The Secret Garden and The Pilgrim's Way Books in Carmel

2022 California Vacation Part 3

posted in: Personal Essay, Photography, Reading, Travel | 0

Day Ten: Carmel

After another couple of days with long walks, we decided to just stay in Carmel the next day. We went back to Carmel Belle for breakfast. This time, Holly got the avocado toast, and I got the Green Eggs and Ham which was toast with prosciutto, poached eggs, and pesto.

After breakfast, we went back to the Mission Trail Nature Preserve. We walked part of it earlier in our trip when we also went to Carmel River State Beach and walked along the scenic bluff. This time, we went to find the Lester Rowntree Native Plant Garden.

The plant garden was nice but a little bit underwhelming. It is small but a pleasant place to take a short walk. There were some nice views, including of the Carmel Mission Basilica.

Carmel Mission Basilica
Carmel Mission Basilica as seen from the Lester Rowntree Native Plant Garden
Mission Trail Nature Preserve
Mission Trail Nature Preserve

Lunch was at Toro, a sushi restaurant, which is new to Carmel since our last visit. That location has been a different restaurant in each of our 3 visits. It was, again, a lovely, sunny day, and we sat outside.

We shared the salmon carpaccio, a tempura platter, and the Carmel seared roll (tempura shrimp, avocado, topped with spicy tuna mix, unagi sauce, and Spicy mayo) and Maine Squeeze roll (tempura lobster, spicy tuna, topped with hamachi, snow crab, avocado, toasted Macadamia nuts, unagi sauce, and micro salad). We also each enjoyed a Hitachino Nest Saison. We finished our meal by sharing a sake tasting flight. I am quite inexperienced with sake so it was helpful being able to taste the different, unique styles.

Carmel Seared Roll and Maine Squeeze Roll at Toro
Carmel Seared Roll and Maine Squeeze Roll at Toro
Sake Tasting at Toro
Sake Tasting at Toro

I read a couple of Kindle books during our vacation. I generally prefer print books, but the Kindle is certainly convenient for traveling. By that point in our trip, I had finished Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility and Weike Wang’s fabulous Joan Is Okay

I had other Kindle books to choose from and, in fact, had gotten a couple others specifically for this trip.

However, I was feeling the need to read a print book so, after lunch, we went to Pilgrim’s Way Books. I ended up buying John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. I read it decades ago and recalled liking it. It had actually been on my mind for a while to re-read. Much of the novel takes place in Salinas, which is just a little over 20 miles away from Carmel so I was intrigued by reading something local to our vacation spot.

We went back to our room for a little while, and I got started on my new book. But it was soon time for our afternoon wine. We wanted to go to De Tierra, but it was crowded so we headed back to Wrath Wine before heading back to Albatross Ridge where we had made a reservation. Since we had already had tastings from both places, we opted to revisit some favorites by the glass.

We then went back to our room for another round of reading and relaxing.

One place we had not been to that was on our to try list was Seventh & Dolores. Dinner there is pretty pricey which is why we have hesitated to go there in the past. But since we had some time before dinner, we decided to go there to see if we could sit at the bar and have a pre-dinner cocktail.

Luckily, it wasn’t crowded, and we were able to find seats at the bar. As much as we enjoy the wine scene in Carmel, we hadn’t found many opportunities for cocktails. Mainly, it’s only been at Cultura where we’ve had any.

We were very glad we stopped at Seventh & Dolores as they have an excellent cocktail program. We started off ordering from their menu. Holly got the California Negroni (Gray Whale Gin, Cynar, Carpano Antica), and I got the Carmel Summer Sand (Glenmorange X, Cherry Heering, Aperol, and fresh squeeze lemon and orange). We then went off menu. Holly got a Botanist Martini. I was intrigued by a bottle of Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto Liqueur that I saw on their shelf. I had never heard of it before. Italicus, as the name suggests, is flavored with bergamot among other herbs. They made me a French 75 variation that included it. The drink was quite tasty although I couldn’t exactly identify the Italicus.

Seventh and Dolores
Seventh and Dolores

For dinner, we went back to Basil Seasonal Dining and had another excellent meal. We shared garlic bread and an order of sautéed Monterey Bay calamari which came with wild shrimp and Spanish octopus. For entrees, Holly ordered the tagliatelle, and I had the traditional lasagna.

Traditional Lasagna at Basil
Traditional Lasagna at Basil

Day Eleven: Carmel

Our stay in Carmel was winding down. We reached our last full day there and just wanted a relaxing day in town.

We went back to Village Corner. This time, Holly had the banana pecan pancakes, and I had the Mediterranean omelet with spinach, feta, tomatoes, onions, and Kalamata olives.

Mediterranean Omelet at Village Corner
Mediterranean Omelet at Village Corner

After breakfast, we hung out in our room until lunch, reading and updating our journals. Speaking for myself, I was starting to feel a bit emotional and sad that our wonderful trip was coming to an end.

We made what turned out to be an excellent choice for lunch: Yafa. We had been there twice before for dinner. The first time, we had a great experience. The second time, we enjoyed a delicious meal, but they were short-handed so the service was exceedingly slow. Although we realized that was most likely a one-time situation, we were hesitant to go back for dinner. We were pleased we tried it again for lunch. 

We shared a few things: an order of falafel, Ouzo shrimp, and a mezze platter which had an artichoke, olives, hummus, cucumber, tomatoes, a feta spread, and pita. After our meal, we only ordered Turkish coffee, but they also brought us bite-sized baklava which was appreciated.

Everything was delicious and the service was prompt and friendly.

Mezza at Yafa
Mezza at Yafa

We had an afternoon reservation back at Caraccioli. As with Wrath and Albatross Ridge, we skipped the tasting since we already had it earlier in the trip so we each opted for a glass of bubbly instead.

Then it was back to our room for more relaxing. Coincidentally, the Philadelphia Phillies had been playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles over the last few days. When we got back to our room, I saw they were playing a day game so I sat watching it on my iPad until it was time for dinner.

As I mentioned before, we had wanted to go to La Bicyclette earlier in our stay, but they didn’t have any convenient availability so we made a reservation there for our last night in Carmel. We had been there for the first time on our last trip and were eager to go back.

One of the standout selections from our first visit was their Champignons Provencale so we made sure to share an order of those. We also got their Andrew Molera pizza, which has artichoke, garlic confit, pistou, Manchego, pumpkin seeds, pea tendrils, and vincotto. We then shared an order of profiteroles for dessert along with espressos.

Andrew Molera Pizza at La Bicyclette
Andrew Molera Pizza at La Bicyclette

Day Twelve: Leaving Carmel

We had a rather nice last partial day in Carmel. Our flight out of Monterey wasn’t until 4:30. Since the airport is only about 10 minutes away, we had a reasonable amount of time to say goodbye to the place that we’ve enjoyed tremendously on 3 occasions.

I was a bit moody since I wasn’t ready to leave even after 8 days, but being able to soak it in a little more was therapeutic. I think if we needed to rush to the airport first thing in the morning, I might have remained moody.

We went back to Katy’s Place for breakfast. I had the biscuits and gravy with poached eggs and bacon, which was good but not as good as the benedict I had on our first visit. Holly got the Jim Nantz “Augusta Green” egg white omelet which had Monterey Jack cheese, sautéed tomatoes, avocado, green chiles, spinach, and parsley.

We went back to the room to pack and then check-out. We put our luggage into the rental car and took another walk to the beach. It was a little cool and foggy but still lovely. 

We discovered a trail that ran along the nearby bluff that supposedly goes about 6 miles to Asilomar Beach. We didn’t have much time so we only walked a little part of it, but it’s on our list of places to explore next time.

Carmel Beach
Carmel Beach
Carmel Beach
Carmel Beach

For lunch, we returned to Alvarado Street Brewery and Bistro. This time, we both had the BBQ mushroom sandwich that I had enjoyed so much on our first visit. And, of course, we had some of their fantastic beer.

We still had some time after lunch before we needed to get to the airport so we walked around Carmel taking photos, including some of the places we had been to and liked.

The Secret Garden and The Pilgrim's Way Books in Carmel
The Secret Garden and The Pilgrim’s Way Books in Carmel
Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea

The first 2 times we visited Carmel, we flew into San Jose and drove about 1½  hours to Carmel. Needing to only drive 10 minutes to the Monterey airport was a treat, and I can imagine ever taking that longer ride again.

Not only is the Monterey airport close, but it is delightfully small. Checking in and getting through security was a breeze.

Because we wanted to fly in and out of Monterey, we weren’t able to find a convenient connection to get us back to Philadelphia. So we reversed our plans that got us to Carmel. We flew to Phoenix, stayed for a night, and then got a direct flight home. The tradeoffs for spending a night in Phoenix were that we got to have that lovely partial day in Carmel, and we didn’t have to worry about making a connecting flight.

The flight to Phoenix was about 2 hours, and the hotel we stayed at, the Phoenix Hilton Airport, offers a free shuttle. We got to the hotel a little after 7:00 and were ready for dinner. The only places near our hotel were other hotels so we opted to just have dinner at our hotel, which was fine because we didn’t want to wander around in the 103 degree heat.

We each had an order of reasonably tasty chicken tacos with sides of esquites. Plus a couple of really good local beers from Uncle Bear’s Brewery.

Chicken Tacos and Esquites at Phoenix Airport Hilton
Chicken Tacos and Esquites at Phoenix Airport Hilton

Day Thirteen: Heading Home

The next day was mainly uneventful since we spent a good portion of it on a plane.

The choices for breakfast at the hotel weren’t particularly appealing. Our flight wasn’t until 12:30 so we had some time for an alternative. We settled on getting delivery from The Daily Jam. Holly got an avocado toast and I got oatmeal with bananas and some toast. Since it was delivery, breakfast wasn’t particularly photogenic so we didn’t take any pictures.

Getting the shuttle back to the airport was easy and convenient. Getting through security went smoothly and the flight home was uneventful. We were lucky all our flights went so well. 

We arrived in Philadelphia around 8:00 and took a cab home. We started some laundry and made a simple pasta dinner. As much as we enjoyed eating out while away, we did miss cooking so it was nice to get back to it even if it wasn’t particularly complicated.

Late Night Home Cooking
Late Night Home Cooking

We also took off the next day knowing that we wouldn’t be ready to head back to work. We needed to do more laundry and buy groceries. We did have time for a nice lunch at The Sidecar Bar and Grille. Luckily, the weather was pleasant so we were able to sit outside. It would have been depressing to leave the lovely California weather and find ourselves dealing with uncomfortable east coast heat and humidity.

Not surprisingly, our vacation felt like it went by too quickly despite being 2 weeks long. I’m glad we came back shortly before the Memorial Day holiday and had a long weekend to look forward to.

It was one of the most enjoyable vacations we’ve taken so we’re also already talking about a return trip next year!


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