So, we've discussed WHERE TO STAY and HOW TO GET THERE. In this final installment, I'm covering WHAT TO DO in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Really, you can't go wrong; it's such a relaxing and beautiful place. Take time to wander and get lost. Come to think of it, this little town is the perfect place to get lost. But, if you're interested in some specific suggestions, here's a list of my favorite things I did in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
1. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
This is the best thing I did the whole trip. Upon arriving at the hotel, I texted my husband and told him I'd decided to turn off my phone until I returned home. Smartphones are so controlling, I didn't want to let mine rob me of the peace and solace I needed. I gave him the hotel phone number (old-school style; it's concerning to reflect on how quickly our culture has changed, how readily we've embraced the lie that mobile phones are mandatory for life), powered down my phone, and got into workout clothes.
2. EXERCISE & EXPLORE
Next up: get moving after sitting in the car. I set off on a run/walk to reacquaint myself with my surroundings. I'd been there before, so I was pretty confident that I knew my general way around. If you want help, fold up a map from the hotel and bring it with you (old-school style, again). Whatever you do, don't use your phone map app! Let your eyes and your brain guide you.
It's free to enter 17-Mile Drive on foot; I jogged in and checked it out for a little ways. Then I headed down to Carmel Beach and jogged the beachfront path along Scenic Drive—this is a must-do! I stopped at the benches along the way to do some push-ups, dips, box jumps, sit-ups, etc.
3. SUNSET AT CARMEL BEACH
You must experience a sunset at Carmel Beach. You'll find plenty of people there doing the same thing. Here's a photo of mine. The best view of Pebble Beach is from here.
4. CARMEL VALLEY
Head inland to check out Carmel Valley. Stop at Earthbound Farm (the same company that makes the lettuce we buy) for lunch. It's a beautiful farm stand with lots of lunch options, including generous samples of house-made frozen yogurt (the day of my visit the featured flavor was mango-mint). I found the best lunch deal of the trip at Earthbound Farm: a cup of calorie and protein-packed chili for $4.99. They even let me top it off with some goodies from the salad bar. They have lots of picnic nooks for your lunching pleasure.
But you might want to take your lunch just down the road to Folktale Winery. This was one of the best discoveries of the trip. The scene here was straight out of a dream. I entered the courtyard and was greeted by a host who passed me a complimentary glass of champagne. This is the most family-friendly winery I've ever experienced: there were little children happily frolicking about, playing bean bag toss and tag, while adults conversed and sipped wine. My server was very helpful—I told him I'd forgotten to ask my hotel for any free wine tasting coupons they might have. He winked and said, "You have a card?" I said, "I have a card." And he proceeded to give me a sampling of each of their wines. The wine was good, but wasn't my favorite (I prefer earthy reds, and they were all rather fruity); the ambiance left such a strong impression that I'd return in a heartbeat.
5. CARMEL MISSION
This was my first time visiting the Carmel Mission, and I'm so glad I did. It's exquisite and a rich part of our California history. My favorite part is the asymmetrical flower window above the door; beautifully imperfect. It's located just 1 mile from downtown. Come to think of it, this would be a great jogging destination.
Finally, a mini-series wouldn't be complete if I didn't share about dining. There are so many restaurants in Carmel, you can't go wrong, but there's really no way to avoid paying top dollar for your food. To keep my costs down, I ate big breakfasts and lunches and light dinners. My best dining discovery in Carmel-by-the-Sea was Akaoni, an unassuming Japanese hole-in-the-wall full of locals. The fish was as fresh as can be. I ordered à la carte to keep my costs down; it was so good I could have feasted for hours. Watching the chef prepare the fish was mesmerizing, and I've never had better sushi in my life. I heartily recommend Akaoni.
This concludes my mini-series on Carmel. I hope you go and enjoy this special place, and I'd love to hear all about your experience upon your return.