Monday, July 22, 2013

Escapists Lured To Carmel-By-The-Sea

The Coachman's Inn
When the city buzz gets to be too much, a spontaneous drive up or down the California coastline can be the cure. Travel far enough north from Los Angeles (about 6 hours) or south from San Francisco (a mere two hours), and you'll eventually find an escape in one the most beautiful cities in America.

Carmel-by-the-Sea was amazing in its urban planning from the beginning. Even the city's master plan calls it "a village in a forest, overlooking a white sandy beach." Shortly after the turn of the century, the allure of its cultural scene became a magnet for artists, musicians, and writers.

George Stirling is one of the best known residents, as were Mary Austin, Ambrose Bierce, William Merritt Chase, Armin Hansen, Jack London, Xavier Martinez, and Upton Sinclair to name a few. London even wrote a book about the arts colony there: The Valley Of The Moon.

Carmel-by-the-Sea will leave you charmed as will the Coachman's Inn. 

The Coachman's Inn is best described as something between a hotel and a bed and breakfast. The latest rounds of renovations are both spacious and romantic, with the property picking up elements of its 1950s past and Victorian floral accents.

The Coachman's Inn
I'm not normally down for this brand of elegance, but it fits the town's hodgepodge of English cottages. Carmel-by-the-Sea has a way of transporting to you someplace else entirely. It's the point.

What makes the Coachman's Inn work is that it's perfectly centered in the city, making it easy for you to walk the entire town or down to the beach. The parking is private too (but not guaranteed). And the staff is immediately friendly even if they seem more used to couples.

The beds are comfortable. A light continental breakfast (snack) is delivered in a basket to all 30 rooms. (Don't expect to pick up a room as a drop in.) It can easily be argued that there are better places, but this one carries a great value. If I was staying longer, Tickle Pink Inn is tempting for its views alone (below) even if you have to drive into town.

As a weekend getaway, there is plenty to help you unwind in Carmel.

Tickle Pink Inn
In keeping with the escapist theme, plan to spend some time in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This is the famed landscape that artists came to paint and be inspired. I don't just mean painters. The Point Lobos Foundation has an entire section dedicated to the arts, ranging from pics to poetry about it.

The entrance to the park isn't free (and not always easy, with a one vehicle in, one vehicle out policy when it is at capacity), but it is worth it. You can find your own way or join the guided walks and tours inside the Whalers Cabin Museum.

While visiting Point Lobos is a must, there is plenty to see in town. There are more than 100 art and photo galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea and a dozen wine tasting rooms too. Between the galleries and unique stores, it's easy to get lost in something as simple as a walk.

Beach at CarmelSome of it can be tourist-centic, but there are plenty of gems tucked away. The Carmel Art Association
is a good place to start. It has the longest history in supporting local artists, including the bigger names.

Other must-see attractions include the Robinson Jeffers Tor House (built with his own hands) and Celtic-inspired Hawk Tower, see what is playing at the Forest Theater Guild, and make sure you drop by The Forge In The Forest. As for other eats, Carmel-by-the-Sea boasts about 60 places to eat. One long-time favorite is Jack London's Bar & Grill. It's a little over rated, but fun nonetheless.

The Coachman's Inn Sparks 6.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The Coachman's Inn, on its own, lands solidly in the 6s on our scale (which is high), but Carmel would easily climb into the 9s on its own. While the inn is a nice place to retreat, it isn't necessarily a destination unto itself like some the other hotels that we've highlighted before. At the same time, Carmel-by-the-Sea is the kind of place that where you stay is almost secondary to the experience.

The nearest airport to Carmel is Monterey, Calif. Some travelers prefer to fly into San Francisco or San Jose, which are both international airports. Fore more details and booking information, start by comparing specials against top travel deals at Consider price and how far you're willing to drive. For all of us who already call California home, the inspiration remains in our backyard.
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