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GOIN’ COASTAL: CARMEL, PEBBLE BEACH, PACIFIC GROVE!

Travel

Two Sets of Ovaries Hit The Road Thelma and Louise Style…Well…In Spirit…

I spent a great deal of my formative years in Carmel, CA. My aunt and uncle purchased an historical house a few blocks from the beach in 1972. At the time, it was a bargain. They were educators in the Monterey Bay area, but were smart with their money. Thus, they were able to afford to raise their kids in this idyllic town.

Dubbed San Carlos Borromeo De Carmelo by Father Junipero Serra (the man, the missionary, and his missions), this religious community eventually grew into an artist’s mecca. Locals call it “Carmel”, and tourists refer to it as “Carmel-By-The-Sea”. Whatever you call it–it is a slice of heaven. And there is so much to explore in and around this charming town, you better plan on at least two days to make it worthwhile.

Back in my childhood days, Carmel was a community of starving artists living out the green life on carob chips, tofu, and fruit smoothies. They were years ahead of the kale crowd. They sculpted wind chimes out of sea glass and deadwood. They wove vests out of Alpaca yarn and fastened them with cypress buttons. It was a natural life, and it was amazing. Besides, David Soul (of Starsky and Hutch fame), Leon Panetta (our Secretary of Defense), and the one-and-only Clint Eastwood (no explanation needed) chose to live there. So, of course, it’s going to be amazing! In fact, Eastwood’s directorial debut was shot entirely in Carmel: Play Misty For Me! If you want to see the quintessential 70s Carmel, watch it! Plus, you get to see hunky Clint in his tighty whities; Donna Mills bares her brazen shag; and the movie is just plain, schlocky goodness! It’s a throwback creepfest!

My sister and I had several favorite pastimes when visiting our cousins in Carmel. We liked to meander down to The Plaza Bead Store and gawk at the coral and turquoise necklaces; peruse the tooled-leather goods at Laubs Country Store; try on the latest Famolares at Llyod’s Shoes; and forage through Cottage Sweets (owned by my cousin’s best friend) to gorge on Swedish fish and gummy bears. Life was good in Carmel.

This past week, I had the opportunity to visit Carmel, Pebble Beach, and Pacific Grove with my good friend, Tamara. We had two days and one night to explore the area. She had a toddler to get back to, and me–my mid-life crisis to tender, so time was limited! Although much has physically changed since the 1970s, life is still good in Carmel!

Parking is rather restricted in town, so the earlier you arrive–the better. Even though my aunt has a private parking lot, we didn’t need to call in a favor this time–we found parking a few blocks away from Ocean Avenue (the center of town)! The weather was absolutely beautiful, so a nice little walk to downtown was just what we needed.

There are so many nooks and crannies of shops and galleries, that it’s probably best to look online for your eating and shopping needs. It’s just not possible to see everything from the main roads. A lot of places are tucked away in tiny corners. It’s as if you are treasure hunting, so be prepared to explore. Since I am a vintage clothing aficionado, that is where my loyalty lies. I knew exactly where I wanted to go: Foxy Couture.

Foxy Couture has two locations: one for their vintage items, and one for their more modern couture pieces (like Chanel). They sell on Etsy and Ebay, but literally browsing in their store is like being a kid in a candy store (my Cottage Sweets is now my Foxy Couture). One needs to touch and feel everything in this store. It is pure luxury at it’s finest. Everything is well-preserved and curated. I ended up purchasing a cute little psychedelic outfit for $45 dollars (pictured in gallery as separates). I passed on a strapless 50s dress (pictured in gallery), but I’m now regretting it.

There are plenty of amazing restaurants in Carmel. You can’t lose with any choice you make, but be warned–it’s extremely crowded by noon for the lunch crowd and by 6:30 pm for the dinner crowd. Reservations are highly recommended. Tamara and I chose to roll with the flow. We couldn’t bring ourselves to go into Grasings (hands down, the place to eat) because it’s where John fell back and hit his head last summer (he passed away several days later). Neither one of us really had any closure (a looooooooong sordid family story). We slowly walked by and peered in the window as we clutched each other tightly and crossed the street in silence. I caught a glimpse of the fire truck parked across the street. Heroes were literally a stones throw away!

We would get lunch in Pebble Beach a little later. Whew!

But please, do go to Grasings! It really has the best atmosphere and food! Have a toast for John if you do! I will make in in one of these days when I’m ready.

We walked down to Carmel Beach to soak up a few California rays. Cypress trees make the scenery charming and the sand is white and pristine–unlike any beach along the California coast. If a picnic lunch on the beach is what you prefer, there is a great little cheese and wine shop in Carmel Plaza that has everything! It’s literally called: The Cheese Shop. You can’t miss it.

By the time the clock struck 2:00, we were famished. We headed out 17 Mile Drive toward Pebble Beach Lodge. A charming oasis to behold. We had lunch at the Tap House where sun-crisped golfers tossed back a few martinis and reveled in their wife-less day. Tamara and I ordered a simple sandwich and salad. We saved room for the famous drinks and scenery outside. We moved downstairs to The Bench. I ordered the favorite called, “The Benchwarmer” and Tamara ordered an asian mojito hailed, “Thai One On”. We freshened ourselves another few drinks and watched people come and go.

Tamara and I cruised the rest of 17 mile drive toward our ending destination: Pacific Grove–named the most romantic town in America. We just needed time away from the daily grind, so romance was on hold for these two bitches. We checked in to our cottage: The Sea Breeze Inn. There was some difficulty with our room, but we managed to upgrade without incurring an extra fees (they accidentally gave our room away). We ditched our luggage and made our way downtown in PG (as the locals call it) to look at Fat Willys (antiques) and find a restaurant for dinner. We settled in to Jennini Kitchen and Wine Bar. If you order the paella, make sure that you have plenty of patience. It takes awhile, but it’s well worth it.

The next morning, Tamara and I had afternoon tea at the White Hart House in Pacific Grove. We didn’t have reservations, so we couldn’t believe our luck when we swooped in on the last table available. What started off as a doctor’s private house and practice for pediatrics back in the late 1800s, ended up becoming a suitable place to break bread and sip tea while watching the fog roll in from Lover’s Point. Bring your appetite, because there are plenty of unique treats. The clotted cream and lemon curd is remarkable. Everything is hand-crafted onsite by the delightful and exuberant hosts.

Cheers!