A Different Take on the Monterey Peninsula

Saved: February 26th 2014
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Carmel BeachCarmel BeachCarmel Beach

On a windy but sunny afternoon
I have already written numerous times about our fabulous trips to the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and my favorite place on earth, Pebble Beach. Let me see if I can focus on some different, and perhaps more obscure or overlooked places in this great part of the world. First, let me say that we are so fortunate to have the Monterey Peninsula within an easy day trip or overnight jaunt from our homes in the Bay Area. And when the ATT Golf Tournament features four days of bright sun, I am sure the east coast and midwest just turn fairway green with envy.

Dog Friendly most everywhere, especially hotels and outdoor cafes, as well as most retail. Most businesses have water bowls and puppy treats for our four legged friends. I don't let Buddy drink from there. My theory is: you never know where those lips have them. Applies to people too!

Carmel beach is free. No charge for parking. Great view of Pebble Beach and south to Big Sur. In fact, from here, walk north to Pebble Beach and avoid the Gate fee to 17 Mile Drive. Buddy and I did the walk/jog along the ocean to the 10th fairway and green at Pebble. BTW, I know all of the secrets for free entry into 17 Mile Drive here. No drives down to Big Sur due to the landslide on Highway 1.

Get off of Ocean Avenue in downtown Carmel. You will find hidden treasures, tiny places to eat where the locals go, smaller galleries, a radio station, and numerous mom and pop storefronts. Parking is free, IF you can find it. The infamous Hog's Breath Inn, no longer owned by "make my day", but cozy fires and eclectic vibe nonetheless.

Bring or rent a bicycle down by Cannery Row in Monterey. Pack a lunch and ride out to Lover's Point on an easy but picturesque bike lane along Monterey Bay. Hint: bring a blanket or picnic table cloth to avoid sitting on seagull poop. Just stay away from that old bar and restaurant out there.

If you are a John Steinbeck fan, avoid Cannery Row and head to the National Steinbeck Center in nearby Salinas, a quick 25 minute trip on Highway 68 East. By the way, his ghost is sometimes seen and heard in the tunnel from Monterey to Pacific Grove. I loved both Cannery Row and Grapes of Wrath, American classics.

Play on the sand dunes in Sand City, located just north of Monterey. Bring a kite or a sand bucket. Oh, and goggles to keep the sand out of your eyes. Also, your dog may get sandy claws!

If you get bored, rent a Lamborghini for the day!

Drive through old Fort Ord, and imagine new recruits training for combat in the Pacific. Check out the new parts of the base, such as the State University at Monterey, and the fully refurbished Bayonnet and Blackhorse Golf Courses (public) here. Bayonnet is tougher than Pebble or Spyglass in my humble opinion.

Take a leisurely drive up Carmel Valley, past the luxury resorts, and stop at the Robert Talbot Factory store (a real factory outlet store), then lunch or dinner at the Vineyard Bistro, owned by dear friends Jimmy and Carol Ugaz. In fact, Carol just called, and we visited her at the Lodge at Pebble Beach on Thursday.

The Carmel Public Library in downtown Carmel is a good place to sit and read your morning paper, or research some of old Monterey. Best of all, there are NO Starbucks in the downtown Carmel area. Grab a coffee at one of the many bakeries on Ocean Avenue.

The best place to buy a gift for a child is at Thinker Toys in downtown Carmel. My kids always loved the construction kits and toys from this unique store. True to the name, even you will have to think if you are able to help your kids with the toys and games.

The best place to buy a gift for a golfer is at the Pebble Beach Outlet store on Cannery Row. Commonly 50% or more off of identical items at the Links, Spanish Bay or Spyglass. Or in my case, make a bargain purchase for me, myself and I.

Breakfast offers many options. But time after time, we prefer Toasties on Lighthouse in Pacific Grove. Plus, they serve French Roast coffee on request. Their breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, and Monterey style Benedicts are great creations. Another good place is Em Le's in downtown Carmel. Their funnel cake waffle with strawberries is a diabetic's nightmare.

The drive south to Big Sur is picturesque and free, except for $4 a gallon gasoline. But you will see
Carmel breakfast at Em Le'sCarmel breakfast at Em Le'sCarmel breakfast at Em Le's

You must try the funnel cake waffles or giant omelettes
California's coastline at its unique and beautiful best. I vote for this coastline over the white, sandy beaches of the tropics anytime. No Big Sur due to the landslide.

Have you ever just walked down to the tide pools to see whatever you can see? I have found both sand dollars, and real dollars over the years.

Monterey County has many good wineries, and several that do not charge for tasting, ala Napa and Sonoma. The Carmel Valley Wine Trail has six nice wineries: Chateau Julien, Heller, Talbott, Bernardus, Joullian, and Galante. If you only have time for one, go to Chateau Julien.

I love the crab and angel hair pasta at Abalonetti's on the Monterey Wharf. Too bad our dear friend, John, is no longer there. You must also order their antipasto appetizer. Dinner Tuesday night was as good as ever. How often does a restaurant put the large pieces of the crab leg into a pasta or Louie?

For pretty good croissants, specialty breads and pastries, the must stop is the Paris Bakery on Munras in downtown Monterey. Their coffee and specialty sandwiches are very good too. Timing is everything here. They day old basket often has great bags of treasures for only a $1.

Dennis the Menace Park is great for the kids with lots of interesting playground equipment. And the little paddle boats on the nearby lake are a great way to get the kids tired for the ride home. Be careful, the cemetery is across the street. Just don't eat the hot dogs at the snack shop. Very reminiscent of the Alex Theater owned by Cosmo Kramer and Jeffrey Harharwood.

Here is a hint that no one else can give you. If you are really strapped for money, head over to Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP), and eat in their cafeteria. The last time I was there I got fresh halibut and asparagus. For dessert, I had to settle for Cherries Jubilee. By the way, much of the funds from the ATT Pro-Am Golf Tournament go to this hospital. And their emergency room is superb.

Tons of tennis courts are available for free, including Pacific Grove High, Monterey Rec Center, and Monterey Peninsula College. If you would rather pay, Carmel Valley and Pebble Beach have very pricey court time for you.

One thing I can always count on is my trusty little camera. Never leave home without it. A photo op is just around every corner here in one of the most beautiful places in the world, even when the rain is pouring buckets.

After all of our trips here, we finally got to eat at Peppers, Mexi-Calif Grill in Pacific Grove. It is always packed with locals, even on a Wednesday night. But we got in about 5 minutes after arriving. Sheri had the steak tacos (superb), and I had the seafood paella, almost as good as Ingrid's. We topped it off with macadamia and coconut ice cream with fudge swirls. Thursday morning starts with croissants from Paris Bakery and some Peet's French Roast coffee. Definitely not diet food here.

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