I have the tendency to assume that the further away the destination is, the more pleasure I will get out of my trip. This is my inner Robinson Crusoe speaking. This tendency leads me to undervalue, and even overlook beautiful destinations closer to home.
The weekend that follows was one shrouded in a warm glow of sunshine, desolate beaches, and hazy golden sunsets dripping over every surface. It was a weekend getaway to Carmel I truly regret not taking sooner.
We arrived at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in the Carmel Valley with a sense of serenity. We were just south of Monterey, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Hint: not a normal occurrence. The hotel radiated a no-fuss modern elegance. With clean lines and a warm color palette, it just felt like home. In fact, I actually took note of the color palette of our room, as I want my home to emanate that special cozy warmth. With a room facing a pond and fountain, we had a tranquil ambiance in which to spend our moments not exploring.
The better part of the day was spent exploring one of Carmel’s gems, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. You enter Point Lobos in the forest, but the true spectacle to be seen is the dramatic Northern California coastlines. From huge swells crashing against sheer cliffs, to tidepools teeming with life, to hidden beaches reminiscent of the tropics, Point Lobos left me visually stimulated.
In my typical fashion, I did my hiking in flip-flops, but it did not inhibit my exploration. We discovered what is, perhaps my favorite beach in Northern California: Gibson Beach. If the temperature and humidity were increased a few notches, this beach could have easily passed for one on a tropical island many degrees of latitude south. With mist-shrouded views of the coast filtered through a pure sunshine-filled sky, and very few people to boot, it was a serene way to pass a couple of hours.
Eating in Carmel-by-the-Sea leaves you with no shortage of options. Our favorite meal by far was at Mission Ranch, Clint Eastwood’s picturesque retreat with unobstructed pastoral farmlands all the way to the ocean. Despite not getting a seat on the patio, we enjoyed a glass of wine as the sun bathed the landscape in gold as it set. The food was crafted simply with high quality ingredients — the type of restaurant philosophy which produces magic every time. I highly recommend the prime rib! The wine list was also outstanding.
When traveling domestically, I utilize Yelp to find little gems. In this case, I was in search of Garrapata State Park beach, just south of Carmel, whose photos promised huge swells and golden sands. However, my GPS had absolutely no idea where this was — it actually guided us about 5 miles north of the beach! Luckily, with a little perseverance, and more hiking in flip-flops, we arrived in a surreal place that made me completely forget it was January in Northern California. With temperatures around 75F, I was in my bikini, dancing in the sand and clamoring over rocks, completely ignoring the bewildered stares of people who knew what month it was.
17 Mile Drive, something I had not experienced since childhood was also a welcome treat. Stunning vistas abound, and more tranquility than one should be allowed to experience in one day. Sidenote: you must wear a shirt while driving through 17 Mile Drive, which my husband learned after he was chastised by the guard. Oops!
When I look back, what is imprinted in my mind is the glow everything in Carmel seemed to possess. When low expectations and fabulous weather collide with delicious food and desolate beaches, there is no way not to win. Carmel, you were so beautiful and dreamlike, I’m almost afraid to go back, and discover it wasn’t actually real.