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Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

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New Jersey
posts: 2,218
reviews: 75
Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

My GF and I are in our 40s and enjoy traveling. This year’s California trip began in San Francisco (our third time together) and ended in San Diego, with stops in Carmel, Santa Barbara, and Long Beach.

I will post each day's activities individually. Thanks to fellow forumites for their suggestions and trip reports in helping shape our itinerary.

New Jersey
posts: 2,218
reviews: 75
1. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

Day 5 (Aug 11)

We didn’t leave San Francisco until 2 pm. Normally a 2.5 hour drive, the trip took us over four hours. Hwy 17 was extremely slow, and then Hwy 1 from Salinas to Monterey was equally slow. I don’t know if taking Hwy 101 all the way to Carmel Valley would have been any faster on a Saturday.

Our first time in Carmel was spent at the Carmel Mission Inn which was off Hwy 1. It was a good place for going to other places, but we wanted to be in town to explore the beautiful hamlet and just relax.

We arrived at the Pine Inn on a very foggy evening. It was great. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very picturesque town, and the fog seemed to add another dimension.

Most of the reviews of the Pine Inn were pretty spot on. We stayed in Room #19 which was probably not their best room, but for just under $200/night that included free buffet breakfast, it served our needs. The common areas of the hotel were nice and richly decorated. The staff were professional, and the breakfasts were tasty. However, our room needed a face lift badly. We didn’t mind the lack of air conditioning. The room got warm during the day but was comfortable (with the ceiling fan on) by the time we slept for the night.

After checking in, we got dressed more appropriately than jeans and a sweatshirt. We drove to Passionfish in Pacific Grove for a 7 pm reservation. We had eaten twice during our first trip, and Passionfish remains as one of my favorite all time restaurants. Their wine list should be a model for all restaurants. Their food was excellent as always.

For appetizers, I tried their corn chowder while my GF stuck with a ricotta gnocci. Our main entrees was a locally caught King Salmon for me (the best salmon I’ve eaten), and my GF chose the scallops with the braised celery. All dishes paired nicely with a half bottle of 2008 Huet Sec Vouvray Le Mont. For dessert, we had a crème brulee and something chocolaty along with a 2001 Tawny Port (forgot the name of the producer). All were very tasty and reasonably priced.

New Jersey
posts: 2,218
reviews: 75
2. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

Day 6 (Aug 12)

Breakfasts at the Pine Inn were excellent. It was a la carte for Sunday brunch, and their Dungeness crab and eggs benedict was delicious. The sunshine was peeking through that day, and we decided to head to the beach. We loved Carmel Beach – the soft white sand, its rules to allow dogs to play and run around, and the views of the ocean, the surrounding bluffs, fog, and then sunshine that turned the water into a turquoise color. All shapes and sizes of dogs were out and about on Sunday. It was so much fun just watching them fetched their toys and looked at their owners when they didn’t throw it forward or to the surf. My GF really missed having her Annie. We spent several hours sitting on the sand and walking on the beach from Ocean Ave to 12th Street. We can see ourselves hanging out here all day and night. It’s a great place for family.

After the beach, we went window shopping in the great but expensive shops in town. I really liked the wine shop near our hotel that specialized in Australia, New Zealand, and South American wines. With better planning, I would have purchased a bottle to bring to one of many wonderful restaurants that had a corkage fee. Next time! There was also an antique jewelry store, Fourtane, with very nice salespeople that indulged my GF in trying a number of pieces, including a $75,000 Burmese emerald-cut sapphire ring. Needless to say, it was very beautiful, and my GF had a great time without doing any damage to the savings account.

We had a bonfire scheduled for 7:30 pm that evening, and so we walked back to our hotel, got cleaned up, and walked back downstairs to the Il Fornaio restaurant that was adjacent to the hotel. The food was good, the wine list was atypical of big markups, and the service was pretty slow. We started at a little after 5 pm and ended around 6:45 with no desserts ordered. The only dish I remembered was the roasted artichoke appetizer. We enjoyed the breakfasts much more.

The beach bonfire was one of the most memorable activity during the trip, and there were quite a number of them. I paid about $150 for Romantic Designs to create one on Carmel Beach. The package came with some chocolate covered strawberries, s’mores ingredients, bottled war and Peligrino, a blanket on the sand, and enough firewood to last a couple of hours. The fire kept us really warm from the chilly fog that covered the beach. Fires on Carmel Beach are allowed anywhere south of 10th Street. I don’t remember if there were restrictions on when you can build one. I liked the time saved in buying the materials, but the next time, I may want to do it on my own.

New Jersey
posts: 2,218
reviews: 75
3. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

Day 7 (Aug 13)

I drove to the nearest Big 5 sporting goods store and purchased some items for the beach and wildlife viewing – 7 x 50 binoculars, beach chair, beach mat, etc. – while my GF got ready. In retrospect, we didn’t really need these items as they were seldom used. By around 11 am, we were on the road and made a brief stop at the Safeway for a few picnic items at Point Lobos. When we entered the park, we drove to the China Cove area and found a parking spot right away. This was our second time to the park since we really enjoyed it the first time. The sun was starting to peek from the marine layer, and the sunlight gave the area more color that we haven’t seen before. We love this park for the breathtaking scenery, the marine wildlife, and its compactness. We saw a number of seals frolicking in the water and laying on the rocks. We were mesmerized by the gracefulness of pelicans flying just over the water. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any sea otters. Bummer! We had a limited amount of time, and we weren’t able to drive to the other end of the park. We ate our picnic lunch on the wooden benches, and we drove back to our hotel. By this time, the parking lot at China Cove was full with cars roaming around for spots. Since there weren’t a whole lot of animal activity, the turnover of cars was pretty constant. We made one other brief stop as we made our way out, hoping to get a glimpse of the sea otters. No luck.

The town started placing warning signs of road closures and No Parking on certain streets due to the Classic Auto Show that took place the following day. We were concerned that the private lot of the hotel would fill up quickly, which was why we went to Point Lobos first and spent only a few hours. After we pulled into the lot, we decided to get our doggie fill at Carmel Beach. Sadly, Monday afternoon wasn’t peak dog walking time. We did see a young black Retriever that was being trained to fetch. It was very entertaining watching this young pup’s enthusiasm in chasing his toy in the water and bringing it back.

Since I had a conference call at 7 pm, we ordered dinner from Flaherty’s and ate it in our hotel room. I ordered BBQ oysters and oyster chowder. The latter was excellent. After my work obligations were done at 8:30, we took a stroll through town and peeked into the stores that were still open. We concluded our evening with a brownie and some pastries from a nearby café.

New Jersey
posts: 2,218
reviews: 75
4. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

Day 8 (Aug 14)

When I made our trip plans eight months ago, I didn’t realize that there would be an auto show in Carmel. We made our last trip to the beach and a few dogs and their owners. We also saw some porpoises or dolphins in the water. That was a nice treat and farewell.

By around 10 am as we walked up Ocean Avenue towards our hotel, the area was already buzzing with people and beautifully redone classic cars – Chevys, Jaguars, Mercedes, Ferraris, convertibles, etc. It was great. Entire streets were lined with gorgeous cars, and we couldn’t stop taking pictures of them. By the time we got ready and finished some last minute shopping, it was already 1 pm. Before beginning our road trip, we stopped at the Do Re Me music shop to pick up a Beach Boys CD.

We were glad to have stayed in downtown Carmel on this trip. As we made our way to San Diego and the temperature began to get warmer, we became more appreciative of the cooler weather in Carmel.

posts: 28,972
reviews: 778
5. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

I enjoyed reading about your time in Carmel, lots of great information here. The bonfire sounds really fun. Sounds like you made alot of special memories in Carmel. :)

Pacific Grove...
Destination Expert
for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey Peninsula
posts: 5,316
reviews: 24
6. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

Thanks for a great report! All the detail you provide will be helpful to future visitors. Come back soon, and please give my regards to NJ (I grew up there).

New Jersey
posts: 2,218
reviews: 75
7. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

Hi PGdenizen,

NJ says hello as well. I have to say that Pacific Grove is on a short list of places to move to some day.

Pacific Grove...
Destination Expert
for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey Peninsula
posts: 5,316
reviews: 24
8. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

Thanks, DD! Pacific Grove is a very nice place to live--we've been here 26 years. If you do end up moving to the area, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. The only negative I've found in PG is the very persistent summer fog. If you want to live in a place that gets some sun--if not every day in June, July and August, at least most days--then the weather in PG might get to you, and there are areas of Monterey where you're much more likely to see the sun. It gets to me, I admit, but I try to get away to sunnier areas a few times each summer, and the rest of the year is so beautiful that it makes up for it. But if the idea of a lot of fog in the summer doesn't bother you, I think you'd be very happy here.

9. Re: Trip Report: CA Road Trip - Aug 2012 (Carmel)

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