It is possible that we found the place we would consider calling our new home. Carmel is paradise from every angle, on every corner and from every perspective. The weather is consistently mild throughout the year with sunny, blue skies and offers the most jaw dropping coast we have yet to discover. The Carmel area encompasses Carmel Valley, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Highlands and is a quick ten minute drive to Monterey and Pacific Grove ensuring that there is never a lack of things to do or places to enjoy while being hugged by the Pacific Ocean all along. In addition, the Big Sur area is a short drive away and there are many, many hikes to choose from in the immediate area. Public schools are fantastic, cuisine is delicious, and its population of less than 4,000 people keeps the city manageable in terms of feeling overcrowded. Six nights left us yearning for more. The visit was too short.
This breathtaking look out point perched on cliffs is just a twelve mile drive from Carmel. There is an easy path guiding visitors to the very edge of the bluffs to admire the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean with unobstructed views of the endless sea. The blue hues of the water combined with the autumn colored earth are just unreal.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
There are over 550 acres of coastal trails at this state park in Carmel-by-the-Sea with countless trailheads to be explored. We opted for the Cypress Grove Trail which offered us pelican sightings, barking seals, and spectacular views of the coast on a well shaded trail with many look out points. My mind immediately went to dreaming of having these trails as my personal gym if we were to live here. I hate jogging but these trails made me imagine a life of becoming a runner, soaring through the cliff perched trails with music pumping in my ears and the scenery reawakening my soul each day. It would be impossible not to find my calling here.
I am obsessed with this small, coastal town that is packed with the most romantic restaurant patios, architectural details like arches and Spanish tiles, and beautiful locally owned shops. I am partially jealous of the locals who have these sidewalks at their disposal. A very European vibe exists in this part of town. Everyone sits outdoors enjoying long, leisurely meals while sipping their wine under the California sky. If we were to move anywhere, this would definitely be the place.
The Carmel area has no shortage of excellent food options with lovely patios dotted with heat lamps for those slightly chilly days. Below are some of the ones we checked out during our stay. We also ordered take out from Napoli which we found to serve delicious Italian cuisine.
We absolutely adored our breakfast here. By 8:30am the very spacious patio was already full with a line beginning to form. Luckily we had reservations and were seated quickly in a corner booth on the sidewalk. The service was spot on and the food was creative and delicious. I devoured my potato latkes topped with wild salmon and a soft boiled egg. My two younger kids loved every bite of their fluffy blueberry pancakes. My older son and husband ordered burgers (yes, for breakfast!) which they described as "incredible". I also loved my Mexican hot chocolate, served with handmaid Madagascar vanilla bean whipped cream. We had a very memorable meal here and I highly recommend dining at this establishment, which was recommended to me by a friend. It's all about word of mouth!
La Bicyclette Restaurant
We enjoyed a stellar dinner at La Bicyclette. Three of us ordered the most delicious homemade spinach gnocchi drenched in parmesan cream sauce. Each bite was so heavenly I almost couldn't resist lifting the bowl and licking it clean! We also ordered two different seafood pastas which were equally outstanding. The service was wonderful and the ambience is great too.
Cottage of Sweets
This candy shop is a well-known neighborhood joint flocked to by all who need a sweet fix. There was a line out the door formed by both candy and chocolate lovers alike. I loved its inviting and quaint storefront but loved even more the endless rows of sugary treats. Its price point, well... I didn't love as much. We were a little thrown off by the price tag of $29.95 for five pieces of chocolate. Yet, as soon as we delved in we all agreed that they were worth every penny!
It is impossible to walk by Carmel Bakery without picking up some baked goods. The beautiful storefront displays a selection of homemade pastries. Inside there is an equally attractive presentation of all the masterful creations that come out of the oven throughout the day.
Since all members in my family equally enjoy a great Mexican meal, we were really looking forward to dining at this well-reviewed restaurant. Although the food was solid, good but not great, the service was off base. We had to ask for my cocktail twice only for it to arrive after our second course was served. I sent it back. I ordered the house made hot sauce with our appetizer and had to ask for that twice too. By the time it arrived we were all done with the chips I wanted to dip into it. There weren't even a lot of patrons dining to excuse the lack of service. I get cranky when I spend money on a bad meal. Our fourteen year old son saved the night by ordering a small plate of grasshoppers (eek!). This was a highlight of our meal as we got some great laughs, squeals and video footage of him diving into these little insects.
All About the Chocolate
This is one of the most epic candy shops I've ever encountered, displayed in a playfully sophisticated manner that immediately awakens any sweet tooth. We couldn't help but linger as we admired the rows and rows of candy and chocolate. It would truly be dangerous to have this shop in my neighborhood. The chocolates are irresistible and will test anyone's will power to control the urge of stuffing their faces with as many homemade treats that can possibly fit in a mouth. The dark chocolate coconut macadamia chocolate I ordered puts my favorite Halloween candy, Mounds, to shame. I can still taste its creamy center as I type these words.
The Gallery Cafe
Pebble Beach is home to the well-known Pebble Beach Resort and the famous golf courses that have hosted many PGA tournaments. We made a few stops to the resort's The Gallery Café for coffee and breakfast runs. Overlooking parts of the golf course on their outdoor decks with Pacific Ocean views teasing in the background makes for a great breakfast spot. It helps that their staff is friendly and the food is delicious. Below are photos of cinnamon swirl pancakes and huevos rancheros that we thoroughly enjoyed. Both plates left no traces of any ingredients ever existing upon them.
The Bench is another excellent dining option at Pebble Beach Resort. The views of the putting green along the coast of the Pacific Ocean are spectacular. At night, when the temperature drops a bit the fire pits at each table gets lit adding to the dramatic flair. We stopped by twice and can vouch that the service, cocktails and ambience are unparalleled.
This beachside town in Monterey was once home to many sardine canning companies and also the subject of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. Today the neighborhood covers quite a long stretch of waterfront property filled with restaurants and shops. We visited on a Sunday afternoon and were surprised by how busy it was. Thousands of people were out strolling the area. Everyone was well-masked. In fact there were signs everywhere warning of a $100 fee to all who opt out of wearing one. Because everyone was taking the necessary precautions, it was easy to enjoy the bustling town on a beautiful day.
Also in Monterey, Fisherman's Wharf is reminiscent of a quaint New England town filled with charm and seafood restaurants along a marina. The wharf was buzzing with visitors, all well masked, enjoying fresh seafood on the many outdoor patios. The sidewalks were lively with street performers and artisans selling their crafts. We also spotted a few seals in the water. This is a really nice spot to take a leisurely stroll while enjoying the water views with an ice-cream cone in hand. It's a little tourist heavy but nevertheless a great place to spend an hour or so people watching and enjoying the energetic atmosphere.
We rented a home on Pebble Beach called Fallen Oaks through VRBO. Pebble Beach is a private, guarded enclave bordered by Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pacific Grove, Monterey and The Pacific Ocean. From the moment we set foot inside the house we knew we made a great choice. The house is spotless, well stocked and in a great area with close proximity to the water, the famous 17 mile drive and world famous PGA golf courses. Leaving here was no easy task.
The Lone Cypress Tree
One of the most photographed trees in the country, The Lone Cypress Tree demands the attention of all who hop in their car to enjoy the windy, scenic and well-known 17 Mile Drive. The route takes drivers through The Del Monte Forest along with stretches of gorgeous mansions that have the Pacific Ocean in their backyard. There seem to be no cars on the road until you head to The Lone Cypress Tree lookout point parking lot where suddenly dozens of people emerge to marvel at the view. It's a beautiful ride indeed .
Carmel has struck a special chord and pushed me to think more deeply about my life's direction. Getting a taste of something so mesmerizing truly leaves me wanting for more. Carmel has undoubtedly cast a spell on me that will be difficult to break from. There was an instant attraction and immediate connection, I truly fell in love. It's very difficult to say goodbye but something tells me we will back here again in this lifetime.