Ever since I can remember, I've traveled.
My dad's side of the family lived about a two hour flight away from us, so several times a year, my parents would pack us up for a visit.
I've been all over the world, but with two kiddos under 3, it's become almost impossible to travel outside of the country. Outside of California, really. I couldn't imagine leaving them at home for a week or two. I could not imagine being across an ocean for even a night. And I most definitely couldn't imagine traveling with them across an ocean. Couldn't and wouldn't!
But the wanderlust is strong in this one!
With every day that passes that I don't get to travel, I get a little more restless. I think my hubs can tell. Somehow, he always comes to the rescue at the absolute right moment and surprises me with a few days away. It is usually a place that is not too far away, so that if need be, we could get home to our kids in just a few hours; yet it is also far enough away from every day life. A place that feels different and new. A place we can explore.
These getaways have become my travel fix. They rejuvenate my mind and soul, and give me new life.
I know I sound completely dramatic, but it's true. Not only do I have wanderlust, but we as parents, absolutely need the time away from it all. We need to get away to be ourselves, to be a couple, not just parents. We need these breaks from our daily routine because some of us need to sleep through the night, or to leave the house the minute we decide to, not an hour later because we had to organize, prep and pack the kids. We need to be spontaneous, and adventurous, and we need time for just the two of us.
Our last road trip was in October. We went to Big Sur, CA and I fell in love. This time, daddy surprised me with a trip to Carmel.
I think my heart belongs in Northern California.
We set off on our adventure last Wednesday. We decided to shave a little time off the drive by taking the Interstate 5 instead of our usual route along the CA-1, a much more scenic drive, with lots of fun and interesting stops. More on CA-1 later.
Our first stop after a couple of hours of driving was the James Dean Memorial Junction at the intersection of Highway 41 and 46, in Cholame, CA. This junction was named after James Dean, who was killed in a car crash near the site. It's really just a street sign, but kind of a cool photo-op.
Next we hit some serious farm country. As we drove through all of the farms, we tried to guess what these farms were growing and what we were looking at.
The great thing about going on a road trip with my husband, is that we always have fun. Hours in a car seem like no time at all. We listen to music, talk about everything and nothing at all, and stop at the most random locations to goof off and explore. A great example is this strange and hilarious cabbage farm.
When we finally arrived at our hotel in Carmel Village, we checked out the grounds and got some lunch in town at a place called The Running Iron Restaurant. It was staffed by one sweet, but extremely overwhelmed waitress and one bartender. It took a while to be seated, because the one waitress also had to bus and clean the tables. But, when we finally sat down, the service was rather fast, and the waitress was very pleasant.
The menu was large, but the only things that really stood out were the burgers. I don't remember which burger hubby ordered, all I know is, it came on a long sandwich bun, and he had a very hard time eating it.
My burger was the one with feta cheese on top. Absolutely nothing wrong with my burger, but it was also pretty uneventful. The fries, however, were likely the best fries I have ever had. I highly recommend the fries.
Our burgers were so unimpressive, that we didn't even snap a picture. So, in lieu of a yummy food photo, here's a selfie of us on the patio.
After our meal at The Running Iron Restaurant, we walked around Carmel Valley Village. It is full of adorable restaurants, wineries and wine tasting rooms. The best thing about all the wine tasting rooms being so close together is that there is no drinking and driving. You can simply walk to the various tastings.
Later in the evening, we decided to go to the world famous Cannery Row, which I kept calling canary row, as in the bird.
It took us about 30 minutes to make the drive from Carmel Valley to Cannery Row in Monterey, CA. A total of 18 miles, and it was absolutely worth it.
I'm not sure what you would consider a cold night, but for the two of us, the low 40's are freezing. So we bundled up and ran into the first Starbucks we could find. Once, we were equipped with deliciously warm beverages, we were ready to take on the cold and take in the sites.
We walked around for some time and enjoyed all the various shops. There are several candy shops on Cannery Row, but we stopped at IT'SUGAR. The store is huge and has such a great variety of candy. We got our 14 year old sushi shaped candy. If you know our little girl, you know she is crazy for fake food and candy shaped like real food. We got our 3 year old a giant gummy bear, which he ate in 5 minutes, and some adorable Shopkins.
Happy with our purchases, we moved on to the next great shop, Monterey's Tasty Olive Bar. Oh Mylanta, the olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette selection here is beyond words. We must have spent about a half hour in this delicious tasting bar, trying all of the incredible olive oils and vinaigrettes. Highly recommended! Highly!
We walked up and down Cannery Row, and visited several other shops. We walked up to the Monterey Aquarium, which was already closed for the day. And then it happened, hubby decided to take us down a dark alley, following a sign that read "to the ocean".
Skeptical of this very un-hubby-like move, I was so pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the ocean at the end of the dark alley. At the end of that alley was a lovely deck overlooking the dark crashing waves of the ocean. What a site!
Just to our right, a very lively scene. Restaurants, hotels, and fire pits for anyone to enjoy. As we walked and talked, and Snapchatted away, we noticed a restaurant overlooking the ocean. At that moment, I announced that I wanted to eat at that restaurant, and so hubs made it happen. It was not that easy to find, as we originally saw it from a distance.
When we arrived at The Fish Hopper, there was a bit of a wait. First come first serve seating. But I requested a window seat and told the host that we did not mind waiting a little longer. One of the best things about our little getaways, is that we never rush. We feel and act like we have all the time in the world and simply refuse to stress about anything. We got our pager from the host, and decided to continue walking around the deck, stopping at random shops.
Not 20 minutes later, the pager vibrated, and we were seated at a lovely window seat.
First order of business, hubby ordered The Loaded Bloody Mary for his wifey, who is a huge fan of Blood Mary's, but unfortunately, has not had a good one since about 5 years ago at a little bar in Las Vegas.
Bloody Mary's, when done right, are one of my favorite drinks. But they are very often, a sad disappointment. Fortunately, The Fish Hopper got it right!
This Bloody Mary comes garnished with 3 Monterey Giant Prawns. I have not been so satisfied with a drink and garnish in... ever!
I was completely full after finishing my drink and prawns, only somehow, I immediately made room when our first appetizer appeared. The 1/2 Dozen Oysters On The Half Shell. I will go on record to say that I have, very literally, never had better Oysters in my life.
These Oysters we big, meaty, juicy and packed with flavor. No sauce needed!
Next we had the Bacon Wrapped Scallops
And for the main course, the Lobster Tail.
Both were very good, but the Bloody Mary and Oysters take the cake.
After a delicious dinner, we decided to get a bottle of wine, (for one, hubby doesn't drink), and go back to our room, where we could enjoy the view and fresh air from our patio.
Along the way, we found another restaurant we had to try, and made dinner reservations for the following day at Roux.
The next morning, we woke up refreshed after actually sleeping through the night. No babies waking you up every 2 hours for a bottle or a back scratch. Oh it was glorious! My fellow parents understand.
We woke up, had some coffee, and drove to Pebble Beach to do the "17 Mile Drive". If you are anything like me, the place where the forest, mountains and the ocean meet, is where you need to be. The cliffs, and crashing waves, the brisk air, and Cypress Trees, all surrounded by a thick fog that's slow to burn off. That is the place for me!
Fair warning, there is a $10 CASH fee for non-residents. However, if you spend $35 or more at any of the restaurants in the 17 Mile Drive area, they will credit your $10 toward your meal.
We started our drive with the must see Lone Cypress. This is an iconic tree, perched on a lone hill made of granite, and is the most photographed tree in North America.
We then drove through and stopped at most of the stops on the 17 Mile Drive. It was stunning.
We saw seals, birds, and various other wildlife. We saw enormous crashing waves, we saw incredible natural sites surrounded by manmade materials, homes, chainlink fences. There are definitely sites to behold.
After the drive and all of the stops, we were ready for breakfast. It was a little after 10am and we decided to go to one of the restaurants marked on the map.
One of the things I failed to mention earlier is that there are about 8 golf courses located along the 17 Mile Drive. Two of these golf courses are world famous PGA courses. Is that how you word it? I don't know. I truly do not know much about golf.
At this point in our drive we were simply following the little "fork and knife" sign on the map. The closest one happened to be at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. The Lodge at Pebble Beach is located at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of THE premier golf courses in the U.S.
When pulling onto the property, the woman at the booth stopped us to ask where we were going and to notify us that the only available parking on the property was valet parking due to some construction. She made sure to tell us again, that we were not to self park anywhere. So we drove until we saw what looked like the valet, only no one was valeting their cars. So hubby pulled over a little ways away, and I got out of the car to ask the nice gentleman in hotel uniform whether this was the valet.
He looks at me as if I had asked the stupidest question ever asked, and continues to tell me that yes, this is the valet, but that we could also park at self parking. Not paying much attention to his condescending tone, I explained that the guard at the booth told us that there was no self parking. To which I got another condescending "This is a world renowned blah blah blah... how could we possibly valet park every car?" Oh... I see, Sir.
I had one more question for him, could he point me to the restaurant? My question was met with a smirk and a "which restaurant?". The valet, once again began to tell me about this very world renowned hotel and golf establishment and all of the fine dining that was housed here. He, in great details, proceeded to tell me about each restaurant's location, the type of food served, and he did not forget to say, "do mind the prices at this restaurant, as you are paying for the view, not just the food".
When I got back in the car, I explained to hubby what had been said to me. I didn't know whether I should be offended or grateful for the heads up.
I later decided that I was offended.
We wrapped up breakfast and drove right back to our hotel where I needed to get a few hours of marketing work done for a few of my clients. But let me show you my office that day...
We worked, relaxed and got ready for dinner at Roux, the cute little restaurant we spotted the night before.
When we arrived, the place was packed. There were three available tables, none of which looked ideal. But, the amazing hostess made some moves and got us a wonderful table. We originally wanted to sit outside by the fire, but she advised against it as temperatures were due to drop down to the 30's that evening.
We enjoyed a couple of their Petite Assiettes, which are basically the French version of Tapas.
I particularly enjoyed the Griller Octopus. My only complaint, I wish there was more.
We also had the Sauted Gambas with Brandy, which were not our favorite, but good enough.
We split the main course, which was the Venison dish. It was delicious, light and not at all gamy.
We had plans to do a hike the next morning before we left for home. But instead, we slept in and lounged in bed until we had to check out. I truly cannot remember the last time I got to sleep in. My internal clock wakes me up early morning because that's when the boys wake up. But on this day, we actually slept.
It was so nice to leisurely get up, pack and go.
Our final stop was for gas and to-go meals for the road because we did not want to spend any more time away from our babies. As much as we absolutely enjoy the time alone, we miss our little guys like crazy.
So, we made our final stop in Gonzales, CA. A little farming town along the route home.
At this stop off of the 101, there is a gas station, a Starbucks, a Subway, a donut shop, a dental office and a surprisingly delicious burger restaurant called Burger Queen.
I felt really guilty about ending our getaway with a burger and fries, but couldn't help myself. I had to try it.
I had the #1, the Super Queen Cheeseburger, and this time there is no picture of the burger because I couldn't stop eating long enough to take a picture. Bravo, Burger Queen!
We had an amazing trip, and enjoyed every second. But we were so happy to finally get home to our two baby boys. It's a wonderful feeling to enjoy a getaway as much as we did, and to enjoy coming home even more.