So, from San Francisco to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Rolling down the coast, the sea breeze in your hair, Kisstory blaring, trucker’s tan on the go… sound like heaven? It really was. The West Coast road trip is every bit the cliche and none the worse for it. As soon as we pulled out of the city onto the coastal road south to Monterey, the sun came out and the horizon opened up ahead of us; turquoise blue ocean on one side and a sea of mustard rapeseed and rippling cornfields stretching into infinity on the other. Once Pete had mastered driving an automatic* it was smooth sailing all the way to Carmel, by way of a series of incredibly picturesque photo breaks (and a necessary Whole Foods stop-off for supplies).
*Pete actually did all the driving for the whole trip. Which of course had nothing to do with my mastery of the road, and was simply repayment for all the previous holidays when he hadn’t passed his test… ?
Top Gun country!
The last photo is of a house in Monterey, the last pit-stop before we arrived in Carmel-by-the-Sea and home to some of the most enviable real estate I saw in California. Dreamy.
So we arrived in Carmel primed to love it, and that we did. There was nothing not to love: the town is tiny but gloriously twee and picturesque. It’s so pretty it feels almost unreal; I imagine it would get claustrophobic after a while but for a one-night stop, it was perfection. We dumped our stuff at our cosy B&B, The Fireplace Inn (yes, there was a fireplace in our room!) and wandered down the hilly little streets to the beach, stopping off in several pet stores – there are more dogs than people in Carmel, or so it seems – and a bookshop that looked like an actual film set.
Pete touching a flower.
Like homing pigeons, we discovered the ideal place for sundowners on the rooftop of Vesuvio Restaurant and then munched pizza at tiny French bistro La Bicyclette. There seemed to be a different cute bar tucked around every corner, and we’re not ones to resist a challenge…
In the morning, despite excessive Californian wine consumption, I made the most of my jet lag and went for a sunrise jog along the beach. It was absolutely magical; the perfect farewell to this fairy tale town. And a necessary stretch of the legs ahead of our 7-hour drive to Santa Barbara…