinks.
Did I gain a few pounds in a couple of days? Who knows and who cares. Every bite was worth it. Oh, and let me not forget, the Saturday I was there was National Poodle Day with a parade of over 700 poodles, all sizes, all costumes and reminiscent of Doris Day who also owns a hotel in Carmel. With all of this, yes there is more.
What would a getaway be without a glorious massage? I am picky, and again, to the top of the list goes an experience in Carmel at Aqua Wellness Day Spa with Destinee. One of the most thorough, relaxing massages I have ever had with lasting results.
This is a must go getaway. I could go on for days about why you should go there but seriously, just book your tickets!