Destination: Sweet Carmel

McClatchy-Tribune NewsJuly 6, 2013 

TRAVEL UST-CARMEL 3 MCT

Casanova Restaurant is one of the stops on a restaurant tour in Carmel, California. (Samantha Feuss/MCT)

SAMANTHA FEUSS — MCT

— Carmel is a great spot to get away from it all. It's the perfect place to show how sweet and charming you are, whether it's a wedding, proposal, romantic hideaway or girlfriend getaway.

A small but active and artistic area, you will find plenty of shopping, museums, theater, exquisite wine and savory food, which are all just perks in addition to the main character: the beautiful coastline.

Carmel-by-the-Sea — often called simply Carmel — is a small town with a rich artistic history on the Monterey Peninsula. In the early 1900s, 60 percent of Carmel's houses were built by those who were "devoting their lives to work connected to the aesthetic arts."

The 2000 United States Census Bureau reported that the town had a total population of 4,081. As of the 2010 census, this number has decreased to 3,722.

The area is home to the scenic 17-Mile Drive, Steinbeck's Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, world-renowned golf courses, Point Lobos Reserve and the Big Sur coast. It's very pet friendly; dogs can be seen everywhere, from sidewalks to stores, and restaurants to art galleries.

The city offers some fine dining options, as well as others with a more modern flair.

Mundaka, a Spanish-style tapas restaurant in downtown Carmel, is the result of a love of food, wine, music and Spanish culture. The food comes in small plates meant for sharing.

The drinks are organic and ingredients locally grown — don't expect to order a cola in this establishment. The atmosphere is funky and artistic with live music, and the menu offers both vegetarian and nonvegetation options.

Grasing's offers fine dining that features fresh ingredients from California's Carmel Coast and our very own Central Valley. They have a varied wine list, and the desserts are delicate and delectable. You will want to make sure to save room for them.

If you're in the area for a short period of time but want to really experience the food and wine, take the Carmel Food Tour. While walking through the picturesque city, you will be able to enjoy the tastes from seven of Carmel's most unique restaurants and specialty shops.

This three-hour tour is not only an enjoyable lunch that literally gives you a taste of the town, but it also gives you a glimpse into the area's culture, art, architecture and history.

When it comes to lodging, note that there are no chain hotels in the area.

Hofsas House Hotel is a Bavarian styled, family-owned inn with 38 uniquely decorated rooms, many with ocean views. The Dutch doors prevalent in Carmel provide the entrance to each room, allowing guests to take in the ocean air.

Some rooms also have balconies that are complete with sitting areas and small grills for cooking outdoors. The sliding glass doors allow guests to watch sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, and most rooms have indoor fireplaces that are perfect for getting cozy with your significant other.

Pet-friendly rooms

In addition to a variety of room sizes, there are pet-friendly rooms, apartment-style rooms complete with a kitchen for large families or gatherings and a meeting hall.

There are multiple packages available as well, from a wine and cheese basket delivered and set up in your room to a proposal package complete with writing in the sand and champagne.

Each morning, the hotel offers a continental breakfast in the lobby, as well as amenities such as a heated swimming pool, dry saunas and free wireless Internet.

Further down the beach and nestled in the rolling hills of Carmel Valley, is the historic Holman Ranch. This unique destination is a memorable setting for weddings, special events, family gatherings, corporate retreats and team-building events.

Everywhere you look, there are majestic mountain views, lush gardens and a sense of solitude.

This impressive estate includes a fully restored stone hacienda, overnight guest rooms, vineyards, an olive grove, and areas for gatherings and food including an open barn and an indoor living room. Those having an event on the property will be the only ones allowed there during that time frame, ensuring total seclusion and space.

Carmel is a great location for the next romantic retreat on your calendar. From food to unique boutique hotels, to wine, art and general touring, there is enough to keep you busy for as long as you would like to be.

And for those who are looking for someplace to relax and unwind, they need search no further. It's perfect for that, too.

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