When I was 17 years old, I took a road trip down the California coast with my best friend’s family. It was the first time I had experienced a road trip not jammed in the back of a Stay-Wag with 3 older siblings torturing me along the way or a car full of cigarette smoke with the windows rolled up – it was actually an enjoyable experience.
We started in San Francisco and made it all the way down to Redondo Beach outside of Los Angeles. One of our pit-stops along the way was Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA which is located 120 miles South of San Francisco. In 1982, I remember feeling as though Carmel was one of the most beautiful places in the world. We happened to pass by the Tickle Pink Inn which is perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean. I swear it was pink at the time and I remember thinking – “It would be really killer to stay there some day.”
Fast forward 30 years later and Greg and I are on a road-trip passing through Carmel via Big Sur. I did some research on hotels via Trip Advisor and found that the Tickle Pink Inn is ranked the #1 spot to stay in the Carmel area. (You have to get over the name, it really is a beautiful place.) I quickly got on the phone with the hotel and reserved a room for the night – with an ocean view – happy early birthday to me. And by the way, If you have never been to Big Sur, it is incredible and a must see.
This boutique hotel is a great buy. It is somewhat expensive i.e, $250 + range but, you get all sorts of free stuff and free stuff = good stuff. There is an excellent wine and cheese reception that is really nice AND, you are presented with a complimentary bottle of champagne when you check in. The risk here is that you get so loaded you can’t drive to dinner and they don’t have a restaurant on site. Continental breakfast is included in the rate. The breakfast is a little on the cheap side with what appears to be a bit of Costco ilk, however, it is free and they will deliver to your room.
Key Tip: Request a room with an ocean view and a private balcony. You will be completely fulfilled waking up to the sight and sound of waves crashing along the shore line. This means paying a little more, but it is worth it. Beware of overly healthy seagulls attempting to infiltrate your room if you leave the sliding glass door open too long.
If you feel the need to get out and burn some calories while you are in Carmel, check out the Point Lobos Reserve www.pointlobos.org. If you follow the North Shore hike, you are guaranteed to spot some gorgeous harbor seals lounging around on the rocks along the coastline. Look closely as they sometimes blend in with the colors and patterns of the rocks. If you are over 40 and have younger kids with you, have them spot those wonderful creatures. These trails are great for trail running if hiking is too tame for you. Also, you can get a nice 1 mile run/walk on the beach which you can easily access via Ocean Avenue in downtown Carmel. If you are into golf, you will have a nice view of Pebble Beach.
Boutique shopping in Carmel can be quite fruitful. I found some amazing Frye boots (my new faves) at Lloyd’s shoes – they also have brands like Stuart Weitzman and Tom’s. Paloosh next door had some great stuff and carries brands like Ella Moss, Joie, and Splendid. They get a bad wrap on Yelp because of customer service, but I had a great experience. Girl Boy Girl (GBG) is another upscale boutique that may be considered one level up on the cost scale from Paloosh. They sell brands like Haute Hippie, Rebecca Taylor, and Trina Turk.
As far as restaurants are concerned, if you are into Sushi, we found Sushi Heaven to be a great value and of excellent quality. The Carmel Valley Roasting Company is great for a cup of coffee, and the quaint La Bicyclette Restaurant was excellent for dinner www.labicycletterestaurant.com. The menu changes nightly and the food is crafted with fresh local, organic ingredients, much of which is supplied by a local Middle School.
Carmel, is still a gorgeous place and will always hold a special place in my heart. All I have to say is THANKS to Raleigh and Judy for unknowingly introducing me to the life bus in 1982!