Carmel-by-the-Sea, or often just called Carmel, is known especially for Clint Eastwood and dogs. It is located on the coast of California on the Monterey Peninsula, about 2 hour drive from San Francisco. We spent a lovely weekend in Carmel last week by just relaxing and spending family time, and I would definitely go again!
DOGS IN CARMEL
You can't visit Carmel without seeing plenty of dogs around. In Carmel they are warmly welcomed almost everywhere. You can see them on the streets of downtown, in shops, hotels, restaurants and especially at Carmel City Beach. It is one of those rare beaches that allow dogs to go free from a leash as long as they listen to the owners commands. And there they were, running around with families, joggers, surfers and kids. The city beach is right by downtown, at the end of the main road.
Many hotels and restaurant proudly welcome dogs in them, and you could see water bowls for doggies almost everywhere. If a restaurant has a patio, you can be sure that you are allowed to bring your dog with you. We also saw quite a few dog boutiques. Many shops also offer dog treats to their customers' pets. The rumour is, that this dog friendly atmosphere started when singer and actress Doris Day decided to make the Cypress Inn Hotel a pet friendly place to stay. She still owns part of the hotel, and lives in Carmel.
On my previous quick visits to Carmel, I always got the impression that Carmel, with its restaurants and high end boutiques, is mostly for wealthy couples. You can find stores like Tiffany Co and Coach, but if you want to pay a little less, just wander off from the main road. Carmel is really not a party town, but I learned that it works nicely for families. We visited for example the Dr. Seuss gallery and Thinker Toy store. Carmel also has a park with a playground but this time we decided to spend time at the beach. And you can't forget the most adorable candy store in town. The Cottage of Sweets is right on the main street.
NO HIGH HEELS, THANK YOU
You should not go wandering around downtown in high heels. The roads are uneven and full of cracks from the tree roots that grow under the pavement. Even with a stroller I had to really look where I was going with it. I just happened to see a lady trying to walk on the sidewalks with heels, and I remember thinking: "That doesn't look easy." It wasn't long after that, when I found out that it is actually illegal to use high heels in Carmel without a special permit. Yes, you got that right!
This law was written in the 1920's so that no one could sue the town if they fell on the street. The heel is not suppose to be taller than 2 inches, or with a base more than 1 inch square. Special permits can be obtained from the City Hall.
CLINT EASTWOOD AND THE MISSION RANCH INN
When people talk about Carmel, they often bring up its most famous resident, Clint Eastwood. He was also the mayor of Carmel for one term starting from 1986. At that time, there was a law that prohibited people from selling and eating ice cream on the street. Eastwood and the council elected to overturn this bizarre ordinance. So today the people of Carmel and the visitors get their ice cream, but they still don't want any chain restaurants or fast food places in the town.
Eastwood bought Mission Ranch Inn in 1986 and invested some money into saving it from getting demolished. The place was completely renovated and is now known especially for its restaurant. People say that Clint Eastwood visits there sometimes and plays the piano, so if you are a big fan, you should pay a visit to this place. We were planning to go for the Sunday brunch to the Mission Ranch Inn, but this time we couldn't make it. Next time that I am in Carmel, I will definitely want to visit there.
Carmel Mission, or actually Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo was established in 1770. California missions were communities and churches which were started by Spanish missionaries. Most of them serve today as a Catholic churches. Carmel Mission was the second mission founded, and it was lead by Junípero Serra, the father of the California missions. He is buried under the chapel of Carmel Mission. Besides the church, the mission today operates as a catholic school and museum.
We have visited many missions before, and I have written about them. They are not only interesting places to visit, but also an important piece of California's history.
CARMEL RIVER STATE BEACH
On our way home from Carmel, we had planned to visit Point Lobos State Park. But it turned out, that we were not the only ones with that plan. When we got there, we noticed that not only the parking lot was full, but there were also lots of cars parked on Highway 1. We were there so late in the day, and we still had to drive home, that we decided to just go to a nearby beach. There were two beaches right next to each other, but we chose to go to the beautiful Carmel River State Beach. It was such a beautiful beach, but you can not swim there. It is actually one of the most dangerous ones in California. Even though the ocean looks calm, the strong currents will easily suck the swimmer out to sea. If you like to be on the beach, it is still worth a visit.