Wednesday, April 25 , 2018, 2:20 am | Fog/Mist 52º


Judy Crowell: Carmel-by-the-Sea, a Slice of Paradise

Even without a Clint Eastwood sighting, a trip to this picturesque California village will still make your day

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery of Carmel-by-the-Sea.]

Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, artists, musicians, writers and college professors flocked to this beautiful setting, creating the picturesque village of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

These free spirits became known as “Bohemians” — friends such as Jack London, James Hopper and Sinclair Lewis, who would gather on the beach for conversation, abalone and libation.

In 1904, landscape artist Christopher Jorgensen built a Mediterranean-style mansion for his bride, Angela, a member of the Ghirardelli chocolate family. Today, this deliciously romantic tradition continues at La Playa Hotel, the original mansion. Just two blocks from town, La Playa is a rare find.

I, like many, came to this enchanting place in search of its natural wonders: dramatic Pacific coastlines, wide beaches of white sand, panoramic sunsets and Clint Eastwood. Add to that some of the most unique, un-mall-like shopping anywhere. A short walk into town confirms my fears. My credit card is in big trouble with temptation all along Ocean Avenue and on every side street.

Art galleries boast everything from the Old Masters, Tony Curtis and Anthony Quinn to an acrylic painting at the Carmel Art Association that stopped me in my tracks and made me laugh out loud — an acrylic spoof of Martha Stewart titled “Par for Decorum.”

For more serious beauties, try Portnoy Galleries, Jones & Terwilliger Galleries and Galerie Plein Aire.

Too many shops to mention — just forge ahead, but do stop in Chuckles Cards & Gifts to continue the chuckles generated by Stewart.

A stroll down Dolores Street ends at the historic Mission Ranch, one of several lovely lodging options, dating back to 1850 and rescued from condominium oblivion in 1986 by Eastwood. It’s probably as close as I’ll get to the “mayor.” Other excellent choices to stay are the Pine Inn for graciousness of days gone by, Hyatt’s lovely Highlands Inn, L’Auberge Carmel, Tickle Pink Inn, Lincoln Green Inn, and for golf, the Quail Lodge, newly remodeled and one of Monterey Peninsula’s most walkable courses, located in the sunny valley.

Enjoy fabulous dining at cozy spots such as Casanova for a romantic setting, Porta Bella for more romance, Vesuvio, Cantinetta Luca for casual, modern Italian, Pacific’s Edge for the freshest local seafood, and California Market for al fresco brunch or lunch with beautiful views of Big Sur surf.

For the adventurous, there’s hiking, bicycling, scuba diving, surfing, tennis, horseback riding and walking in one of the many state parks.

Point Lobos offers sweeping views and gentle walks above crashing waves. Don’t miss the free concerts in the park, the Shake-Speare Festival, the Carmel Mission and outstanding Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If you can pick just one outing, it should be the 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach. I estimated it would take about 45 minutes and ended up spending four of the most beautiful hours of my trip — all for a nominal entry fee. The craggy coastline, ocean wildlife and graceful cypress trees take your breath away, compelling you to stop at several of the 21 points of interest. Still no sign of Eastwood.

Stop No. 19 is the world-famous Lodge at Pebble Beach, where you’ll want to stop at its award-winning Stillwater Bar & Grill for lunch, overlooking the sweeping 18th fairway and green. It’s a golfer’s paradise.

“Laid back” pretty much sums up Carmel-by-the-Sea, along with crackling fires in rough stone fireplaces, lush sweaters and jeans, vine-covered archways and picket fences framing multimillion-dollar “dollhouses,” dogs of every variety running free along white beaches, shiny classic cars and flowers run amok.

With each trip to this slice of paradise, I have a hard time returning to reality, and each time has missed only one thing to make my visit perfect — a Clint Eastwood sighting. That would truly make my day.

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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