From the hills of San Francisco to beaches of Carmel-by-the-Sea

One would need weeks to take in all there is to see in California. But my husband and I had one week, so we concentrated our efforts in Northern California. We started the week in San Francisco. Walking the hills to the Pier from our hotel in Nob Hill, and back – a great workout for the heart and the calves. Walking the flats of Golden Gate Park, through the Japanese Botanical Garden and along the parkway canal, was calming.

Marina at the San Francisco Pier

Marina at the San Francisco Pier

Japanese Botanical Garden, Golden Gate State Park, San Francisco

Japanese Botanical Garden, Golden Gate State Park, San Francisco

We were up early the next day to take the 3 hour drive from San Francisco to Carmel, via Santa Cruz and part of Highway 1 aka the Pacific Coast Highway. The ocean views were breathtaking, the sand dunes monstrous, and the fields of veggies and fruit were plentiful.

Just the name, Carmel-by-the-Sea evokes visions to attract anyone’s attention. The creatively named 17-mile Drive is bookended by Carmel and Pacific Grove. It is along these points my husband and I spent the next three days.

Upon arriving in Carmel, my husband and I headed straight to the sea to take a walk on the beach. It was a perfect fall day, ripe for a wardrobe of jeans, a big comfy sweater and bare feet. The sun was shining, but the breeze off the bay was cool. We strolled down the beaches admiring some of the most photographed golf holes in the world, perched atop sheer cliffs – Pebble Beach. We set our eyes on a home we decided would be a great retirement retreat – until we later learned it was listed for $79,000,000. California dreaming – maybe in another lifetime!

View of Pebble Beach from the beaches at Carmel-by-the-Sea

View of Pebble Beach from the beaches at Carmel-by-the-Sea (overhanging smoke from a nearby controlled burn)

The streets of Carmel consist of galleries, boutique shops, galleries, restaurants, did I say galleries, and boutique hotels. I would have loved to spend more time perusing the shops of Carmel, but it was time to head to our ultimate destination to the afore-mentioned Pebble Beach.

There are no less than seven golf courses on this small track of land making it one of the most sought after golf destinations in the world. Pebble Beach, at $495 a round, is not a cheap date, but the walk through golf history and a natural beauty that has not been replicated anywhere in the world, is priceless.

Walking down the 9th hole at Pebble Beach

Walking down the 9th hole at Pebble Beach

The course was designed to be walked. The space between greens and tee boxes is very short. So walk we did – with a caddy named Pat. Caddies at Pebble generally double bag to make as much money as they can in as short amount of time as possible. Pat caddies to pay the bills, so in his off time he can focus on his passions of writing a novel, writing poetry and painting.

We stayed at The Lodge, and our room looked out at the 18th green. For a died in the wool golfer it does not get any better than this. Listening to the waves crashing against the rocks along the 18th Fairway to lull you to sleep every night. Walking the hallowed grounds and think of the golf royalty, political royalty, royal royalty and too many athletic and entertainment celebrities to mention having walked these same grounds, was surreal.

The Lodge at Pebble Beach

The Lodge at Pebble Beach

Monterey Peninsula is a golfer’s destination, and I am an avid golfer, but the drive along 17-mile drive is eye candy for anybody. The Lone Cypress sitting precariously on an outcropping jutting out into Carmel Bay. Bird rock, that is so covered with seals, sea lions and fowl that from afar it looks like the rock is moving. The sounds of the barking seals can be heard far inland. The waves crashing along the craggy rocky coast. The white sand dunes incorporated into the golf courses lining the sea shore.

Lone Cypress, Carmel-by-the Sea. Patented trademark for all facilities on the Monterey Peninsula

The 250-year-old Lone Cypress, Carmel-by-the Sea. Trademarked by Pebble Beach as it’s logo.

Seal Rock, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Bird Rock, Carmel-by-the-Sea – covered by more seals than birds

Further along the picturesque 17-mile drive, sits Spyglass Hill Golf Course. Where Pebble Beach is built along the natural lines of the coastline of Carmel Bay, Spyglass Hill is cut through the heavily forested inland, offering vistas from one of the higher points on the peninsula, looking out at the Pacific Ocean. The walk is more challenging through this hilly course, and golf is equally if not more challenging with it’s tight fairways than even Pebble Beach. Two very different golf experiences.

View from Spyglass Hill Golf Club

View from Spyglass Hill Golf Club

What to do: Golf, golf, golf! Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay and Del Monte for public options – $100-495 including cart. Cypress Point and Monterey Peninsula if you know somebody. Drive 17-mile drive – free. Walk the streets and beaches of Carmel-by-the-Sea – free, unless you find a piece of artwork you can’t live without!

Where to stay: The Lodge at Pebble Beach – $725+. The Inn at Spanish Bay – $635+. Or numerous boutique hotels in Carmel covering all kinds of budgets.

Where to eat: Peppoli’s at Pebble Beach (which is actually located at The Inn at Spanish Bay) for great Northern Italian cuisine. Stillwater Bar and Grill for contemporary seafood – ask for Anthony, a great attentive server. Grasing’s in Carmel – the chef uses locally grown ingredients in all of his dishes.

Check out more pictures under the Global Gallery tab!

Next stop: Napa Valley.

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