Doesn’t everyone dream of living in Carmel-by-the-Sea? With each visit, I grow more appreciative (and wistful) for the ideal quality of life, the easygoing nature, the charming personality, and the breathtaking panoramas in this small, hyphenated village on the Monterey Peninsula.
The petite village is prime for walking, and in the early hours just after sunrise when the air is still crisp, Carmel residents smile through morning walks along the picturesque streets or down on Scenic Drive along the beach. ‘Must Love Dogs’ is the mantra, and everyone brings their dogs down to the sand for a morning run, coffee in hand. They dart across the length of the beach, they gallop into the ocean, and they sprint back to their owners sandy and soaking wet. Is there a more perfect way to start the day?
Do not be deceived by the t-shirt stores on Ocean Avenue; this is a small but affluent town, with some of the most expensive real estate in the world. The people are incredibly down to earth (high heels are forbidden,) and they manage to evade jadedness in lieu of eternal gratitude for this very special place. Homes in Carmel-by-the-Sea are small and close together, each completely different from its neighbor, each oozing with creativity and charm in both the architecture and the landscaping. My daily walks are never dull, with my head turning from one side of the street to the other, not wanting to miss a detail on each of the properties. There are no house numbers, but there are storybook names like ‘Little Sue,’ ‘Pied Piper,’ ‘Niente,’ and ‘Snug as a Bug in a Rug.’ How can you not be blissfully worry-free if you live three blocks from one of the most sublime beaches in the world, in a fairytale house named ‘Snug as a Bug in a Rug?’
If you are visiting and would like to experience fairytale living, I suggest staying in the cottage-style Lincoln Green Inn. The small property situated on a quiet residential street just two blocks from ‘The Point,’ one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in this most prestigious village, is one of the town’s best kept secrets. Guests often rent the same cottage every year, and some even stay for a month at a time. Cook your own California-fresh food in an adorable kitchen complete with oven mitts and aprons, read a book by the wood burning fireplace in your cottage’s living room, and snuggle into a sweetly adorned bed with a dvd borrowed from the inn’s collection. You can also have a cocktail on your own patio, and quietly celebrate your luck that you have discovered the charm de Carmel.
For a casual, fresh breakfast, lunch, or dinner and lovely people, head to Carmel Belle on San Carlos. It sits inside an interior courtyard, but the fresh California food makes up for the lack of natural light. I love the Market Salad and the ginger biscotti. (Dinner five times a week)
Don’t miss the Thursday Farmer’s Market right in town for incredible dried fruit, strawberries, and local greens.
For the ambience and changing menu, make a reservation at La Bicyclette, housed in one of the most beautiful Spanish-style buildings on Dolores Street.
For lunch with a view overlooking the Pacific, snag a table on the deck at Market Restaurant at the Highlands Inn. The ahi tuna salad was one of the best lunches I had in 10 days.
For cocktails with a view, drive over to the Highlands Inn in the Carmel Highlands. The restaurant and lounge sit out over the crashing waves, and with the tilted window, it is one of the most physically dramatic rooms I have ever set foot in. The sunsets are sublime, and it is particularly cozy on a bad weather day, when the waves are tall and rough and come so close to the window you think they will take you under.
For cocktails with a meadow view, walk over to Clint Eastwood’s Carmel Mission Inn, where you can indulge in some Carmel Valley sun and visit Clint’s baby lambs.
For the best sushi on the peninsula, be savvy and make a reservation at the local favorite, Akaoni. The space is small and the tables are highly sought after. There are absolutely no substitutions; the chef makes what he makes, and you will love it.