By Mira Temkin
Romantic, fairytale cottages and the most pet-friendly city on
the planet blend with nearly 100 art galleries and fine dining
on every corner. You get the idea why Carmel-by-the-Sea,
located along a stretch of California’s Northern coast,
has evolved into such a world-renowned destination.
A haven for artists and writers for more than a century,
the simple beauty of Carmel beckons those looking for
inspiration. Through 2016, Carmel is celebrating its
centennial anniversary with the big festivities at
the end of October.
“Summer is high season,” said Monta Potter, Director of
the Carmel Chamber of Commerce. “Visitors come for
the weather, but fall is beautiful here, too. After people
discover Carmel, they want to move here. Many do.
There’s a magical quality to Carmel that’s so serene.”
Clint Eastwood served as the mayor of Carmel from
1986-1988, and his influence remains. He saved the
Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant from the
wrecking ball and renovated this historic property
into a sprawling resort. Rumor has it he hangs
out there, but no Clint sightings for me.
Carmel is only one square mile, so you’ll feel comfortable
meandering through the lovely streets. (Be warned -- you
need a permit from City Hall to wear heels more than
2” inches high! Not to worry; it’s not enforced.) There are
46 special pathways that go through hidden alcoves.
Be like the locals and take the shortcuts. See where
they lead you...most likely to some hidden gems.
Make sure you pick up a copy of
The Carmel Pine Cone.
Gael Gallagher’s Carmel Walking Tour is a great way to
see the town’s highlights and decide where to return.
A leisurely guided walk will take you into hidden
courtyards, lovely gardens and by storybook
cottages. Wait! Is that the Eastwood building?
Did Van Gogh really eat at this table? Einstein and
Dali were here? Gallagher tells all.
Distinctive Bed & Breakfast Inns
Carmel-by-the-Sea is filled with more than 40 inns,
B & B’s and distinctive hotels. I stayed at the Cypress Inn,
co-owned by screen star Doris Day and her
partner. Built in 1929, the Cypress Inn is designed
with elegant accommodations and modern
amenities with picturesque courtyards and
alcoves. Each room has a distinctive décor
and the halls are lined with Day’s movie
posters. An animal-rights activist, Day allows
pets to stay in the rooms with their owners
as well as dine next to them. Check out
outdoor dining in Terry’s Lounge
(named for Day’s late son,
Terry Melchior) with fabulous salads
and burgers. Don’t forget their
“Yappy Hour” from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Monday – Friday to try their classic
A mix of early California art, classical, modern,
sculpture and photography make visiting Carmel’s
galleries a fascinating experience. Thomas Kinkade
opened his first gallery in Carmel. Duck in the Studio
in the Garden and visit his signature store. Take
a 90-minute tour with Carmel Art Tours for a
great sampling of select galleries, hear
fascinating stories and maybe
have a chance encounter with an artist
at work. I met the internationally-acclaimed
Steve Whyte in his Sculpture Studio &
Gallery. His impressive War
Hymn Monument is the largest single
bronze statue at any stadium in the US at
Texas A & M. CarmelArtTours.com
Walk and Wine with Carmel Food Tours
Thankfully, there’s lots of walking on this culinary
experience as you visit seven of Carmel’s special
eateries. Highlights include Casanova Restaurant with its
excellent gnocchi and Van Gogh’s table; Trio Carmel
featuring specialty olive oils and vinegars, tasty over
ice cream; Figge’s Cellars for wine and Lula’s Chocolates,
the perfect finale. Or, go with their “Gimme a Break-Fast Tour”
from 8:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Sample the house favorites
and come back for the whole enchilada. CarmelFoodTour.com.
For a $10 tasting at each of nine tasting rooms,
buy the Carmel WINE WALK passports for $65 at
the Carmel Visitor Center.
From casual to upscale, Carmel offers a range of restaurants
to satisfy every palate. Here are a few recommendations:
Mundaka – This tapas restaurant is fun and funky with
Spanish-influenced cuisine. Try the marcona almonds
and assorted Mediterranean olives for starters. The paella
varies daily and is heavenly with the best Sangria in town.
For more than three decades, Anton & Michel has been
a Carmel classic, serving fresh, creative California cuisine
highlighted with spectacular flambé desserts. Go with the
wild mushroom risotto and rack of lamb with citrus-port
sauce as you look out at the sparkling “Court of the
Pepe’s Vesuvio serves authentic Southern Italian cuisine
made from his family’s traditional recipes. Start with their
artichoke lollipops (fresh from the nearby artichoke
capital of the world), certified Angus steaks or classic
pastas. Add a glass of wine from the Pepe Winery
which combines Italian traditions with Napa-style
Sunset Center Brings Performing Arts to Carmel
Within walking distance to everything else is the
multi-million dollar Sunset Center. Check out their
calendar for concerts, dance, and theatre that attract
both locals and visitors alike. Classical musical lovers
can embrace the 79th annual Bach Festival in July.
Lest one forget, there is the beautiful azure beach just a
few blocks down. Dogs run off leash, warming fires are
allowed during the week and there’s a myriad of water
sports to suit your fancy. Boating, whale watching,
stand-up paddle boarding are just a few of the
H20 delights. Walking back to my hotel at night with
the gentle ocean breezes blowing, I felt renewed and
uplifted. That’s the magic of Carmel.
Carmel by the Sea is located on the Monterey
Peninsula, within minutes of Pebble Beach, Monterey,
Big Sur and Salinas. Fly to San Francisco, L.A.,
San Diego, Las Vegas or Phoenix and then hop
a flight to Monterey.
Photos courtesy of CarmelCalifornia.org