Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Expected Journey Part 3: Central Coast California

We pointed our rental car south and headed out of San Francisco passing away from the Bay area and into Silicon Valley through San Jose and Palo Alto, past Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon Universities,  the NASA Ames research center, and a plethora of high tech companies.  We kept remarking to J that "we were in the heart of where most innovation takes place".  I'm not sure he was as awestruck as we were.

Eventually, the busy Santa Clara Valley landscape changed to seascapes and rural, rolling hills.  A couple of hours later, we reached our destination of Carmel.  I might have been more impressed that Clint Eastwood used to be Mayor but after the most recent Republican National Convention and that  conversation with the empty chair... but anyway, back to Carmel.

After the hustle of San Francisco, I was utterly slayed by Carmel.  I've been lucky enough to explore many a seaside town,  in Australia, in Oregon, and along much of the Pacific Northwest U.S. and into Canada but I have never been as charmed by another seaside town as Carmel.  The small town is based on a planned European village.  Its streets are an easy grid filled with delightful cafes, wonderful restaurants devoted to local and seasonal cuisine, interesting shops, little courtyards brimming with hibiscus,  birds of paradise, and Eucalyptus(?) all designed around Californian Spanish colonial architecture.  All roads lead down to its magnificent foreshore and beach.  It was about a 15-minute stroll from top of the village to water's edge.

In one of Carmel's many charming cafes; J is well-trained in coffee culture!

Oh and did I mention that Carmel townspeople are MAD about their dogs???  Mad, as in every shop has a dog water bowl in front of its door, and most boast signage welcoming their canine friends inside.  Ok so great coffee - check!  Innovative restaurants boasting local and seasonal fare - check!  Most restaurants encourage you to bring your own wine - check!  Awesome beach - check!  Love dogs - check, check.   Hello!!!! I have stumbled into paradise!

We stayed in a sweet little Inn, steps from the beach which offered afternoon tea, sherry, and biscuits.  Late in the afternoon, the three of us curled up on stuffed sofas in the front room of the inn with our books and indulged in a little of all three.  Later, we wandered up to a wine shop, settled on a California Pinot Noir (which proved outstanding), and made our reservation at Basil, a tiny, jewel of an organic restaurant with a divine menu and equal service.  It was a memorable evening.

Mr. Whiskers - the 20-year old resident cat at our Inn
 After a restful night's sleep breathing in the California ocean air and an early breakfast,  we turned our car south onto the Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur.  Now this has been on my list of desired experiences for some time but an interesting thing happened along the way to Big Sur.  Guide books and travel websites wax lyrically about the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and its magnificent views.  The views are indeed superb, the cliffs do indeed cut away dramatically into the sea but the problem is I've seen it before and more gloriously.  In Melbourne, we take the Great Ocean Road somewhat for granted as it is on our doorstep but it has affected me more profoundly than its California cousin.   The fact that we were almost three hours on the PCH at a slow 35 miles/hour before we could head back inland to a Freeway was not a selling point.

In any case, we made our destination of Los Angeles by early evening.  But that's fodder for Part 4!


Elizabeth said...

Are you here in my city? I do hope you have a wonderful time -- and if you need any recommendations, let me know!

Jen said...

We never made it that way when we were in San Fran....your post makes me want to go there!