awareness magazine october september 2014 pam grout
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Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 283-3385
(800) 758-3223
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Carmel by the Sea

By Ann Nelson

 

As I grow older, I appreciate small quiet places filled with wonder and picturesque natural beauty more than ever before. My friend DJ and I decided to take a road trip up the California coast, heading north from her sister’s house in L.A., through Santa Barbara and Big Sur to our destination of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Along the way we experienced jaw-dropping vistas, explored little towns tucked along the mountainside and delighted in the diverse wildlife and coastal landscape. That is without a doubt one of the most scenic drives in the world!

This seaside enclave, with a population of around 4,000, is set on the rocky shores of the Monterey Peninsula and a two-hour drive south of San Francisco. Known for its white sand beaches, expansive pine forests and storybook cottages, Carmel-by-the-Sea was first recognized as a religious center of Spanish California during the 1770’s when the Carmel Mission was founded.

Carmel gained popularity and fame in the early 20th-century as an art colony, luring writers, artists and photographers, including Jack London and Sinclair Lewis. The early founders strived to preserve the flavor and individuality of Carmel and, even today, locations are indicated by intersections; there are no street addresses. It is well known that Clint Eastwood was a former mayor and Doris Day, an animal activist, has been instrumental in promoting Carmel as a dog-friendly destination. In recent years there has been an infusion of world-class spas, wineries, restaurants and shops.

Carmel is filled with small boutique hotels and quiet inns. DJ and I wanted to stay in the heart of the city for our first night and chose the Tally Ho Inn. The inn has incredible ocean views, along with an authentic English countryside atmosphere. Our elegant suite came with a heated bathroom floor, a fireplace and a huge jacuzzi tub. Dozens of restaurants are within an easy walking distance. We chose Al Fornaio restaurant for our dinner, since it was just across the street and were thrilled with the wide selection of authentic Italian dishes, along with great service.

After a complimentary full breakfast at Al Fornaio, we headed a few miles north to Monterey to visit the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium represents over 600 species of plants and animals and welcomes over 1.8 million visitors a year. An enormous open-sea gallery exhibit continuously pumps in fresh ocean water from the Monterey Bay. As an animal lover, I am well aware of the aquarium’s focus on education and conservation. Their conservation strategies are impressive. “Through our ocean conservation policy initiatives, the aquarium works to inspire action for conservation of the oceans — striving to empower individuals, influence policy and contribute to the protection of the oceans for future generations.”

The aquarium has created a practical wallet-sized Seafood Watch Information Card. The card is easy to take with you on shopping trips to inform you about endangered species of fish. It is divided into 3 easy-to-read columns: Best Choices (well managed, caught or farmed in environmentally responsible ways), Good Alter-natives (some concerns with how they are caught or farmed in environmentally-responsible ways) and Avoid (overfished, or strong concerns with how they are caught or farmed). Visit seafood watch.org to download a free app.

The afternoon was spent with Fast Raft Ocean Safaris exploring the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, an outing that will be forever etched in my memory. Everyone has a front row seat for this thrilling  ride, since the low-to-the-water raft only holds six passengers. Captain Kate Spencer, a naturalist and biologist with a contagious love and knowledge of the ocean, created a truly personal and exhilarating experience for everyone on board. She knew exactly where to go and answered all of our questions along the way. I viewed and learned more about marine animals on this trip than all my former trips combined and feel the additional cost of a small, personalized experience was worth every penny!

After a day of exploring the ocean, DJ and I arrived at Edgemere Cottages just before dusk and walked up the stone walkway to our quaint little house where we would be spending the next few nights. The B&B, built in the early 1920’s and only a block away from the beach, turned out to be a perfect choice. We each had our own space, a private garden, a kitchenette and a fireplace. Warm homemade cookies were awaiting us when we arrived. The innkeepers, Gretchen and Doug, were gracious and informative and greeted us each morning with a scrumptious homemade breakfast and suggestions about how to spend our day.

We wanted to spend a few hours riding bikes in a beautiful place and headed up to Cannery Row to rent bikes at Bay Bikes. The helpful, well-informed staff marked maps with suggested trails and filled our water bottles before sending us off on our own. The morning was filled with adventure as we rode along a bike path hugging the cypress-fringed trails and expansive fields of wildflowers overlooking the coastline. This is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the world to take a bike ride. In the afternoon we hiked along the well-marked trails of the rugged seacoast at Point Lobos State Reserve.

It is easy to see why Carmel is the recipient of a staggering number of prestigious awards. This place simply took my breath away. The city is rated #3 Best City for Romance in the World by Travel and Leisure, rated #6 Travel Destination in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler and #1 Place to Visit With Your Dog by DogFriendly.com. Each morning, as the early ocean fog slipped away, it felt as though I were wrapped in-side a coat of protective calmness for the entire day.

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

Tally Ho Inn:  Contact www.tallyho-inn.com or call (800) 652-2632

Edgemere Cottages: Contact www.edgemerecottages.com or call (831) 624-4501

Fast Raft Eco-Tours: Contact www.fastraft.com or call (800) 979-3370

Bay Bikes: Contact www.BAYBIKES.com or call (831) 655-2453

Monterey Bay Aquarium:  Contact www.montereybayaquarium.org or call (800) 756-3737

Carmel-by-the-Sea Visitors Center: Contact www.CarmelCalifornia.com or call (800) 550-4333

 

Ann Nelson is a freelance writer residing in San Diego.