Wanderlust: Carmel-by-the-Sea and the PCH

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's the perfect time to be somewhere other than Wisconsin*, am I right? This weekend, as Stephen and I walked the 0.4 miles our Valentine's Dinner at Graze, we lamented not taking a cab because our faces were freezing into place. Thus, let's escape the torment of Wisconsin weather to the West Coast, shall we?

*Wisconsin here is metaphoric, representing anywhere where it's so cold outside you do anything possible to not take the trash out. I'm also literally in Wisconsin, conveniently.

We went to California in September, starting with a night and day in San Fran and then driving down to Carmel-by-the-Sea. We didn't take the most direct way to Carmel, we took the best way. And here's the life lesson nestled in this travel post:  sometimes the most direct and the best way are different.

In this case, it was obvious: THE PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY IS THE MOST AMAZING ROAD IN THE WORLD. No offense to the street I grew up on. (Much love, Trillium Dr.)

It was a breathtaking, leisurely drive down to our Airbnb in Carmel by-the-Sea.

If you couldn't tell by the charming hyphenated addition to its name, Carmel by-the-Sea is a city overflowing with charm. The city is on a hill that spills into the Pacific Ocean. The beach overlooks the famous last hole in Pebble Beach Golf Course. 

Carmel is quite possibly the nicest place I've ever been, objectively speaking. There were people there from all over the world. Foreign languages surrounded me; people clearly thought it was worth the international airfare to go there. Stephen told me Rome was like that, too. (I've never been to Rome, go figure.)

If time were no factor, I would have spent an entire day marveling at the cottage-style Carmel houses. Most have adorable names like Robin's Nest, Sanctuary, and Pear Tree cottage. Of course, we opted to spend our days driving along the PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY instead**. 

**I am still in such awe to this road, that I feel obliged to type it in all caps out of sheer reverence.

But before doing the PCH, we did the 17 Mile Drive, which had an entrance minutes away from our Carmel Airbnb. For $10, you can take your time driving through a well-marked route and stopping for the sites. The highlight of the 17 miles was seeing the famous Lone Cyprus standing triumphantly above the Pacific. 

Although you won't see the Lone Cyprus anywhere but the 17 Mile Drive, you don't have to pay for incredible views in California, because, duh, the PCH. Driving on the PCH south of Carmel leads to the Bixby Bridge, a must-stop location. The beautiful arched bridge connecting the winding highway cutting through the mountains is a site to add to your bucket list, stat.

It's difficult to leave the Bixby Bridge, but Big Sur beckoned. The road winded on and on, and right when you thought there couldn't possible be another magnificent view, there was one. We veered off the PCH to make stop at the secluded Pfeiffer Beach. This also had a $10 entrance fee but was worth every penny, as shown:

Although the wonders of the PCH continued on, we spent our evenings based in Carmel, watching the sun set over the beach and eating dinner at restaurants like La Bicyclette and Dametra Cafe. One thing was, it was dark (very dark!) walking back at night. Fortunately, we managed to navigate the crime-ridden streets safely back to our Airbnb each night ;)

Sigh. Looking at these pictures makes me want to book flights, immediately. Or better yet, move. (See ya later, land of beer and cheese!) I hope I've convinced you to add Carmel and the PCH to your bucket-list. Any other must-see places? I'm looking for any mental escape from winter's wrath! Hope you're all having a good week! xx

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