Carmel & Napa Valley. Travel tips wanted.
My wife and I plan to fly to San Francisco in March and will likely split our time in Carmel and teh Napa Valley for this 10 day trip (camera-less trip, this time). We've never been to California so we're looking forward to it.
Any recommendations for a good Inns or B&Bs?
What are the must-sees around the regions?
Any shows or photo-related events we can't miss?
PS What's the difference between Carmel and Carmel-by-the-sea ?
Last edited by Daniel Grenier; 01-09-2006 at 09:12 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Carmel is about three hours south of the San Francisco Airport. You might be better off flying into San Jose - it's an hour closer and my experience is that flights are sometimes less expensive.
Carmel and Monterrey are nice areas to visit. There are a lot of things to see and do in the area. Photographically, there are at least three nice galleries in Carmel. There are also a large number of galleries showing other forms of art, and they can be inspiring to photographers.
If you are not staying in Carmel, your first challenge will be finding a place to park. There is on-street parking, but finding a spot can be a problem unless you arrive early in the day. There are also some public lots - be prepared to pay to park. The commercial district is very compact, so having parked, you can reach all of the downtown area by walking.
Carmel has a number of fine restaurants. It doesn't have many cheap or fast restaurants - fine dining is part of the life style, so chill and enjoy it.
My sense is that Monterrey is more commercial. It's certainly more spread out. I think there may be galleries there but we've never found them. There was a branch of the Ansel Adams Gallery there, but it closed a couple of years ago.
Monterrey has a public pier with a large parking lot (you have to pay to park). There are a number of excellent restaurants on the pier, all specializing in seafood. It's a relatively short walk from the parking lot into the main commercial district.
There is a secondary area in Monterrey that you will want to visit - the old Cannery Row area. This is being yuppified - there are a number of shops and restaurants in the area, as well as the Monterrey Aquarium. I think there are some lots in the area, but on-street parking is more feasible here.
Places to visit in the Monterrey Pennisula area:
Carmel Mission - a beautiful old mission church.
Point Lobos State Park - just south of Carmel on Rt. 1. This is where Weston did a lot of his work.
Steinmetz Museum - in Salinas, about 30 minutes drive from Carmel
Now - wineries. There are several wineries in the Monterrey-Carmel area. You will find literature in visitors centers that include brochures on wineries in the area. They are convenient, but they aren't as plentiful or as spectacular as those in Napa. And they are more spread out - be prepared to do some exploring of back country roads.
Napa is about a five hour drive from Monterrey - it's north of San Francisco. Well worth visiting, but you will have to allow several days to get there and to do the tours. By the way, if you do go, the Wine Train is a nice excursion and the luncheon is fabulous.
Our son lives in Sunnyvale - that gives us an excuse to visit the area frequently. We have found that focusing our stay in the South Bay area provides ultimate flexibility to travel north to Napa or south to Monterrey, staying overnight in either location if our plans require that we have more time in the area. That also gives us freedom to spend time in Sausalito, Marin Headlands, and San Francisco.
We enjoyed our visit the Lick Observatory outside San Jose. The view is spectacular, and its interesting to a technoweenie. But the drive up Mt. Hamilton is 20 miles of very narrow, twisting two-lane country road - so SLOW DOWN, plan to take a full afternoon for the trip.
The main highway from San Francisco to Monterrey is Highway 101 - this is an eight-lane freeway and is the road to take for speed. If you are interested in a more scenic approach, try Route 1. This is the coastal highway and passes through several small towns are are interesting places to visit.
Carmel and Carmel by the Sea (same place, it just sound better) then you have Carmel Valley just south (John Sexton is in the Valley). And then you have the Highlands. Point Lobos, Highlands Inn and Weston Homested and further south Big Sur. I think the Post Ranch get $2,500.00 for a cottage for the week end. Up north of Monterey on Hwy 1 Moss landing and a good Sea food place it looks like and old warehouse looking place. You eat with the locals at big tables. Pacific Grove is inbetween Carmel and Monterey. See if you can find the Chouder House on Sunset your basic blue and white building. Again you eat with the locals. If you want to spend some money try the Road House around Monterey.
If I think of any more I will get back to you
ps No need to bring a camera just go to Camera West in Monterey I am sure that you can but some thing.
As for Carmel, there are actually some reasonable motels there that are basic but clean. You can contact the Chamber Of Commerce for a listing. I have stayed there for about $70 per night just about 2-3 blocks from the main drag. There is a nice little motel on the west end of the main street that is white and it has a large tree grwoing in the courtyard. Last I knew, it was $99\night. Prices may have gone up some since I was there last. I never had a hard time finding parking in Carmel, but you may have to walk 4-5 blocks to the downtown area.
In Carmel, there is the Weston gallery - a must see. There is also Photography West Gallery. Both have a lot of nice work, especially the Weston Gallery. There is no end of shopping, eating and galleries in Carmel.
Monterey used to have the Ansel Adams Gallery, but it closed. The Russ Levin Gallery is there but you may need to call in for an appointment.
Some of this will have already been said, but: I agree with the SanJose comment.. Much cheaper and easier to fly into.
I stayed in Seaside... Just outside of Monterey... Much cheaper.. Monterey has Cannery Row, which is a shopping, eating area.. It houses the Aquarium, which is a great place... Good food, great Ice cream joint that is very picturesque and the Ansel Gallery... Monterey also has the pier where there is great smoked salmon and fresh breads.. Very cheap.. Other junk food places and chessy tshirt shops but I did bring my son there every night for ice cream...
Carmel has the actual Carmel shopping area.. Very pricey, very posh... Good food. 17 mile drive is around there (good pictures). There is a nice working lighthouse as well as San Miguel (an old church).. Very cool stuff.
Driving is not bad.. Parking isn't bad either. There is a used camera joint walking distance from Cannery Row. I'll go through my journal and see if there is anything I missed.
edit: Oh yeah, if your on the road, going South.. In between Point Lobos and Big Sur is a place to pull off the road and there is a nature walk (sort of) that has stairs that goes down to the beach........ Some of the most picturesque things I have ever seen..... Of course, I didn't have MF then... Just my 35mm.
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I have stayed at the same place that Reggie described and I can't think of the name but it's close to Galleries and the main street.
Absolutely don't miss going to Point Lobos. If you don't plan to go there then don't even bother going to Carmel. It's just south of Carmel, very close and is undescribable. If you drive down the coast highway you will see the Pigeon Point Lighthouse about half way down.
Did I mention the Redwood National Park? Missing that would almost be a crime. Trees as old as time, BC; enough said.
Here's what I would check out in this area:
Monterey Museum of Art (good collection of photography on permanent display and check the website there's supposed to be some photo collection opening in January that should still be up)
Highlands Inn (hosts shows by Ansel Adams Gallery people)
Point Lobos if you have to, but the real deal is Garrapata beach and creek
Old Coast Road if it's not too much of a muddy mess
Tide pools in Pacific Grove (maybe someone will be surfing at Boneyards)
Blackstone Winery in Gonzales does allot of photo shows, current show is photo but I don't what'll be up in March
If you are a fan of Steinbeck you might want to check out the museum in Salinas
The Carmel mission is cool, but if you're into missions check out San Juan Bautista and maybe drive down to San Miguel (My favorite) and also the San Carlos church in Monterey
Tarpy's Road House
Katie's (good cheap breakfast in Carmel?)
Send me a PM if you want more of the skinny on this area
"If I only had a brain"-Some badly dressed guy made of straw in some movie I think I saw
Greetings from Pebble Beach (wedged in somewhere along the coast between Carmel (by the Sea) and Pacific Grove, actually. We have Carmel BTS, and Carmel Valley. And Caramel candy available at Fisherman's wharf in Monterey which has 3 wharves. Fisherman's is the tourist wharf. Just to the south is the Coast Guard wharf and boatyard with the Monterey Marina. To the North is the commercial wharf which to me, is much more interesting to photograph than the other 2.
B&B Places to stay. A few good ones adjacent to Lovers Point in Pacific Grove which is only about 7 minutes from downtown Carmel. Green Gables Inn, I hear is quite nice and reasonable with ocean views. The Andril Fireplace Cottages in Asilomar is great. Family owned, individual cottages with fireplaces, kitchens and cooking utensils, free firewood, in the forest with hot and cold running deer, about a half mile from the beach (and Pebble Beach). Reasonable weekly rates. (I shot their brochure a while ago). Remember you're planning to visit in our "off-season". Bring a jacket , sweater, and rain gear btw. It's been raining quite a lot the last several weeks.
Carmel has a lot of quaintness happening, but a bit too touristy for my wife and I. During the week, parking isn't too bad. Weston gallery has a lot of their stuff and Ansel Adams work. There's also the Carmel Center for photographic Art next to the Sunset Center. For restaurants, it depends on what you'd like to eat. Seafood?? You want tourist or non-tourist places? Italian, California, burgers? Or fast food. Drop me an e-mail and I'll give you my list of locals hangouts. Mateo's list I think is ok, but the Factory is really off the charts price wise, lotsa fish, pasta, rich sauces, huge wine collection. Katies is good for breakfast in Carmel but they've raised their prices out the roof. I prefer Breakers Cafe in pacific Grove on Forest. Local constructions guys hangout. Whaling Station is ok, steaks and prime rib. Fishwife is excellent, but the Monterey Fishouse is just the best. Reservations for that one are helpful as at Fishwife and the Sardine Factory.
The Carmel Mission is nice, historic, behind Mission Beach which is nice this time of year. NO CAMERA !!!! HOW COULD YOU !!!!!!!!! When the surf gets rolling you can get some wonderful dynamic ocean shots along the beaches in Pacific Grove, Asilomar, and of course, Pebble Beach along 17 mile drive. You might avoid the $8.75 gate fee by telling them you're going to the grill at the lodge for lunch or Spanish Bay.
If you want a spectacular coastal view, drive south on highway 1 to the Point Sur lighthouse. The California Park Service on Garden Road can give you the hours when they're giving free tours. The view from the rock is incredible. And, there are lots of turnouts on the way to take in views. Stop at Highlands Inn in Carmel highlands for lunch, formal dinner or just a beer. nice views too. The other lighthouse here is a Pacific Grove on Sunset in the middle of the PG municipal golf course. Oldest working lighthouse on the west coast. Tours are given there too. North of Santa Cruz is Pigeon Point lighthouse on highway 1. Nice to photograph.
Oh, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium is remodeled with a lot of new exhibits. At the end of Cannery Row and David Avenue. Camera stores near the Row? I can't think of any anymore. Camera West? I prefer B&H or KEH. (Russ Levin is a friend of mine). Myricks on Fremont street if you decide to bring a camera and run low on film. Gassers in San Francisco.
Anything else I can suggest just drop me an e-mail. Take it light.
Without guys like John Coltrane, Count Basie and Duke Ellington, life....would be meaningless.
Thanks all very much for the good info.
The plan's in place and reservations made. We'll be in St Helena for five days and then down to Carmel area for another five - the second week of Feb.
After touring wine country, we'll come down and stay at the Seven Gables Inn in Pacific Grove (Higlands was booked). We've made reservations at Grasing's with more to decide on when there. We're also dining at the Master's of Food and Wine event at the Highhlands Inn (which so happens to run the week we're there... how convenient) featuring Chefs like Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter etc... (the AA and EWs of food).
Aside from the usual must-see in the area, we might well take a day trip to Yosemite hoping for the rain to let up by then (and to allow us to put the top down on our rented convertible !).
Looking forward to it and thanks again folks for the tips.
PS .... still debating whether I will take my 8x10 along.
Nah, don't bring the camera. It has been proven that no photos of any merit will ever be taken or produced in that area. I think there is something in the water......
Monterey has it's own "Fisherman's Wharf" but there is a restaurant one pier to the north of there that is worth the investment. It is fantastic for lunch and great (if pricey) for dinner. It is called The Sand Bar and Grill. It is built halfway between the surface of the pier and the water (you walk down a flight of stairs from the wharf to get in.) You can often enjoy watching sea lions swimming in the marina as you have lunch.