Toby is the mystery Terrier mix puppy we rescued from Best Friends Animal Shelter a few months back. You may be wondering why I’m starting my story about Carmel-by-the-Sea with an introduction to our dog. There are two main reasons:
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2. He is the reason we took this press trip in the first place.
A Little Background
Most press trips involve a journalist traveling solo. Every once in a while you may be able to pay to bring your spouse along, or maybe a writer and photographer will both be accommodated, but by and large travel writers travel solo and take their own photos or use images provided by the destination. The resulting stories may seem lavish and glamorous, but the lifestyle of a travel writer can be lonely, demanding and physically exhausting. So when we were offered the opportunity to bring the whole family, including the DOG, well, there was no question. We were packing the gear, the family, the crew (fortunately, one of the best cameramen on the planet happens to be my husband) and the DOG and taking a road trip up the California coast.
Best laid plans
Scheduled to leave Friday at noon, we ended up leaving after school around 3:30, so we started out with a mad dash up the state on the 5. We were booked to catch the first boat to Alcatraz on Saturday morning to visit the @Large Ai Weiwei On Alcatraz exhibit. It was phenomenal and well worth the extra effort and forfeiture of the scenic route up the coast, which we were able to fit in on the way home.
We also had the pleasure of catching up with family who still live in the San Francisco Bay Area which was a super bonus. This meant that Toby spent Saturday with other dogs, since Alcatraz isn’t taking any furry inmates as far as I know. (More info and FAQ about service animals on the island.)A note about Toby: There is no way we would have even entertained the idea of taking this trip, if Toby wasn’t, crate trained, housebroken, current on all of his shots and extremely good natured. We really lucked out with this pooch. Turns out he’s a great traveller and a people magnet, too!
We arrived in Carmel-by-the-Sea in the afternoon on Sunday, an effortless 2 hour drive from Redwood City. The Hofsas House was easy to find, and Carmel-by-the-Sea, a mere 1 mile square tucked in between world famous Pebble Beach and Point Lobos was immediately welcoming and relaxed. Call it the sea air. There is something here that refuses to be named, a certain charm, a place out of time, a kind of precious, simple quality perhaps best conveyed in the by-the-Sea moniker. Arriving at the Hofsas House I felt relaxed and enchanted. Our room wasn’t quite ready so we set off on a jaunt with Toby to get the lay of the land.
Carmel-by-the-Sea slopes down to the ocean and the pace of vacation permeates everything. There are no sidewalks and no addresses. The million dollar “cottages” here all have names and folks still swing by the Post Office to pick up their mail. I would call it quaint, but there is something more here, something not covered by a dusty doily. The community is spotless, in spite of the uncountable number of dogs. There are waste stations equipped with doggie bags and plenty of trash receptacles everywhere. There may not be sidewalks, but there are walking paths on nearly every street. This place is definitely pedestrian friendly.
There are lots of little courtyards and passageways created by building a town over time without a master plan. There are benches and shops, art galleries and eateries. And everyone we encountered seemed to be in a good mood. I only remark on it, because it simply isn’t like this everywhere. And there is almost no place you can’t bring your dog here. Frankly, dogs are even more welcome than kids in some spots! We found dog treats, water bowls and dog lovers everywhere. Well behaved canines under voice control are free to run off leash on the beach and fires are permitted on the shore before 10 pm, South of 10th street.
A couple of things I want to mention about our room. First of all, all of the guest rooms at Hofsas House appear to have Dutch Doors to allow sea breezes into your room. See. Friendly, right? When is the last time you were somewhere with a door like the one you might see in Hansel & Gretel’s cottage? The other thing is we had an ample balcony with a built in BBQ, a brick fireplace in the living room, two full bathrooms and a separate bedroom in about 800 square feet. Honestly, larger than my first apartment!
Besides being very comfortable and well located, the pastries at breakfast were especially delicious. Made by a French baker in Monterey, this detail made the Continental breakfast each morning worth waking up for. Also there are saunas in the men’s and women’s changing rooms (with showers and rest rooms) adjacent to the pool area and the pool is heated year round. I managed to get in a swim or two each day, which is Heaven for me. I always wondered what it would be like to have a sauna at home, it probably would be nice to come home and just destress after a hard day. A friend of mine was going to get an infrared sauna and suggested that I should get one too, but I’m sure there would be a lot of research into discovering which one was right for me and my family. I did look into it, and I have to admit there are a lot of resources out there where you can find helpful information. Consider reading these infrared sauna reviews on Clever Leverage if you are interested in getting a home sauna.
Notable dining experiences included a trip in the car to Tarpy’s Road House in Monterey. The food was well worth the drive, something I try to avoid at all costs once I’ve settled in somewhere. My salad with hazelnuts, persimmon, arugula and creamy Burrata was sublime. I would definitely go back, even though my salad was a special that’s not on their regular menu. The atmosphere has a relaxed elegance and the staff is friendly and accommodating without being intrusive.
Also the 5th Avenue Deli was great! There were more choices than I could sample in a week of meals, but I settled on a Rueben to take on our picnic to the beach. It was so good, I was back again the next day for another one!
Seriously juicy, just the right size, light and dark swirled bakery fresh rye bread, plenty of tender corned beef, but not so much you couldn’t fit the sandwich in your mouth, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and the tastiest Russian dressing I’ve ever had. Note: ask for extra napkins and enjoy.
On Monday afternoon we took some time to use our wine passports and explore some of the wine tasting rooms. We really couldn’t imagine how you could bring your kids wine tasting, but you can. We sampled two of the some 14 tasting rooms located within a few blocks of one another in the heart of town. It’s a casual and relaxed set up in this tony little town.
At our first stop, there were dog treats for Toby and this big boot to sit in, but no kid treats. Toby settled into Lizzy’s lap while we stood at the bar and sampled a flight of wines. Toby broke the ice for us and we enjoyed a lively conversation with some folks from New Orleans.
We were starting to get a little hungry and decided our next stop should be one of the tasting rooms that offers food. We ended up in a little courtyard across the street where an extraordinary young man served us Carpaccio and Arancini with our wine flight and concocted a custom flight of soft drinks for our daughter. Toby found a spot under a chair and we really had a nice time, tasting and talking and soaking up the relaxed feel of Carmel-by-the-Sea, or the square mile of smiles as we like to call it.
Later, we strolled along the streets and popped in and out of shops whose windows charmed and delighted us, luring us inside. We found locals and travelers alike to be open and receptive to random conversations and general conviviality. Everyone seemed to want to meet Toby. Maybe this happens to everyone who has a dog. I don’t know. This is new territory for us.
There is more to discover in Carmel-by-the-Sea and it’s worth staying for more than one night to really let the place work it’s gentle magic on you and your family. There is something innately romantic here. It’s great for couples and affordable for families. I would love to gather the clan here for a family reunion. The Hofsas House would be perfect for something like that. Being a successful, family run property for the past 67 years imparts a distinct, yet intangible quality of confidence and comfort to the establishment. You’ll feel like you’re staying with your favorite cousins when you stay here.
On Tuesday morning, we took a long walk in Mission Trails Park where we explored the paths and peeked into Flanders Mansion (which I dream of restoring) and peered into the Carmel Mission (Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA) where Father Junipero Serra is buried. This was said to have been his favorite of the California Missions and November 24 marks the anniversary of his birth more than 300 years ago. Toby really wanted to go inside. He slipped through the bars of the large iron gate when I turned to take a picture. I know Father Serra was an animal lover, but I don’t think dogs are allowed inside the museum. We got back in time to check out of our hotel and pick up sandwiches for the long and scenic drive ahead.
TRAVEL TIP: We’ve had a dog since July, so we’re expert dog owners! Ha! Forgive me if this is obvious, but if you establish a dog blanket for your pet at home, it will go a long way toward easing anxiety when you travel with your pet. We used Toby’s blanket to soothe him in his crate in the car and then put it where we wanted him to settle down on the couch or bed while we watched tv or ate in our room. It seemed to let him know that he had a place of his own. The hotel supplied a pet bed, but Toby opted for his familiar blankie, even though the pet bed was far cushier![Template "responsive" not found]
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