Of course, staying at a dog friendly hotel like the Bay Park, allows us to bring the dark haired, scruffy, and other ruffian-like canine of ours, Buddy Budster (now we have our little Labradoodle, Lexi). His presence changes the entire dynamics of our visit. No fancy restaurants, since we tend to eat at outdoor cafes, or get takeout food for the room. Lots of walks on the many trails along the wharf and beach. A little shopping at the outlet malls along the way in Gilroy and Cannery Row. But always time to see dear friends, like Marci’a, Nancy, Presley, John, and Clint (just kidding).
So, Carmel by the Sea, or simply just Carmel, was founded back in 1902, then incorporated in 1916. Its first claim to fame, generally noted by outsiders, was a strong devotion to the arts. Hence, the legacy of numerous art galleries throughout Carmel and the greater Peninsula area. We like it most for its “dog friendly” attitude. Dogs are allowed most everywhere, except indoor dining establishments. The lone exception being the bar and lounge in the famous Cypress Inn, owned by screen legend and American sweetheart, Doris Day. One unusual law is the prohibition of high heels on the uneven sidewalks without a permit! However, it is not enforced, rather intended to be a deterrent to prevent lawsuits. So much for finding a babe with CFM shoes!
The population of Carmel is just over 4000 people. Of course, the first Europeans here were the Spanish, led by Cabrillo in 1542. Then, after sixty years, Vizcaino discovered what is now known as Carmel Valley. However, colonization did not occur until 1770 with Portola, along with the Franciscan Fathers, Junipero Serra, and Juan Crespi. In 1849, Monterey became the first capital of California. By 1771, the new Mission Carmel was completed. In fact, in 1874 when Father Serra died, he was buried in the Mission at his request. Of course, many of us native Californians have read about his rather colorful and naughty past. Perhaps he was the first of many.
But on the lighter side of things, one of the big attractions here is the weather. It could be dark and stormy elsewhere in Northern California, but quite nice for shirt sleeves, and Bermuda shorts for golf (even in winter). And the arts and theater continue to flourish, both as part of their legacy, and for economic reasons.
As you can tell from the above photo, and contrary to vehement denial by “insiders”, the landmark and iconic tree has been replaced at least once. Nobody will admit it. Many famous writers, artists, and photographers made the sojourn here, including Ansel Adams. And one of my personal favorites, John Steinbeck wrote many of his best works about life here in the area. The Jeffers family built Tor House, where he welcomed the likes of George Gershwin, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Lindbergh, Sinclair Lewis, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Of course, I prefer the large swatch of heaven, developed by Samuel F. B. Morse, known as the Links and Lodge at Pebble Beach, where the likes of Jack, Arnie, Tiger, Ernie, Payne, and Bing have triumphed over the years.
Then in the 1930s, music bared its beautiful dulcet tones, in the form of the Carmel Bach Festival. And the famous Monterey Jazz Festival has always attracted the biggest and best names in jazz. These names include Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, B. B. King, Charlie Mingus, John Coltrane, Ravi Shankar, and Stan Getz. Do you remember the phrase, “There is a Mingus among us?” And who of you out there know the time signature to Brubeck and Desmond’s iconic “Take Five”? I think I just gave you the answer.
But despite all of these assets or attractions, the best part of Carmel is just being here. The vibe is touristy, but decidedly local. The weather is generally supportive to almost all outdoor and indoor activities. The shopping is broad and eclectic. Just the walk up and down Ocean Avenue is still a thrill, after all these years. Finding a small or large purchase is just a bonus. Window shopping here, tends to fill the senses more than Rodeo Drive, for us. And walking down the street with our dog is enough adventure to fill a travel diary.
Of course, walking down Ocean Avenue, or any other street always increases the likelihood of seeing friend or foe from the home turf. As the saying goes, “you never know who is watching” applies to this area. And if you have never done it, tramp on down to Carmel Beach, take your shoes off, and go for a walk or job on one of the most famous beaches in the world. Buddy loves the beach, the sand, and the wind (and Lexi, even more so). The smells of the beach, the view of Carmel Bay and Pebble Beach, and the wind swept Monterey pines add to the romance and lore of the pristine and beautiful place.
Lots of fancy cars parade down the street, any time of day or night. Perhaps a red Ferrari, or a yellow Lamborghini revs their engine as we cross Ocean Avenue. The tinkle of wine glasses mixed in equally with the sounds of barking dogs, and children begging to go to Dennis the Menace Park down the road. I prefer the soft swoosh of the champagne cork, but by now, I am sure you get the picture. And perhaps this year, if we are extremely fortunate, we will see Doris at her Cypress Inn.
Fast forward to 2020. We are staying in downtown Carmel for a change, but it allows for nice walks with Lexi in the downtown area and sunny, sandy Carmel Beach. We usually end up in Monterey or Pacific Grove for dining, since it seems better suited to dining with a dog. And perhaps a visit with a few of our friends?