Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur-Sunny Days-Part 1

Before our world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 Pandemic a friend, Rachel, and I took off for a few days road trip to Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur and Moss Landing, California. Our husband’s decided to go skiing at Mammoth Mountain so we decided on a road trip. We didn’t have any idea that this would be our last trip for a while and that upon our return home we would be ‘self-isolating’ (the new term, along with ‘social distancing’) Always looking for the good, I have lots of time to update this blog which has suffered from neglect for quite a while. Not that we haven’t been traveling! I just have not sat still long enough to put my thoughts and pictures together. Now this unthinkable pandemic has us all wondering what the future will bring so maybe some ‘arm chair’ vacations will give you an escape during this strange time we find ourselves in. We wish you health and safety. Rachel and I drove from Truckee at the end of a snow storm, it took us two hours to get over Donner Summit. Normally, this would be about a half hour. This was the first good storm since January. My clean car was a mess and as we drove into the cute Carmel hotel to check in, they must have wondered where we were from on this beautiful sunny afternoon! We stayed at the Candlelight Inn which was perfectly located to walk everywhere in Carmel. As soon as we checked in we called for dinner reservations at Cafe Napoli for dinner. Just a short walk away. Wonderful food, staff and Sinatra music played in the background so that you could still talk. A perfect way to end the day!
Cafe Napoli decor
Cafe Napoli music was ‘Rat Pack’ era
It had been years since I had been to Carmel. Rachel and I decided to take a guided walking tour the next morning. Gael Gallaghers, Carmel Walking Tours. We highly recommend taking a tour with Gael. She does many different types of tours in the Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur area. She is knowledgeable, fun and kept everyone’s interest. She encouraged us to follow paths and get lost in the many small alleys and gardens off Ocean Street. We started our tour in one of the many almost hidden courtyards of Carmel and we walked through many more beautiful shops, galleries and gardens.

A sampling of courtyards just steps off the main streets.

Just up from Ocean Avenue, The Forever Couple by George Ludeen. Gael telling the story.

Above, exquisite sculptures by Richard MacDonald.

Gael with the visor and sun glasses, one of our stops was in Cafe Napoli
Carmel Courthouse, where you can get a permit for wearing high heels among other city tasks. Beautiful railing.
Church of the Wayfarer A bear sits outside of the church. The story is that many years ago a little boy forgot his bear. A bear is outside waiting for the boys return.
Beautiful stained glass windows inside the church
Small church but has wonderful wooden accents and pews
Church garden and patio
Across the street from the church is the Cypress Hotel commonly referred to as the ‘Doris Day Hotel’. A lovely, pet friendly hotel.
The Cypress Inn Hotel, previously co-owned by Dorris Day
Dorris Day photo
Large Dorris Day movie poster as you enter the hotel
We had planned to get back here for cocktail hour but just ran out of time. Another highlight of the walking tour was visiting the Restaurant Casanova. One of the original adobe houses converted into a restaurant. It is one of the longest running restaurants in Carmel and highly rated.
Casonova from the front
Part of the patio dining area
A special treat was being able to see the private Van Gogh table and dining room which can be reserved. The table is said to have belonged to the painter Van Gogh. We walked in and out of alleys and gardens and saw many more beautiful sights.
Vibrant window displays

Hogs Breath in Patio Seating with a large mural painted on the wall

Carmel by the Sea park, just off Ocean Avenue

Gallery and store for Thomas Kinkade paintings was found by following another alley. Disney painting of Minnie & Mickey was on display. As well as others. A very peaceful setting to see the art.

The last stop on the walking tour was getting glimpses of some of the storybook cottages that are famous in Carmel By the Sea. Now, most are private homes so they are fairly hidden behind fences and plants.
A beautiful cottage that is easily seen
One of the original cottages, very well hidden
Storybook Cottage Stacked stone walls and entry area on a cottage. These cottages are protected and can be repaired but not significantly changed or enlarged.
h We arrived so late on Sunday that we didn’t get to spend the afternoon in Monterey as planned. We spent Monday afternoon in Monterey exploring the Wharf, Cannery Row and the beautiful walking area near Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. This was old home area for me. Over 40 years ago, my husband and I had spent every weekend for 2 years, except Easter and Christmas holidays, taking SCUBA diving classes out at all the local dive spots here. I told Rachel about what was the same and how so much had changed along Cannery Row and about the wonderful dive spots.
A section of the Monterey Wharf for taking a whale watching boat
Private boats along the wharf
Pleasure craft with access from the Wharf
This beautiful, warm weather brought out the paddle boarders and kayakers
Sea Wolf, one of the Whale Watching boats
Cute houseboat, wouldn’t that be a nice place to hide away?
We walked to Cannery Row by way of the Monterey State Historic Park. Another place we need to go back and explore when it is open. The buildings and gardens were beautiful!
Monterey State Historic Park
Beautiful spring flowers at the garden
Garden near some of the park buildings
Fish Hopper is built on a pier over Monterey Bay
Cannery Row Monument Author John Steinbeck anchors the monument at the top of the rock with friend and marine biologist Ed Ricketts towards the bottom. Several other characters represent those who once worked in the bustling canning industry on the row including Chinese fishermen
We did not go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium this time but if you are going to Monterey, I highly recommend visiting this wonderful Aquarium. You can even have a virtual tour by visiting their website. The next morning we headed out early to drive the Big Sur Coast and stop wherever we wanted! This area is similar to views from Jenner, CA to Mendocino except the mountains are higher, the population density is much less and it seems so wild. It really would be the perfect romantic get-a-way for couples staying at any of inns or high end resorts or for hikers that want to tackle the highs and lows to reach the peaks and the beaches.
The iconic Bixby Bridge
Rachel, my travel buddy, look far below the Bixby Bridge to see a beautiful beach!
Lots of state and national park land for hiking. The Big Sur Visitor Guide may help you plan your stay. I think we stopped at every sign of civilization, each pull out along the highway and went into both Pfeiffer State Park and Andrew Molera State Park. February and March are the slow season, so visitor centers and museums were not open on a Tuesday. We loved the views, river walks and just being in such extraordinary scenery!
Big Sur River Inn The Big Sur River Inn and General Store was a great spot! The guests have a pool and a beautiful spot to relax by the river.
River beach area at Big Sur Little River Inn
A big highlight of the day was lunch at Nepenthe Restaurant! We scored a ridge overlook table and it was a beautiful sunny day. During lunch we watched many groups of whales out at sea. Nepenthe Restaurant was recommended to both of us.
Garden path with steps from the parking lot to the Nepenthe Restaurant
Nepenthe Restaurant has been in business for over 70 years. The staff was very friendly and the food did not disappoint. What a treat! The building is beautiful and its history is told on the website. They have a very unique gift shop called Phoenix and another restaurant, Cafe Kevah which is an outdoor terrace.
Redwood Phoenix At the top of the steps you are greeted at the terrace by a large, beautifully carved redwood Phoenix.
The view from our lunch. During lunch we saw many birds and whale spouts!
Cafe Kevah below Nepenthe Directly below the rail where we had lunch, we could peek at the Cafe Kevah Terrace restaurant
Inside Nepenthe From their website, “Working with Rowan Maiden, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, they sketched out their vision. Legendary Big Sur builders, Frank and Walter Trotter built the structure using native materials; redwood, hewn from the canyons and adobe bricks…”
The timber frame building is a just beautiful and so unique
The Phoenix Gift Shop has a delightful collection of gifts, books and artistic pieces
Wherever you stop, the views are breathtaking!
On our way back, we even drove up to Ventana Big Sur, a resort, just to see the place we had heard about for years. We had planned to go the Henry Miller Library but it was closed. So we have a few places to check out when we talk our husbands into going to to Big Sur. This will be a two part post. Next post will cover our time at Monastery Beach, Point Lobos, the 17 Mile Drive and the Tuck Box in Carmel.
Until the next time – be adventurous and enjoy this short life! Vicki Start Hyw 89 series | Start Peru series | Start Galapagos series | Start Remodel series | Please add your email to ‘Follow this Blog‘ for updates. We never share your email. Interested in a vacation in Hawaii? Check out the units at

3 responses to “Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur-Sunny Days-Part 1”

  1. Wow, what a wonderful trip. Loved the pictures and the narration. I may have to sign up for one of these tours once our self-isolation is over.

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