A Look At Carmel-By-The-Sea
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A Look At Carmel-By-The-Sea

An amateurs guide to a wonderful little city.

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A Look At Carmel-By-The-Sea
Pebble Beach Resorts

Carmel isn’t so much a tourist destination for me as the place I have decided I want to retire, if I ever get the chance. The placement of the city allows for easy access to anything that you might want to do, while still providing you with that incomparable smell of coniferous tree and salt water at all times. The mess of shops and open-air shopping combined with the restaurants and friendly, relaxed nature of the people that live there make Carmel a relaxed, but highly functional coastal city.

Starting with location, Carmel-by-the-Sea is about an hour’s drive South of Monterey, another charming California city. Situated on the coast, boxed in by National Parks, forests, beaches, and mountains, Carmel seems isolated from the rest of the world. The buildings are low to the ground, and each of the homes, once you’re out of the suburbs, are unique in their own way. Along the streets lined with pine, spruce, and other needled trees, the homes all reflect their own personality. Some are made entirely of stone, others look like adobe missions, while there are even some that resemble castles. Several look like fairy tales, but all of them have one thing in common, they are all absolutely beautiful. I have spent several hours just wandering the neighborhood in the morning, enjoying the coastal fog and the sight of so many strange and wonderful homes.

If you grow bored of walking around the neighborhood, you can head into town. Most of the shops don’t open until 10:30-11:00 in the morning — people are much more laid back here. They vary widely from antique stores to jewelry, to art studios, to what seems to be the cities preferred business, real estate. Walking past so many of these shops and offices, you feel compelled to stop and browse a few of them. I’ve stopped in front of my fair share of real estate firms to check the listings, then walked away after seeing five or six zeroes. No matter what store you browse, be it the nostalgic board game shop, one of the many antique stores, or one of the artisan clothing or glass blowing stores, each and every one of them will have tasteful, well presented wares, and a smiling staff ready to help you in any way they can.

I may have forgotten to mention, that Carmel is a very dog friendly city. Everywhere you go, you will see people walking their dogs or tying them up outside while they go into a store. No matter how friendly the city is, with their bowls of water and treats outside of almost every store, restaurant, or what have you, not many will allow the wonderful pets inside, since the goods in many of the shops are easily broken or soiled. This doesn’t stop people from bringing their pets along with them wherever they can, and I have spent many trips walking around with my poodle, Cocoa, showing him the sights and smells before washing all of the sand out of his coat.

Speaking of sand, Carmel has easy access to several dozen square miles of pristine state beach and coast line. Pebble Beach, Asilomar State Beach, and Arrowhead Point just to name a few, provide spectacular views of the bay, along with amazing hiking trails through the coastal trees along the rocks. The dogs are very prevalent here as well, running up and down the beach playing with their owners in the sand and the spray. The views from any location along the coast is amazing at any time, but the best times are either at sun-up, when there are very few people around to disturb you, or, if you don’t want to wake-up at 4:30 (and I don’t blame you) you can take in the magnificent sun sets as the light filters through the trees behind you.

With all this walking and sight-seeing, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. Luckily for you, Carmel is home to some of the best dining experiences on the coast. You could try Casanova’s, for a fine dining experience that you will never forget. All meals are served in three courses, an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, with suggested wine pairings for each. I have eaten there several times myself, and it is where I fell in love with abalone. The “Van Gogh” room is an eclectic experience, bright colors and wooden tables looking out into a little patch of greenery. The entire restaurant feels like an Italian home, with warm colors, dark wood, and an atmosphere of friendliness that inspires conversation. If the fine dining scene is not to your liking, though there are many spectacular options, there are also several cafés scattered across the city. Some are prominently displayed; others are little holes in the wall. Don’t be afraid to simply pick one, or use your phone to make sure that you’ve found your heart’s desire.

My personal favorite is a small French café by the name of le Patisserie Boissiere. It is a quant, white building sitting on the edge of an open air mall facing the street. The first thing to greet your eyes and nose is a pastry cabinet, kept freshly stocked with everything from quiche to mousse all day round. You will be required to wait usually between 15 and 20 minutes, but trust me, your patience will be rewarded. They have some of the best French Onion soup that I have ever had, hot, cheesy, served in its little glazed tureen, smelling of warmth and onion. They have a wide selection of fresh salads, quiche, sandwiches, and the like, and a meal is never so well completed as with one of their many dessert offerings. If a picnic is more your speed, there are many delis to pick up the components, but the most unique stop is easily “The Carmel Cheese Shop.” It is actually just below le Patisserie Boissiere in the open air mall. Before you even reach the door, you can smell and see what you are in for, with cheese and wine in the window and the scent of many delightful cheeses competing for your attention. They offer samples of any cheese that you want, and it is easy to see why. The more you try, the more you find yourself buying, so be careful. It’s the easiest thing in the world to be carried away in the magic of the shop. They have fresh baked bread, along with dozens upon dozens of unique cheeses, along with salami, wines, all manner of spreads, even caviar. The hosts are friendly, smiling, and laughing as they sling cheese all day long. I must admit, I’ve always wanted to work there, with so many smiling people and seeing the look on people’s faces as they find the perfect flavor.

Not that you’ve eaten and seen all you can see in a day, it’s time to turn in for the night. There are many homely little inns all through the city that look like something out of a fairy tale, if not for the cars in their lots. If you want to stay close to the action of this picturesque city, then these are definitely your best option. If you want to get out of the city however, then there are several options in Pacific Grove, Carmel’s little sister, or if you want to go all out, then there is the historic Asilomar Resort. In Pacific Grove, there is the “Butterfly Grove Inn”, a pink little building with its rooms all through a eucalyptus grove, where, in certain seasons, you can see thousands of Monarch Butterflies resting in the trees looking like hanging moss or flitting about. Hence the name of inn, “Butterfly Grove.”

There is also the “Fireplace Inn and Suites”, an establishment that looks and feels like the nicest camp ground you’ve ever been. Bear with me it is better than it sounds. All of the buildings are red, varying between little cottages or apartments, each with their own kitchen, fireplace, and other amenities. There is always firewood available, so you are never without warmth, and you are able to do your own cooking if you wish, making picnics the easiest thing in the world. If, however, you want to stay right on the beach, then Asilomar is the place for you. Each of its buildings is made of stone, lit with candles and carpeted well. The rooms are cozy and well warmed, but not a single room has a television. The bathrooms are spectacular, and you get everywhere by walking along little boardwalks through sand and shrubbery. The beach is a three minute walk towards the coast, making it a beach comber’s dream. You can rest up anywhere you want if you want to explore more tomorrow, or Carmel can be a day trip for anyone within 60 miles.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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