Friday, June 5, 2009

Carmel-by-the-Sea

A couple of weeks ago Susan & I decided to head on down to Carmel, have a picnic, walk on the beach and maybe hit an antique shop or two. If you have been to Carmel before, you know the picnic and beach part is always somewhat iffy! That day the sun was shining and the temperatures warm in the Santa Clara Valley, and as we drove down through the coastal areas north of Carmel, the same sun and warmth were with us. Then as we approached Carmel we saw it! A huge blanket of fog covered the peninsula! Temperatures dropped 15 degrees and the sun was nowhere to be seen. Darn!

But we persevered and headed down to Carmel River State Beach. The Carmel side of it is one of our favorite spots to sit on the sand and watch the waves, birds and just veg. No chance! The wind was blowing hard and the sand was whipping around. Plan B was put into effect and we drove on down to Point Lobos. The sun wasn’t brighter and the air was still crisp, so we had a delightful but quick picnic in the shelter of Whaler’s Cove.
Since we were already in the Nature Reserve, we wandered (in the warm confines of our car – hiking is better but not this time) on down to another favorite spot between Hidden Beach and China Cove. In a short walk along the rocky cliffs, we saw the usual array of water birds and flowering shrubs. No sea otters on this day, but there were a couple of harbor seals enjoying the waters in the cove below us.
Another great beach in Carmel is Carmel Beach at the foot of Ocean Avenue and along Scenic Road. This is a great spot for watching sunsets. The town has provided numerous benches along the Scenic Road path to watch the waves, people watch and enjoy the view.
Looking north you see the breathtaking panorama of Pebble Beach. The golf course’s 8th, 9th and 10th holes stretch along the shore with the Del Monte Forest behind them.
To the south, the beach ends at the sensational little beach house designed and built by the architectural legend, Frank Lloyd Wright. (One interesting tidbit: This house was featured in the movie A Summer’s Place. It was used for all of the outside shots.)

If you are not into the picnic thing, we have found a couple of very nice lunch spots in Carmel. Now, Carmel has a boatload of restaurants, most of which are quite good, so these are just our two favs.

The Terrace Grill at the La Playa Hotel is wonderful. Al Fresco dining is on the heated open air terrace overlooking the garden's colorful, year-round garden. There is an indoor lounge as well. We enjoy the simple, elegant fare. It's very quiet, rarely crowded and always pleasant. It's a couple of blocks off Ocean Avenue, on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Camino Real.

In the middle of the village is Grasing's Coastal Cuisine. Fresh, local cuisine in a pleasant, light and quiet dining room. Grasing's is on 6th Avenue, between Mission and San Carlos Streets.

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