Day Four: Flight to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea
Our flight from Phoenix to Monterey was our only flight that left on the early side. And by “early,” I mean 10:00 am. We were lucky that we were able to arrange our flights in such a way that we didn’t have to take any that were at an unpleasant time.
Although we didn’t need to rush out first thing, we didn’t have many options for breakfast, especially on a Sunday. We just had the perfunctory free breakfast at our hotel before heading out to the airport. Again, we took the light rail which was easy and convenient. Since we left before 8:00, it was not too hot out.
The flight was only about 2 hours so it was just a little after noon by the time we landed, got our luggage, and found our rental car. Our ultimate destination was Carmel-by-the-Sea but our check-in at Svendsgaard Inn wasn’t until 4:00 so we decided to spend some time in Monterey.
Since we didn’t have much for breakfast, we were ready for lunch. We were a little concerned that finding a place to eat might have been difficult since it was Mother’s Day. We drove to downtown Monterey and headed to a place we were familiar with from previous trips, The Wild Plum Café & Bakery.
Our concerns about it being crowded were unfounded. We were able to park right across the street and get a table right away. Perhaps there was more of an early brunch rush, but by 1:00, we were able to have a relaxing and tasty lunch.
I had a delicious BLT, and Holly had, in her words, a “life changing” vegan burrito.
After lunch, we walked around Monterey for a little while, revisiting some areas we were familiar with, such as Fisherman’s Wharf, and finding some new ones. I continued using my Nikon Z fc with my NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 lens.
Even after lunch and our walk, it was still a little early to check-in so we took a drive along the coast at nearby Pacific Grove. Neither of us had spent much time there, and we had looked up some places for potential walks. We wanted to check the area out to see if it would be worth heading back. The scenery was absolutely beautiful so we knew we had to get back and did so in a couple days.
We then headed to Carmel to check in at Svendsgaard, our home away from home for the next week. We had stayed there on our previous 2 visits and felt quite comfortable there. It’s a few blocks from Ocean Avenue which is the main street so it’s a little quieter but still close enough to anywhere we wanted to go. Downtown Carmel is rather small so everything is in walking distance
For our previous 2 stays at Svendsgaard, we had the same corner room which we loved. Unfortunately, it was not available this trip. Fortunately, the room right below it, which has the same layout, was available. I didn’t know this when I booked the room so it was a wonderful surprise when we arrived and found out we had basically the same room.
Being in the corner means more windows with the ocean off in the distance. On a clear day, we can see it.
We spent some time relaxing and getting settled. I really like being able to unpack so getting to do so was a relief after having to live out of my suitcase for our short stay in Phoenix. It wasn’t worth unpacking for just a couple of days, but we were facing a bit more than a full week in Carmel.
After some time in our room, we walked a couple blocks to Cultura Comida y Bebida for our first dinner of the California part of our vacation. We had been there each of our past 2 trips. Last time, we went there on the night we arrived so we decided to make it a little tradition by going there on our first night this trip as well.
We shared appetizers of calabacitas and grilled jalapeño, and we each had the smoked mushroom mole entree. We finished with mugs of Coco Caliente, which was a tasty drink of Oaxacan hot chocolate, Mal Bien Mezcal Espadín, Ancho Reyes, and orange brandy.
Day Five: Carmel
We decided to stay close to Carmel on our first full day there, although we ended up walking a lot more than we thought we would.
We started the day with breakfast at Carmel Belle, a place we discovered on our last visit. It was a good choice for our first morning since they have some healthier options we knew there would be more decadent breakfasts in our future. I had oatmeal with cinnamon apples and some toast and jam. Holly had polenta with roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and avocado.
The day before, while I was checking us in at Svendsgaard Inn, Holly looked at some of the promotional brochures they had. We were glad she did because she found one about local nature walks that turned out to be quite helpful in choosing places to go. We discovered places we weren’t aware of despite some of them being close to downtown Carmel.
One of those places was Mission Trail Nature Preserve. At that point, I switched to my NIKKOR Z DX 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 lens for my Nikon Z fc and used that lens for the rest of the trip.
Judging by my photos, I was as interested in the houses that sat above the Preserve as I was the Preserve itself.
One of the many things we love about this area is that you can turn one way and be in the woods and turn another and be on a beach.
The brochure suggested a path that went through Mission Trail Nature Preserve then followed a short stretch of streets to get to Carmel River State Beach. At the times of our prior trips, we hadn’t been aware of the Carmel River let alone known that it can reach the ocean at certain times of the year. It wasn’t quite reaching the ocean when we were there, but it was still scenic.
We were then able to walk back to downtown Carmel via the Scenic Bluff Path.
One interesting feature of this path is the Clinton Walker House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
As I mentioned, this walk was a lot longer than we assumed, and we were quite ready for lunch by the time we got back to downtown Carmel.
We tried a place we hadn’t been before, Pangaea Grill on Ocean Avenue. I had the fish and chips, and Holly had the Deluxe Vegetarian Sandwich. We also had a glass of wine each.
The food was great, but we didn’t quite like the vibe. Ocean Avenue is the main street of downtown Carmel so it’s more touristy than most of the rest of the town. Yes, it’s all mostly a tourist destination, but Ocean Avenue tends to be more crowded with a lot of souvenir shops and overpriced restaurants that aren’t quite as good, in our limited experience, as some of the other places.
After lunch, we went to our 1st of 2 wine tastings for the day. We started at the Albatross Ridge Tasting Room which we knew from our previous trips. The server there recommended a few other places, one of which, Lepe Cellars, we tried next. Holly and I both really enjoy wines from this area, especially Pinot Noir, so it’s quite a treat to try similar styles from different wineries.
For dinner, we had hoped to return to La Bicyclette, a place we loved on our last visit.
After our wine tastings, we stopped by to see if we needed dinner reservations. Although Carmel, in general, didn’t seem particularly busy, La Bicyclette didn’t have any openings until the following Sunday. They did have some 8:30 seatings but that’s too late for us. We made a reservation for 5:00 on Sunday but had to find a place for that night.
Not having yet learned our lesson about Ocean Avenue, we ended up at Porta Bella and overpaid for a just OK meal. We shared the grilled octopus appetizer and each had the Linguine AI Frutti DI Mare entree. It came in a cream sauce which wasn’t listed on the menu so it was a heavier meal than we were expecting.
Usually, we didn’t do much after dinner other than relax in our room. We were typically worn out from our busy day. My hometown baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, happened to be on a West Coast trip so I got to watch them play the Seattle Mariners and then the Los Angeles Dodgers later in the week on my iPad.
Day Six: Monterey and Pacific Grove
We went farther afield the next day, heading to Monterey for breakfast at First Awakenings, another discovery from our last visit. In addition to excellent food, they have a really nice patio. Sitting out there with our coffee and breakfast was exceptionally comfortable and relaxing. I had their chile verde burrito stuffed with, among other things, carnitas. Holly had their vegan skillet.
We then returned to Pacific Grove which we had driven through on the day we arrived. I continued using my Nikon Z fc with the 18-140mm lens.
When lunchtime came around, we tried a new-to-us place that turned out to be quite the find. We went to FishWife, which is attached to a small, unassuming motel. The food and service were both excellent. As the name suggests, they feature a variety of seafood dishes. I had the Combo Wrap which was sautéed scallops, shrimp and snow crab in a habanero cream sauce with red crushed peppers and salsa fresca, served with mushroom rice, beans and wrapped in a flour tortilla. Holly had the calamari steak which was lightly floured, egg-battered, and sautéed with shallots, garlic, white wine, lemon juice, tomatoes and parsley.
After lunch, we tried going to the Point Pinos Lighthouse, but it was closed on that day. I was able to get a photo from the parking lot but missed out on getting any closer shots.
We then returned to the coast for a walk along Asilomar State Beach. As with many beaches in the area, it was quite rocky and the waves were turbulent.
After our adventures in Pacific Grove, we drove back to Carmel and went to a wine tasting at Caraccioli Cellars, another favorite from our previous visits. Favorite enough that we’re club members, and they are, thankfully, a winery that ships to Pennsylvania.
We ended our day at Basil Seasonal Dining. We had been there on our last visit and knew we needed to get back.
We shared the roasted Spanish octopus. I had the black seafood linguini with Calabrian chili for my entree, and Holly had the vegan seasonal roasted vegetable plate. We don’t often go for dessert, but we couldn’t resist getting the Tartufo and the Warm Calgiant Berry Farms cobbler and Gizdich Ranch olallieberry.
After our less than stellar dinner the night before, our delightful dinner at Basil was rather appreciated.
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