We are going to my favorite place on earth, Pebble Beach, on the Monterey coast and Seventeen Mile Drive. We visit the area often, this time without Buddy (our dog), since the golf carts at Pebble would drive him and the nearby golfers insane.
We are staying at the Lodge at Pebble Beach, thanks to the friends and family discount. As many of you know, I worked there for about two years, back when they had a pharmacy on site in the gift shop, just across from the lobby. At that time, we generally stayed at a company apartment provided by Pebble Beach Companies, and ate in the employee cafeteria. My noon walk consisted of strolling down the cart path along the 18th fairway, past the par 3 seventeenth, and then cut over between the second and third fairways.
We are here just to relax, probably not play golf. It will be just the two of us. We plan to make ample use of the indoor facilities, since rain is in the forecast all weekend. This would include use of the Beach Club, and its pool that sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
I still remember my first round of golf here with my friend Mike. It was on my 50th birthday. No doubt, it was the best and most magical round of my life. The morning started out gray and foggy. About the time we teed off, the sun broke through. Sheri drove the cart, while Mike and I walked every foot on the course. Last year, I got to play here with my son for his 28th birthday. It is a special place.
We were so surprised when we arrived, as we were upgraded to the Alvarado Suite on the 18th green here at Pebble Beach. Just as the sun broke through the clouds, we discovered an ice bucket with champagne, and a jacuzzi tub. Life is good here!
The rooms here all have a fireplace, ready to light and enjoy. All the snacks and beverages, except for alcohol, are included. No tipping is required, since we pay a resort fee. And I can practice my putting on the practice green at Pebble at NO charge!
We will also see preparations for the U.S. Open in June, where Tiger will defend his 2000 runaway victory. I have tickets to attend the first day of the tournament.
We also take a leisurely stroll through downtown Carmel. We never buy much anymore, just look. And we also take our complimentary Lexus convertible on a drive down the coast or up the Carmel Valley. We plan to have dinner at Roy’s on Friday, and the Vineyard Bistro in Carmel Valley on Saturday. See you there!
Seventeen Mile Drive
What is so magical about the Monterey Peninsula’s Seventeen Mile Drive? We have taken the drive numerous times in the past. Sheri drove it once or twice daily when I worked at Pebble Beach. She would drive between our company apartment and the Lodge at lunch time and again to pick me up after work.
This is Yahoo’s description: One of the most scenic drives anywhere in the world, this stretch of highway runs between Pacific Grove and Carmel. You will see incredible beaches, six golf courses and more mansions than you can count. You will drive by several epicurean restaurants, all of which will refund the USD8 toll fee that you pay to drive this road. Pedestrians and cyclists can enter for free. The road snakes its way like a serpent, along the California coast and then through the Del Monte Forest. This drive is an absolute must for anyone visiting the Monterey Peninsula. See website for visitor details.
I never get tired of seeing this, whether bathed in brilliant sunlight or covered with a blanket of fog. And if you want to avoid the fee at the gate, tell the ranger that you are going to the post office at Pebble Beach. The park personnel cannot keep you away from a Federal office by charging a fee.
When we stay at the Lodge at Pebble or Inn at Spanish Bay, we get the free use of a Lexus, preferably a red convertible, when we stay here. On any nice day, the drive is enhanced by a sprint on Seventeen Mile Drive with the top down. A stop for some refreshments is always welcome.
The forest is impressive by reason of its rich abundance of cypress trees and the Monterey pines. You will also drive past picturesque beaches, isolated cliffs, the famous and often photographed “Lone Cypress”, the Pebble Beach Golf Course (my favorite in the entire world) and the “Lodge at Pebble Beach” Hotel, where rooms cost $500. Many kinds of gulls live in the Seal and Bird Rocks. Often you can spot deer, sea lions, and harbor seals there too. The Cypress Lookout offers a particularly beautiful view north and south along the Pacific coast.
You will get a glimpse of all the famous Pebble Beach golf courses, along with Monterey Peninsula Golf Club (36 holes), Poppy Hills, and the ultra exclusive Cypress Point Golf Club. My uncles have played here, thanks to connections who are no longer alive. My day in the sun will occur someday soon.
Why So Special?
What really makes the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel so special? It has been a favorite day trip or weekend getaway as long as I can remember. Yes, it is romantic. It also has its share of good places to eat. And lots of interesting places to shop. It is very dog friendly. It has an abundance of world-class golf. The scenery is breathtaking. And it is only about two hours drive away.
Perhaps it is all of these things, or none of these things. Memories of past trips have much to do with my reasons. We first drove down here when we were dating. We had some drinks at the Tap Room at the Lodge at Pebble Beach. Then, we had dinner down on the Monterey Wharf at Abalonetti’s. Friday night, we had dinner at Roy’s over at the Inn at Spanish Bay. It is the best Roy’s in his entire empire.
We were so fortunate to see our dear friend and resident Brazilian hottie, Marci’a. We found out that her new flame lives by us in Walnut Creek. And that she is going back home for a visit in April. Sheri gave her some durian candy to try. She said they have a similar fruit in Brazil, though we never saw it when we were there.
When the kids were youngsters, they loved the Monterey Wharf, Carmel Beach, and Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey. They enjoyed renting a four-wheeled cycle that we pedaled along the path between the Monterey Wharf and Lover’s Point. Then we would eat squid and chips down on the Wharf.
I have been fortunate to play most of the famous golf courses down here, including Pebble Beach, Spyglass, Poppy Hills, and Spanish Bay. We have enjoyed great meals at Roy’s, Abalonetti’s, and the Vineyard Bistro in Carmel Valley. And don’t forget the croissants at the Paris Bakery in Monterey. Or the great breakfast burritos at Toastie’s in Pacific Grove.
The walk through downtown Carmel is always interesting. Besides several places to eat and drink, several unusual shops can be found. One of my favorites is the Talbot Shirt and Tie store on Ocean Avenue. Another is Red Haute, with all the latest youth driven men’s wear. I don’t buy much anymore in retirement, but I like to look.
We have found several travel stores that pique our interest as well. We never know when we might find something handy to take on one of our trips. Or, we may just get a good idea, and find a less expensive alternative elsewhere.
The area is quite photogenic, as it is almost impossible to take a bad photo of the area. The characters and dogs along Ocean Avenue are enough to fill pages and pages. And the various scenes on Seventeen Mile Drive, and the many homes and golf courses are too numerous.
If you decide to take off on foot or bicycle, many trails exist. I prefer staying near Monterey or Pacific Grove, as Seventeen Mile Drive is a little too narrow to share with cars and buses. The 4 wheel cycle rentals on the Monterey Wharf are the safest and easiest way to get a little exercise, take a few photos, and stop here and there along the way.
The recent ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am Golf Tournament featured beautiful, sunfilled photos of the Monterey Peninsula, 17 Mile Drive, and Pebble Beach. The U.S. Open is arriving in June, its fifth time as host venue for golf’s greatest championship. We hope to enjoy some of those same views.
The sun has broken through the clouds, and it is another glorious day here in paradise. Or am I really in Heaven? I should be so fortunate.
We Hate To Leave
Our weekend here has been so nice. Even without all of the great amenities extended to us, we enjoy the area and the great weather. As I watch each foursome approach the green, I can just imagine their thrill on these famous Links. Many of you may not know that the tree here on the 18th green is really a transplant from elsewhere in the forest. The original tree was taken down due to both disease and destruction.
Though the bleachers, tents and concession stands from the ATT tournament are being dismantled, the US Open comes back in June. I plan to be down here for at least one day of the tournament. Of course, retailers here love both the ATT and the Open, for all of the people it brings into the area. Many would not survive, if not for the big events here.
Though it is winter, it is slower than usual here. The dining room at Roy’s was about half full, and hardly any tour buses prowl Seventeen Mile Drive here. But on a positive note, the Japanese tourists seem to be back in all of their splendor. It looks to me like the economy over in Japan and Hong Kong is better than here.
The water out on Carmel Bay has changed color about a hundred times already today. It just depends on the sun, the fog, the clouds, and the tide. It ranges from bright blue to dull gray. Or is it the amount of adult beverages one has consumed during that time?
The streets of downtown Carmel are filled with our little four legged friends. It just makes us miss our little Buddy even more. Just about every business here has a water bowl out by the door. And most have a plate of doggie treats at the ready. All of the restaurants with outdoor seating, allow dogs. And the famous Cypress Inn, owned by Doris Day, allows dogs everywhere, including the bar.
Last night, we headed into Carmel Valley for dinner at Jimmy and Carol Ugaz’s restaurant, Vineyard Bistro. They spent most of January in their native Peru visiting family and friends. But believe it or not, they met here in California, got married, and have two nice teenage boys. It is so nice to see friends do well in business, raise a nice family, and, and be so terrifically nice.
We met their son, Jimmy, and had a great dinner. I had probably the best rack of lamb ever, and Sheri had their rich and utterly delightful seafood pasta. Then to top it off, they made a double chocolate torte birthday “cake” with vanilla ice cream, blueberries, and raspberry glaze. Wow. We encourage all of you to try their great place on your next trip down here.
So off to Toasties in PG for breakfast. Make sure you ask for the French Roast coffee instead of the house. Their breakfast burrito is exceelent, as well as their huevos, and seafood omelettes and Benedicts. And you may see some of the Peninsula’s bright lights here, like Johnny Denver (when he was alive), Alan Shepherd (before he died), Clint, and crew, or an offbeat personality like George Lopez or William Murray.
To show you how good the service is here at the lLodge, when we got back to our room yesterday, even my little portable ice chest was refilled with ice. The fireplaces were reset and ready for good things to happen. The only thing we are missing is our own butler!
So, as we bid farewell on Sunday morning, the air is clean and clear. Though it rained a bit last night, today is a crisp, slightly cloudy sunrise as an autumn morn in New England. The rough seas have calmed. And the soft green carpet of grass is inviting any and all to challenge its grasp. Yes, this is golfing heaven, but equally, it is a place to relax, reflect, read, and pray that it will always be here for us.