Highway 1's Carmel-by-the-sea
Arguably the most photogenic of the Central Coast small towns
Happy Mother’s Day! Looking for a great place to bring Mom, this year or next? May we suggest awesome Carmel-by-the-Sea?
Carmel, just north of Big Sur and south of Monterey, is known for its fairytale gingerbread cottages, cute, walkable downtown with cobblestone streets, massive waves on the rocky coast (by the sea, remember?), multiple art galleries, beautiful cypress trees and some of the most coveted real estate anywhere.
Our PhotowalksTV journey on California's Central Coast jewel, the awesome road trip that is Highway 1, continues to CBTS, as it’s known. Population, just under 4,000 people.
Carmel is a rich town, with stores from Tiffany, Rolex and estate jewelers in downtown, men’s pants that could set you back $300 (a pair was really shown to me at that rate!) and meals that could be pretty pricey. But with the surrounding scenery, what would you expect?
It’s a place any of us would want to live in, and the good news, despite the wealth, the people there couldn’t be nicer. I didn’t witness snobbery like I might in a Beverly Hills or other ultra-wealthy community, not at all.
I met a lot of really interesting people in Carmel, newfound friends I hope to remain in contact with for years. (I'm talking to you Manny and Lynne.)
In fact, I'll hand over this space to Lynne Allenspach for the following quote. She's the director of tourism for the Carmel Chamber, who told me how she had come out for a months long visit from the midwest, and decided to instead call Carmel home. That was a few years ago. Then I asked her to describe Carmel.
"We have one little square mile here, but it's such a fairytale European village, just plopped on the coast of California...We have 20 wineries, 50 restaurants and over 80 art galleries..."
And no stoplights or street addresses! (For real!)
"Everybody has to go to the post office to get their mail. It keeps that little community feel."
Our original plan was to spend two days in Carmel and two more in nearby Monterey, but that didn't work out. We just fell in love with Carmel and didn't want to leave. (We did give a day to Monterey, which probably wasn't enough. The good news: we can always go back.)
So why did we fall in love with CBTS?
I like a good walking town, and Carmel, with its mix of gingerbread buildings, and just ultra-cute stores, was very inviting for strolls. (Love those hidden alleys too!) I didn’t have to drive anywhere. That's why I love visiting New York, Paris, Catalina Island, Lisbon and other great places. Walking is king. Such fun!
And photo wise, there was so much to see and photograph. Let me point out five photo highlights in the Carmel village.
But first, please start at the Visitor Center for maps and tips. Because as you know, I always recommend checking in with the people who know their towns better than you do. The center is in a shopping center at the top of Ocean Avenue in Carmel Plaza. (Remember, they don't have street addresses in Carmel. The center is listed as between Junipero & Mission, on the second floor of Carmel Plaza.)
Five must-have photos!
The new mural on Mission Street is a popular spot for a Insta-selfie.
The fairytale gingerbread homes of Carmel are probably the most popular photo op after sunset. The Tuck Box, a local eatery, is one great example, as is the Cottage of Sweets candy shoppe (shown here) on busy Ocean avenue.
Walk down Ocean Avenue to the sea, and one block before you hit the water is Scenic Road, blocks and blocks of amazing oceanfront views set amidst cypress trees. This is so highly recommended, for morning and sunset shots. (The key image: shoot the sun setting through the branches of the expansive cypress trees, as seen above.) If you take the road all the way, you’ll end up at Carmel River State Beach, where you’ll see some of the biggest waves around and best views. Don’t miss it.
The Mission Basilica, founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1770, celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2020. It's considered the second of the 21 California missions. The first is in San Diego. (Sidebar: how about a cool PhotowalksTV episode from San Diego to Sonoma? Do I hear interest out there?)
This is another really cool beach with stunning views and a paved walking trail that looks down at the rocky coast. To get there, drive down Ribera Road until it comes to a dead end, leading you to two trails. Ribera is where the beloved actress Betty White used to live part-time. Her estate just sold her vacation Carmel home on Ribera Road for $10 million.
As I noted, I made lots of new friends in Carmel. When I asked the tourism folks to suggest a great local photographer I could have join me on the PhotowalksTV episode, they recommended Manny Espinoza, and boy am I glad they did. He's an amazing photographer (check out his website or Instagram) personable, outgoing, knows Carmel like the back of his hand and extended our visit together to also include a trip to nearby Point Lobos, one of the great California state parks, where we saw seals, otters and rare birds.
He topped it off by telling us about one of his favorite restaurants in town and insisting we visit Edwin's that night. Little did we know at the time that we'd end up at the Asian fusion restaurant celebrating his birthday. And that I'd be rocking my guitar version of "Dock of the Bay," for him with a conga player and singer!
It became clear that this was Carmel. Despite the wealth, it really is a small, friendly town, full of people who know they're lucky to live there, and don't mind showing you their hospitality when you come to town.
Now that's rich!
Manny specializes in dramatic landscape photos. Check out his Point Lobos images on his Instagram, or better yet, catch his show at the Seventh and Dolores Steakhouse on May 25th. Meanwhile, please watch the PhotowalksTV episode with me and Manny in Carmel, and listen to our extended interview from the Little Swiss restaurant.
Questions for Mom?
I mentioned yesterday that if you weren’t sure what questions to ask mom for a Mother’s Day interview, I’d be happy to help. I heard from Darren and others yesterday, requesting some guidance. Happy to help!
Here’s a good place to start:
Tell me about the early years and growing up. What was the family home and dynamic like back then?
What did you talk about at the dinner table with the parents?
What do you do with yourself after school as a kid?
What were your dreams for your life? What did you want to do?
How did you meet dad?
Tell me about (a particular point of history)—the women’s movement, the passage of Roe V. Wade, the 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s.
In other words, start at the beginning, and move up chronologically. The art of interviewing is listening. Follow-up questions will come naturally.