A Great Escape is Carmel-by-the-Sea


You know what’s nice? Getting away. Vacations are nice, too, but sometimes you just need to get away. The difference is that vacations usually include an agenda. Folks are scrambling around with things to do, they spend little time in the hotel room that they paid for, they go walking about all day doing fun stuff but come back exhausted, and at the end of the trip are out of money.

But on a getaway, you sleep late, take in the view, maybe do some window shopping (maybe not), eat at nice restaurants, have another glass (or two) of wine at dinner, get a massage, and above all – relax. With today’s hustle and bustle, sometimes you just need to get away.

Recently my girlfriend and I did just that when we took a long weekend getaway to Carmel-By-The-Sea. What Google maps said should be about a five-hour drive ended up taking us about 12 because we stopped and looked in the little towns all the way up the coast. Taking the 101 Freeway north, we stopped for a few hours in Solvang, a Danish-styled village in Santa Barbara County. The cute little shops and bakeries were the perfect excuse to get out and stretch. Between the knitting shops, dress shops, antique shops and artsy-craftsy shops, my girlfriend had plenty to do, and with a brewery in town and a unique Danish dessert called aebelskiver at many of the restaurants, I was happy to kill some time in the town.

Continuing up the coast, we made the mistake of trying to take Pacific Coast Highway and about halfway up and got caught off the freeway in a tangle of restricted roads near Vandenberg Air Force Base. A word of advice for those attempting this getaway: just take the 101. Attempting PCH can take about 11 hours without the stopping we did.

We arrived about 12 hours after leaving L.A., though we only did about six hours of driving. It wasn’t even that bad on gas – about $50 to get up there in our rented car.

We were shown to our room at the Hofsas House hotel in Carmel-By-The-Sea. The hotel was nice enough to accommodate us despite an error in the reservation. The fourth floor deluxe king room with an ocean view was amazing. Most inns and hotels in Carmel-By-The-Sea only have two floors as the city limits all buildings to that maximum height. But being built on the side of a hill, Hofsas House extends down into the valley, allowing for the second floor above street level to actually be a fourth floor. This means that for the first two floors there’s a forest view and above that are ocean views.

The king bed was big and the room had a fireplace/furnace, a kitchenette with a sink, microwave, coffeepot and coffee from a local coffee roaster, an old style wash basin and pitcher, two chairs and a table by the window that ran the length of the front wall. The bed was soft, the room was clean and we felt at home immediately. It felt more like the guest room in Grandma’s house rather than a hotel. The floral print wallpaper on two walls and the ceiling promoted that feeling as well, but it all went along with the European theme, as did the mural of Bavarian masters and maidens welcoming guests to the hotel.

There was wine and cheese waiting in our room from The Cheese Shop, a local store nearby. We took the wine and cheese out onto the patio and watched the sunset.

That night we had dinner in town, just three blocks away (we didn’t even move our car until our second night because everything was within walking distance). Returning to the hotel, we lit the fireplace and sat inside with the shutters on the windows flung wide to watch the moonlight on the ocean. We slept well, though being on the street side near the two-lane highway we did get a bit of traffic noise. But that was rare, and the sound of the ocean off in the distance was what lulled us to sleep.

Carmel-By-The-Sea accomplished what a getaway is supposed to: we came home relaxed and refreshed. While we were there, there were no cellphones or stress about life at home plaguing us and, although it was tough to return, we came home better for the time we spent there.