October 15, 2018
Or is it Carmel, California, Coffee? Ha! In any event, I hope your Monday is off to a fantastic start! It’s, definitely, back to the real world for me, although, since I work a fair amount when I am away, it’s not that hard of an adjustment to come back too. And by “real world” I mean no pretty palm trees to surround me during my morning work session(s), back to a routine & schedule – let’s be honest, I do thrive on one – and all those other so-called "adulting" tasks such as laundry, cooking, house chores, etc. are back on the docket. While I do yearn for my routine post-travel, it is REALLY nice to have a change of pace every now and again.
And, while I am sad on many levels that this trip is over, there is so much happening in the next couple months that I am excited to see how it all unfolds…and I cannot wait to share it with you!
As I have shared, I go back and forth to Santa Monica on an (almost) monthly basis. It really does feel like my 2nd home. I feel like a local, and the locals are getting to know me; whether it is at the Fairmont Miramar where I stay, Orangetheory where I work out occasionally, or even in some of the shops on the 3rd Street Promenade. When you are on a completely different coast from your family, friends, and, well, LIFE, it’s nice to feel like you know SOMEONE.
Not only did this trip include 5 days in one of my favorite cities, but it, also, exposed me to ANOTHER gem of a town; this one in Carmel, California - a small beach city on California's Monterey Peninsula known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history. For all the time I spent out in Santa Monica last year, I was always intrigued when the commercials would highlight visiting “Carmel By The Sea.” Honestly, I had heard of it, but I never really knew much about it, yet alone knew anyone who had been. FYI: Boy, was I wrong! The minute I showcased my travels on Instagram and Facebook, I had so many people reach out to say they had been and how much they LOVED it. Where have I been - LOL?!?!
My boyfriend gets a HUGE THANK YOU for this AMAZING experience!! <3 <3 When planning this trip, and knowing that San Francisco was one of the stops he had to make for business, he, immediately, asked if I wanted to stay a couple nights in one of his favorite places. To say this town is magical or, in his words, “Narnia,” is an absolute understatement. Its rustic, quaint charm makes you feel like you have stepped back in time, yet it encompasses so much of the modern-day appeal. I mean, although I never found it, there is an Anthropologie tucked away somewhere! Go figure! From the shops, to the restaurants, and the picturesque setting, this must be what Heaven is like! :)
We arrived in Carmel a little after 4:00 pm last Thursday afternoon, and drove right to the AirBNB that we would be staying in for the next couple days. This “loft-style” bungalow/studio/apartment (ha – so many words for it) was the PERFECT spot & location! Here is a little peek:
One of the things I was thrilled to hear upon arrival was that we had access to a washer and dryer! After (almost) a week of living out of a suitcase & hotel jumping, I was so happy to get a little organized! After my 3rd round of unpacking for the week, doing a couple loads of laundry, and getting settled, it was time to freshen up and get the celebrations started! Did I mention it was my boyfriend’s birthday too?!?! I know, 33...SO OLD!
It was about a 20-25 minute walk from our place to the center of the town; a town that makes you feel like you are stepping into a fairytale and, really, is (probably) more appropriate to be defined as a village. The scenic walk took us on rolling hills that were lined with one gorgeous home after the other. Each one had its own bit of character, charm, and WEALTH, in addition to a given “name” to fit its unique look. Hmm, what would I name my house?
We got into the town as the sun started to set, and the cool, brisk Northern California air took center stage. The shops were lit up, the restaurants were hopping, and the character and architecture of this adorable “Ocean Avenue” village came to life. We strolled up and down the brick-lined streets, peeking in to the various shops and establishments along the way. Every cottage and gallery had it's own flair and personality. One of the things I absolutely loved were the cute, cobblestone paths that took you into “secret,” tucked away shops and restaurants. So classy and timeless!
And so romantic too!
Since it had been a long day of traveling, food had been few and far between, and we were hungry! The restaurant we chose had a bit of a wait, so we made a reservation and decided to check out another spot for cocktails and appetizers until it was time for dinner. We stumbled upon an outdoor lounge, actually called "Terry's Lounge," that was part of the iconic “Cypress Inn.” Here's a fun fact: This beloved boutique hotel opened its doors in 1929, and was co-owned by the famous Doris Day in the mid-80's!
The outdoor patio, surrounded by the crisp, white stucco walls of the hotel's exterior, lined with greenery & twinkle lights, and warmed by outdoor heaters, made it the perfect spot to relax & unwind. It, definitely, exuded the very "Mediterranean grace and charm" it is known for and loved by so many. I was feeling super chic that evening, so I ordered a Grey Goose martini, straight up - no vermouth - with a lemon twist, and we ordered a fabulous cheese plate. Two drinks a piece and, before we knew it, dinner was calling.
We ate at this fabulous French restaurant called La Bicyclette. Honestly, just like Italian wine, I am not that well versed in French food, but I am learning! Speaking of Italian wine, we ordered a yummy bottle of Poliziano to start off our meal. After debating between the Kobe beef filet and the roasted dry-aged duck breast, I went with the duck which was adorned with sweet potatoes and a braised cabbage and apple romanesco, topped with a rose-wine cherry glaze. It was absolutely DELICIOUS! I rarely ever get duck so, when in Carmel, and at a French restaurant, you get it! Plus, my boyfriend got the Kobe beef, so I was able to snag a taste. Let’s just say, BOTH did not disappoint!
After the cake and ice cream came out, it was time to walk back to our place and get some much needed shut-eye. Btw, remember those rolling hills I mentioned before? Well, what goes down must go back up, and, yes, we walked downhill to the town which meant uphill home. My hamstrings and glutes got quite the workout but a fun way to end the evening. Yes, it was F-U-N!
Friday morning came with lots of sunshine, blue skies, and much warmer weather than the prior day & evening. After we each did a little work, it was time to grab some breakfast/brunch before we started our sightseeing for the day. We ate at a super cute corner spot called “Village Café” where the omelets were made to order, the fruit was fresh, and the coffee was hot! My omelet included spinach, mushroom, apple chicken sausage, and feta! Okay, and let me be honest, I did walk in with a coffee I ordered from the coffee roasting company on Ocean Avenue. I will fill you in at the end of the blog!
Satisfied, content, and fueled, it was time to start our "walking tour." We, first, checked out the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum - known as the "Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo," it is one of the most authentically restored Roman Catholic mission churches in California. For more information, click HERE.
Upon the completion of our 1st tour, we headed towards the beach. The beautiful blues and greens of the Pacific, flanked by the greenery of Pebble Beach across the way, makes it, truly, one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. I mean look at how GORGEOUS?!?!
Yes, I know…we are so gorgeous!!
Next up, we headed back to the house to regroup, grab the car, fill up the water bottles, and make our way to 17-Mile Drive. We, first, stopped at the Point Pinos Lighthouse; lit in 1855 to guide mariners to safety, this is the oldest, continuously operating lighthouse on the United States West Coast. Just fascinating!
Next up, 17-Mile Drive - the scenic route through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove along the Monterey Peninsula. Another Fun Fact (although, to some, this may not sound too fun): It is $10.25 just to drive your car all 17 miles...crazy, huh? Well, it is Pebble Beach! Little did I know, it is one of the most scenic drives in the world! Seriously, it was like nothing I have ever seen before. With 17 points of interest to see along the way, it, truly, is a sight! Here are a couple of the pictures from where we stopped along the way:
To top it off, we re-fueled at the world-renowned Lodge at Pebble Beach, where we got a table outside, overlooking the 18th hole, and ordered a fabulous cheese board and drink. They had Mumm Sparkling by the glass, so I just had to toast to the fabulous day!
After we finished, it was time to head back to sweet Carmel. We grabbed a bottle of wine for Happy Hour, relaxed, got dressed, and then headed out for the evening. With it being Friday night, the town was a buzz! We found a super quaint, authentic Italian restaurant - IL Tegamino - to make a reservation, then checked out another place for some more wine and convo.
Although it was late by the time we sat down to eat, and many glasses of wine later (LOL), the food was AMAZING! My boyfriend was in his element since his roots are in Italy, and the chef's inspired-dishes are from the Napoli region. If you are a pasta lover, and enjoy the taste of Southern Italy, this is a MUST restaurant to check out. Probably one of the best Italian dinners I have had in a really long time. Fresh, authentic, and SO GOOD! While I had a bite (or 5) of his "melt in your mouth" butternut squash soup appetizer, I chose the braised beef short ribs with roasted potatoes and broccolini as my entrée. OMG, mind blown!
I wish I had gotten a picture (instead, the bread with olive oil will have to do) of what my boyfriend ordered - the specialty dish called "Ragu Napoletano," which consisted of "large tube pasta with cooked short rib & pork rib meat in a tomato sauce with parmesan cheese.
With a full belly, and a fun-filled, adventurous day, it was time for bed! Btw, we walked 20,000+ steps so we were, of course, spent!
Saturday morning, we woke up to another blue-skied, sunny, and warm day! We organized, packed, and were checked out of our cute AirBNB by 10:00 am. Boo! We went back into town for brunch at a cute French restaurant called Lafayette (also known as Etats-Unis), where we noshed on more egg omelets and yummy roasted potatoes! I don’t know, I think I have had my share of potatoes (and salmon – check out my Instagram) to hold me over for a while!
Afterwards, we got in the car, said goodbye to fabulous Carmel, and began our journey back to San Francisco, stopping along the way at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. If you are a golfer, or just an avid Ritz Carlton fan like myself, check out this bougie resort! Although overcast and brisk, it was so nice to get out, walk, and enjoy a cocktail on their beautiful patio!
All I can say is, I will, definitely, be going back to this magical place! It really is a gem, and the best kept secret. Whether you are just passing through or have the opportunity to stay in one of their B&B’s or even AirBNB’s, I would highly recommend you do so! There is something so special & unique about the town that you will not even feel like you are in California! TRUST ME! If you have been, let me know about your experience and what/where I should go the next I am there!
Oh, and before I wrap this up, it’s only fitting that I share a little “coffee” love! They had the cutest coffee shop called the “Carmel Valley Roasting Company” that was right on Ocean Avenue. Since the one cup Keurig barely worked at our place, I went all out and the got the 24 oz. cup when I visited Friday morning! Yes, no shame in my coffee game…and it was damn awesome too!