It is hard to explain my life-long love of the Monterrey Bay and Carmel. Maybe it has to do with being a local Californian, growing up under the sun, loving the soft sand between my toes. Living roughly an hour from the bay and peninsula, my parents made a habit of always visiting the area at least once a year during the summer. Whether we found a spot on the beach or walked around the city, I was content to have the cool breeze whipping my face and the salty sweetness of the ocean air fill my nostrils.
Mixtures of elegant, old-fashioned, and rustic little buildings sit among the uneven hilly streets of the seaside towns. Even when it is crowded with tourists, there is an atmosphere of relaxation in the air. This is exactly why my husband and I recently spent a day walking around Carmel, to celebrate one of our anniversaries.
The ocean view makes for a wonderfully romantic day. Although we did not walk along
the beach on this occasion, we did find lovely little streets to walk along in downtown Carmel. It is roughly only a five-by-five block radius, but the area is filled tons of little shops and restaurants, all of which have that quaint architecture that appeals to the atmosphere of the town, and the essence of the ocean resonates in the air, being merely blocks away from these buildings and within site.
Walking along Ocean Avenue, we came across one of the many coffee shops downtown, which drew us in with the fragrance of brewing joe and baked goods. This shop in particular called our attention because of its name. The Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co. is special to my husband and me because we had first come across one of its chains on our honeymoon. We took a moment to relax with a cup of coffee and a slice of apple-walnut coffee cake. The inside of the shop was like an old-fashioned, split level home, now a place of business (like so many old homes in this area).
After strolling up and down the streets, peering into the numerous shops (many of which were overpriced), we settled for an early dinner at Em Le’s, a little Italian restaurant with modest prices. Located on Dolores St, between 6th and 5th Avenue, this little restaurant looks just as upscale, yet old fashioned, as the other restaurants around; however, it offers decent prices with large portions – perfect for a young couple on a tight budget.
Having a weakness for shellfish, I ordered the seafood pasta; it was loaded with shrimp, scallops, salmon, clams, and mussels – all of which were cooked excellently, and were atop a huge bed of white-sauced linguini. I do not think I have ever seen so much seafood in one dish before. It was definitely worth it (being one of the higher priced items), considering I had leftovers for the next two days.
My husband had the grilled salmon in a caper and butter sauce with a side of grilled vegetables. The fish was tender, as were the vegetables. Though the plate was also a decent size, it was tasty enough that my husband cleaned his plate, despite the fact that he rarely craves salmon.
With heavy stomachs and a need to stretch our legs, another round of walking to and fro downtown seemed necessary. We passed countless art galleries, jewelry and clothing stores, as well as miniature courts and alleys that looked too cute not to peer down. The whole atmosphere gave me the feeling of having traveled to a different era.
Keep in mind that a downtown area, such as this, will have tight parking along the streets, which is limited to 2 hours up to 6pm; however, there are also some public parking lots located on the corner of Mission St. and 8th Avenue.
Do I recommend taking a day roaming downtown Carmel? Wholeheartedly, Yes! Although, I do realize that not every day on the coast can be blissful perfection, the town remains beautiful, regardless of the weather. More often than not, the Pacific coast can be cold and overcast. However, our day in Carmel was just perfect this day – no jacket necessary. At the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, it wasn’t too cold, and it wasn’t too hot; it was just right.
Perhaps it is my childhood memories that continually draw me and my family back to Monterrey and Carmel. Both my siblings and I have honeymooned along that coast, returning on chance to make more memories for the future. Whatever the reason, my love of the ocean and its towns will keep my dream alive of one day living near the sea.