Monday, January 9, 2012

West Coast Road Trip Day 6 - South to Carmel

On this the sixth day of our epic family extravaganza that began in Spokane, WA, we all agreed that San Francisco wasn't easy to leave. But we had to continue south on our West Coast Road Trip, taking a somewhat short drive south to Carmel By-the-Sea. Departing from Fisherman's Wharf, we set out to see if all the good things that have been said about Carmel were true...
Although we'd initially planned to drive as close to the Pacific Ocean as possible throughout our entire west coast road trip, a wrong turn, a tired driver and a desire to get to Carmel as soon as possible won out over more ocean view driving.
So rolling along down Highway 101, past mountains, small towns, and farms, we left San Francisco behind. We found our way back to Highway 1, the ocean, and Monterey; and after a fairly short drive we reached Carmel.
There were six features of Carmel that particularly stood out: The restaurants, Carmel City Beach, shopping, art galleries, the people, and the 17-mile drive.
There were so many restaurants in Carmel, I found it unfortunate to only have one stomach. We decided on an Italian dinner at Il Fornaio, lunch at Palisserie Boissiere Restaurant & Bakery, a meal out on the patio at the Village Corner Mediterranean Bistro and snacks from other quality establishments. We had good experiences at each place, and left plenty of others on our list for next time.
Carmel City Beach had a great vibe. It's a large, clean beach with a great view and lots of free parking nearby. The beach is also close enough to the shops and art galleries that you could walk right down instead of driving.
Although I'm not a big shopper, the shopping scene in Carmel offered something for everyone. There were many interesting stores and boutiques of all price ranges, from the modest to the luxury. I preferred the locally based shops, but there are were also the nationally known places such as Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Tommy Bahama.
What I was looking forward to investigating more than the shops were the art galleries. Carmel is known to have a lot of them, and of course I visited as many as possible. There were actually so many galleries that I couldn't get to all of them in the short amount of time we were in Carmel. There were galleries of all kinds: large, small, artist-owned (very cool, although none of them were open at the time), all with different styles and price ranges. Seeing a few original Brian Blood paintings and the California Impressionist paintings at Karges Fine Art Gallery were personal favorites.
As we navigated through town, it seemed everyone we met in the various businesses were nice and friendly people. We felt welcome in Carmel, which is more than I can say about another well-known coastal town in the next state to the north. Feeling welcome made our experience that much better.
And finally, though the 17 Mile Drive isn't technically part of Carmel, it's right next door. The drive took us through Del Monte Forest and Pebble Beach, past beautiful homes and sites like Pebble Beach Golf Course, Bird Rock, Cypress Point Lookout, and the Lone Cypress.
As an artist, I found myself picturing living and working in a place like Carmel. With its excellent weather, many creative people, city streets without parking meters and proximity to the ocean, all the stories proved true. Whether you're an artist, art lover art collector, or just want to visit a unique area on this planet, I highly recommend you go to Carmel if you can.

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