I vaguely recalled visiting Carmel (or Carmel-by-the-Sea, if you will) as a child and had the t-shirt with a whale on it to prove it. But when driving the Pacific Coast Highway a few months back, it was time for another visit. We’d spent the last few days in Monterey and had seen much of what we wanted to. Carmel was a short drive away, via the 17-Mile Drive, and the weather cleared up briefly for our afternoon in the former Mission seaside town.
I’d read about La Bicyclette and the French-inspired cafe lived up to the hype. We were seated in a cozy house in the dining room. My travel companions had pizza while I had the best beet salad I’ve ever had. It was a welcome respite from the breezy conditions outside. Once we’d had our fill, it was time to explore. Every corner seemed to be begging to be photographed.
While most of the stores were well out of my price range, it didn’t hurt to look. My mom spent an hour in a store selling Christmas ornaments, while I found a bookstore. The Soiled Doves Bathhouse sold vintage-inspired bath products that made me want a claw foot tub immediately. Some shops sold stark white home furnishings at Scandinavian prices while others clearly catered to tourists like us. The perfect combination.
I warmed up with a lavender Earl Grey tea from Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co and wished we’d had time to eat at all of the other places people recommended like Lafayette Bakery & Cafe, Carmel Bakery, and Hog´s Breath Inn. And that I’d been able to sample wines at Smith Family Wines tasting room as wineries had been missing so far from my PCH itinerary.
Carmel is a 15-minute drive from Monterey and a two-hour drive from San Francisco. If you’d like to stay longer than an afternoon, Carmel has a number of properties. Happy Landing Inn is located in the heart of the town, along with Carmel Wayfarer Inn or The Vagabond House. And, of course, Cypress Inn is owned by film icon Doris Day.