My husband and I recently visited Carmel to celebrate our 23rd Anniversary and it was magical. The meaning of magical is “beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life”. This describes Carmel perfectly. Synonyms for the word magical include extraordinary, remarkable incredible, amazing – I think you get the idea. It was a perfect anniversary trip but I guess that shouldn’t be a big surprise though since Carmel has been rated as #3 “Best City for Romance in the World” by Travel Leisure Magazine! Our trip was memorable from start to finish!
Carmel-by-the-Sea, called Carmel for short is a small town in Northern California about 150 miles south of San Francisco. This isn’t your typical California beach town with miles of beach and lots of palm trees though. Carmel does have a beautiful white sand beach and it is next to the ocean but instead of palm trees it has tall pine trees and wind sculptured cypress trees. Add the adorable storybook like European style cottages that are scattered throughout the town and you feel like you just walked into a fairy tale surrounded by a beautiful forest. The town was founded in 1902 and was originally inhabited by a large population of artists, writers, and poets and definitely has a European feel to it.
Carmel is small (only one square mile) but it is loaded with charm and interest. The town is also known for being one of the most dog friendly towns in the world thanks in part to the actress and dog activist, Doris Day. Over 20 years ago she and a partner opened the most famous dog friendly hotel of all, Cypress Inn. The Inn not only welcomes dogs but also has a “dog parade” each night in the hotel lobby! Many other hotels, restaurants, and stores welcome them as well. There are adorable dogs everywhere you go!
We arrived in Carmel and checked into the absolutely charming Hofsas House. Hofsas has so much Bavarian inspired character that you will feel like you just landed in Germany! This family owned hotel embodies European Hospitality and is celebrating 70 years of providing guests with comfortable accommodations and personal service. There is so much about this warm and welcoming hotel that will delight you in many ways.
Hofsas is one of the larger hotels in town and includes 38 uniquely furnished rooms. Our room was cozy and roomy with a small fireplace and wet bar. It also came with a great view that overlooked the beautiful pine trees and a view of the ocean in the distance (ask for the 5th floor). All the rooms at Hofsas have Dutch doors which allow you to open the top door to let in the cool and crystal clean ocean air. Being from Texas where it’s frequently hot with the air conditioning going all day long, this was like being in Heaven.
We also had access to a patio area on the top floor where we enjoyed quiet and beautiful sunsets with our wine and cheese pairing (and a couple of extra friendly seagulls).
The Hafsas House provides a delicious continental breakfast each morning with fresh baked pastries from a local bakery and French roast coffee plus fruit and juice. It is also one of the only hotels in Carmel that has a heated swimming pool which is a great bonus if you like to start or end your day with a swim! Other amenities include European Style Dry Saunas, pet friendly rooms, wine pairings, Carmel Wine Walk Passports, and much more. They have a meeting room available that includes a full kitchen and fireplace for gatherings such as family reunions, business retreats/meetings and wedding receptions.
The Hofsas staff was friendly and helpful and the owner, Carrie Theis can answer any of your questions about the interesting history of her family operated hotel (she’s the original owner’s granddaughter) and Carmel itself. She gave us lots of suggestions on dining and activities. The hotel is on the west side of San Carlos between 3rd and 4th streets. For information about Hofsas House go to: Hofsas House or call # 800-221-2548
The downtown area is just a short walk from the Hofsas House and is loaded with it’s own charm. The weekend was beautiful (60ish degree weather) and we enjoyed strolling through many of the cute and unique shops. Carmel has tons of cozy and delicious restaurants, amazing art galleries (over 80 of them), and courtyards that you just want to hang out in for a while and soak in the scenery. Carmel Valley is home to several wineries and in recent years Carmel has added at least 14 wine tasting rooms to downtown Carmel! You can buy a Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Passport and easily walk (at least at first – ha) to all the tasting rooms. We enjoyed tasting all the different wines, learning about the wineries, and meeting lots of new people!
After our day of shopping and wine tasting we walked down Ocean Avenue to the beautiful Carmel Beach area. The beautiful white sand beach hugs the width of village of Carmel and overlooks the Pacific Ocean with a beautiful view of Pebble Beach Golf Club in the distance. The area also provides scenic paths along the beach for walkers, joggers and dog walkers. We enjoyed hanging out there for quite a while just gazing at the ocean, the surrounding scenery, and marveling at how lucky we were to be there!
Our first night in Carmel we dined at a local restaurant called The Forge in the Forest that’s been voted “Best Outdoor Dining” in Monterey County for almost 20 years. The Forge has tons of history which includes being a well-known blacksmith’s forge that produced much of the hand-wrought hardware that still adorns a lot of buildings in Carmel and served as a meeting place for many famous artists and writers such as Henry Miller and John Steinbeck. The restaurant’s interior is decorated with antique copper walls and the patio is literally a forest of beautiful gardens surrounded by a canopy of pine trees and vines. The patio has outdoor fireplaces and seating which lends itself to a perfect patio setting and therefore a perfect experience for outdoor dining. The food and service was wonderful. The Forge is also known for its dog friendly patio called Dog Pound Patio where pooches can order specialty items from their own menu while you enjoy the patio.
The next day we got up and grabbed a picnic lunch from 5th Avenue Deli. The deli is also just a short walk away from our hotel and has a huge delicious variety of sandwiches, salads and desserts. We chose Point Lobos Reserve just a few miles outside Carmel to do some light hiking and check out the ocean scenery. Point Lobos is at the Northern end of Big Sur and the scenery is breathtaking! Jagged and rocky cliffs, beautiful ocean scenes, deep forests, wildflowers, and wildlife galore! Points of interest in this oasis of beauty includes Whaler’s Cove (where we ate our picnic lunch and watched scuba divers enjoy the cove) and the amazingly beautiful and slightly hidden China Cove. If you go to Carmel don’t miss the opportunity to see the incredible natural beauty surrounding it! There are endless places for scenic runs, hikes and walks to be experienced and all of them are breathtaking! For more information go to: Scenic Runs Hikes & Walks
Another must see is historic Mission Ranch Resort. The Ranch was one of the first dairies in California in the 1880’s and was purchased and preserved by former Carmel Mayor, Clint Eastwood. He rescued this landmark resort from condo developers, and renovated the entire property and turned it into a resort. The Inn now consists of unique hotel rooms located within ten buildings on the property and includes a restaurant. This beautiful patch of land has a wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean, Point Lobos, and a picturesque scene of sheep grazing in the pasture with the Pacific Ocean in the background. Does it get better than that? Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant
The second night of our European influenced trip continued with a trip to Switzerland as we dined at Lugano’s Swiss Bistro located in The Barnyard in Carmel. It was a completely delightful experience! The large menu includes Swiss traditional cuisine such as fondues, Schnitzels, seafood, salads, sausages, and pastas. From the creamy cheese fondue through the slightly breaded schnitzels and ending with chocolate fondue, I’m just not sure I’ve ever eaten so much and so well.
Everything was delicious, authentic, and memorable. Owner Nargis Lengacher and her late husband Andre created this one of a kind restaurant with a love for all things Swiss and the food and interior reflects that. The red and white checkered tablecloths and a wide array of charming collections of cuckoo clocks and wooden figures make it a fun, warm, and inviting place to be. The restaurant also includes live music on some nights and has a dog friendly patio. Andre Lengacher was the originator and promoter of Oktoberfest Monterey Bay for the last 7 years and was known to many locals as Mr. Oktoberfest. For more information about this Carmel treasure go to: Lugano Swiss Bistro Carmel
My husband and I got up the next day and said a sad farewell to Carmel and headed off to the Scenic 17-Mile Drive in Picturesque Pebble Beach with a short stop at one of the most beautiful golf courses on the planet Pebble Beach Golf Course.
After checking out the pro shop and the club house, admiring the incredible view, and accidentally meeting the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Course owner Peter Ueberroth (what a thrill and what a nice man) we continued our scenic drive. It did not disappoint. With every twist and turn of the road another breathtaking scene is revealed. Dramatic coastal cliffs, crystal blue water, white sandy beaches all surrounded by huge green forests. In the middle of this incredible drive is one of my favorite spots on earth, the famous iconic Lone Cypress setting on it’s pedestal over the water. Magical.
Our trip was perfect in every way and we can’t wait to go back! It’s hard to explain the magic that you feel when you’re in Carmel but you will understand when you go and experience it for yourself.
Fun Facts about Carmel:
Former Mayor of Carmel
It has been over 20 years since Clint Eastwood, also known to his fans as “Dirty Harry,” was mayor of the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, but visitors still ask “Is Clint Eastwood still the mayor?” referring to his one term that ran from 1986 to 1988. His campaign slogan was “Bringing the Community Together,” and he stressed his desire to build bridges between the business community and the residential community. His strategy worked and though he enjoyed his experience, he did not to run for a second term.
Permit Required to Wear High Heels
Though often mistakenly thought of as an urban myth, the municipal code of Carmel bans wearing shoes having heels more than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch unless the wearer has obtained a permit for them. While the local police do not cite those in violation of the ordinance, this seemingly peculiar law was authored by the city attorney in the 1920’s to defend the city from lawsuits resulting from wearers of high-heeled shoes tripping over irregular pavement distorted by tree roots. Permits are available without charge at City Hall.
No Chain Restaurants
With no fast food restaurants in the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the city’s charming eateries and tasting rooms offer a full range of cuisine and wine tasting all within walking distance from the over 40 hotels and inns. From Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants to casual eateries and pubs, great dining is abundant, but don’t plan for your typical Starbucks venti frappuccino instead plan a stop at one of the many family owned coffee shops for specialty drinks and your morning cup of joe.
Ice Cream Ordinance
An unusual law of prohibiting selling and eating ice cream on public streets in Carmel-by-the-Sea was on the books and the repeal of the law happened to be one of the pro-business focus points of Clint Eastwood’s campaign for mayor in 1986. He and the new council elected along with him to overturn the ordinance and other similar laws that they considered to be too restrictive to businesses and visitors.
No Street Addresses
Unwilling to see their village become “citified,” Carmel’s founding fathers rejected the practice house- to-house mail delivery in favor of a central post office. To this day, there are still no addresses, parking meters or street lights, and no sidewalks outside of Carmel’s downtown commercial area. Those seeking directions receive hints such as “fifth house on the east side of Torres Street, green trim, driftwood fence” or by the legendary names adorning most houses, such as “Hansel” or “Sea Urchin.” It is, by the way, bad luck to change the name on a Carmel cottage.
Source: Carmel Fun Facts