Imagine “Any City USA” (in my case, NYC) and all of its hustling-bustling glory. The blinding lights that never go out, the persistent honking of EVERY car, taxi and bus on the roads, the smothering smog that hangs in the air, the no-sense-of-personal-space commuters and yes, that indescribable, odoriferous odor that wafts through every street come trash days (especially in the heat of the summer).
Best In: CA – Carmel-by-the-Sea
NOW …imagine the complete ANTITHESIS of all that… a small hometown with NO traffic lights, NO honking, NO street address numbers and even a law against wearing high heels. A place where people are kind, genuine, polite and always friendly; the alluring scents of dewy grass, fragrant flowers and pine needles consistently kiss your nostrils – regardless of whether or not it is trash day. I know what you are thinking ‘where on EARTH is this place and when can I go?’…
The town is Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. The the place to rest your weary head is the Hofsas House (located between 3rd & 4th Ave on San Carlos Street), and the time you need to go is NOW (did you not read the paragraph above? get with the program). Carmel-by-the-Sea, often called simply Carmel, is a small city on the Monterey Peninsula. Founded in 1902, Carmel is known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history.
If my intro didn’t entice you enough, I am confident my own personal experience in Carmel and at the Hofsas House will. This family owned 38-room boutique establishment was the ultimate getaway with ocean views overlooking the pines. It makes you want to turn off the TV, shut down the iPad, let your cell phone die (and not re-charge it), kick your shoes off and enjoy the sun and stars as your sources of light. With her inviting persona and ideal location, the Hofsas House is a prime vacation spot for a romantic weekend away with your honey or for a solo trip to reconnect with YOU (which is what I opted for after a business trip to San Fran). Hofsas House is like a luxurious massage that never ends – ridding unnecessary stresses upon entering the front Dutch door. The charming decor added just the right amount of familiarity for instant comfort yet the amenities quietly reminded me I was on VACATION: cozy king size bed, a private kitchen stocked with wine and cheese, a fireplace (indoor s’mores anyone?!) and the front balcony overlooking the most glorious gifts of nature. The Pacific Ocean glistened with tiny diamonds in the horizon – I was officially off the clock (at least for 3 days).
With a glass of wine in hand, I grabbed a book (Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D. – oh, the irony), curled up with a blanket on the balcony, and embraced the views of the immaculate sunset Hofsas House has become famous for, staying just long enough to welcome the full moon.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my trip was the Carmel-Wine-Walk by-the-Sea™ and I recommend you make time for it. ‘Sip , swish and spit’ at your own pace, visiting 9 different tasting rooms all stocked with local estate-grown still and sparkling wines (all within a 1X1 square mile radius). Don’t forget your ‘passport (which you can get it at the Carmel Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center) – it provides a $10 flight at each room . Each sampler offers something unique, you spend the day with wonderful folks, and all the wines are locally crafted to perfection. Best of all if you do buy a bottle (I purchased and very much enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc from Wrath Tasting Room and Merlot from Shale Canyon Wines), the corkage fee is waived from most restaurants in the Carmel area, including Mundaka.
The landscaping, food and design at Mundaka (San Carlos Street between Ocean and 7th Ave) makes you feel like you have traveled to Spain (even my waiter had an accent!). With indoor and outdoor seating and a mouth-watering menu, I opted for a courtyard table. I sat solo near a fountain that offered the most picturesque backdrop for my spectacular meal. True to my intro where I described people as kind and friendly, a group of people who sat nearby struck up a conversation and asked me to join them. As it turns out, they had all just met as well (try doing that in NYC and you might just get yourself arrested!). Sitting with my new set of dinner companions, it came time to order. Our waiter was from Spain, and his accent and heritage only added to my belief that I had “beamed” myself over-seas. With his help, my dinner delights included (hold back your drool):
Tartare: beef tartare, house chips, 6 minute egg
Rusa: shrimp, potatoes, peas, carrots, aioli, forty-minute egg
Bravas: fried potatoes, brava sauce, aioli
Datiles: bacon wrapped dates, goat cheese, almond
Gratin: potato,butternut squash,mahon cheese
Hamburguesa: mini lamb burger, pickled cauliflower, truffle fries
Deliciously decadent and perfectly portioned, the only negative thing I have to report is I stuffed myself silly! At the end of our meal the owner came out to ensure everything was prepared to our liking. Fabulous Sangria, food and (new) friends – I couldn’t ask for much more (but I did when I requested the waiter to surprise me with dessert and he brought out something I can only describe as “death by chocolate crepe”. CC muerto!
I have had a long-standing love for Dr. Seuss (little known fact: I wrote all of my college entrance essays inside a drawing of “The Cat in the Hat” ), so you can imagine my delight when I came upon the Art of Dr. Seuss gallery. Located on San Carlos Street, it’s a must see – I walked right back in time and my 6 year-old self squealed with delight at the framed masterpieces. My favorite showcased was his original rendering of the ‘Cat’ (for obvious reasons).
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” – Dr. Seuss
Upon my departure, I sipped my last cup of mint tea on the Hofsas House back deck and “reflection hour” commenced .
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a true gift – a hidden charm that up until this trip remained unknown to me (and likely you). A village that reflects Dutch architectural charm, Pleasantville’s poise, yet oozes artistic expression and left-brain flow – it gets my highest rating (Fact: After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake the village was inundated with musicians, writers, painters and other artists turning to the established artist colony after the bay city was destroyed).
Now I cannot bash my Big Apple too much…she is my heart and I really do love living here, but ever comes the day that the owners of Hofsas House want to adopt me, Carmel-by-the-Sea might just be the place for me!
Carmel-by-the-Sea is an exceptionally dog-friendly city. Most hotels allow dogs to stay with guests. Almost all restaurants that offer outside dining allow dogs in those areas, with most of them also offering water. A few have special “doggie menus.” Many retailers allow dogs to accompany their owners in their stores and many have treats available. Water bowls and dog biscuits can also be found in front of many stores.
UNUSUAL LAWS (Ladies, leave the Louboutins at HOME):
Though often mistakenly thought of as an urban myth, the municipal code prohibits wearing shoes having heels more than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch unless the wearer has obtained a permit for them. While the local police do not cite those in violation of the ordinance, this seemingly peculiar law was authored by the city attorney in the 1920s to defend the city from lawsuits resulting from wearers of high-heeled shoes tripping over irregular pavement distorted by tree roots. Permits are available without charge at City Hall.
Carmel-by-the-Sea experiences a cool summer Mediterranean climate normal in coastal areas of California. The wet season is from October to May. September and October (Indian Summer) offer the best weather of the year, with an average high of 72 °F (22 °C).
* (Source: wiki)