Hank Vander Veen
As all of you know when you live in the Central Valley, the heat can come in waves and almost be unbearable at times. Fortunately for us, the climate changes quickly in other parts of Northern California. Last month when the forecast was for 105 and up my wife and I decided to get out of town and head for cooler pastures. Looking at the forecast we ended up in Carmel and what a relief it was. Only two hours away and the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to weather. The first hour of the drive doesn’t change much but as you get over Pacheco Pass you can literally watch the temperature gauge in your car go down. Once there you realize what a treat it is for those of us that call the 209 home. We have the pleasure of having places like Carmel right in our backyard. During certain times of day it was literally 50 degrees cooler than it was at home. My wife just had hand surgery two weeks prior, so it was a great way to get away and spend some time checking out new places and areas not far from the 209.
The first part of our stay we found a great boutique inn, Hofsa’s House. It has quite a story behind it. It’s been in the same family for over six decades. Donna Hofsa founded Hofsa’s Hotel with only four cottages. They lived in one while renting out the other three. In 1957 they added 25 rooms and a swimming pool. All of the original cottages are still available for guests looking for a little more room and a piece of history. Several family members have owned it over the years. Since 2000, Donna’s granddaughter, Carrie Theis, has been the general manager. I got a chance to meet Carrie, she is very proud of what her grandmother started. She keeps the history and heritage in mind as she moves forward. It has brought her full circle as she still remembers escorting guests to their rooms at the age of 8 as she spent her summers helping her grandmother. Hofsa’s House has grown to 38 rooms that boast European comfort while offering amenities such as fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, kitchens and patios. It is within walking distance to downtown Carmel, and is located just three blocks from Ocean Avenue.
I won’t talk about all the different restaurants we ate at but one in particular stood out above the rest. To tell the truth, I am usually a little bit leery of restaurants located in heavy tourist areas but this time I was pleasantly surprised. We decided to try the Whaling Station near Cannery Row. A little bit of a drive but worth it in every way. When you think of Cannery Row you definitely think seafood but this restaurant was a full fledged local steakhouse. They had cuts of meat in any price range. The waiter brought the platter of cuts to us, and explained a little about each one. This is actually where the experience went to the next level. The waiter was so attentive and helpful, which is usually why a restaurant stands out in my opinion. Many places have quality food but quality servers are where you can rise above the rest. From salad to sides, to main dish, all the food was great. Our waiter made recommendations along the way. He got us to try something out of our comfort zone that was fantastic, Roasted Padron Peppers from the fields in Watsonville. My wife is not a red meat fan and ordered the roasted chicken. When talking about the chicken the waiter made note of the fact that she had a cast on her hand and offered to have the chef cut the chicken, as it would be easier for her. That to me is where good employees can make you stand apart. Needless to say, all the food was outstanding and a great experience along the way.
For the second half of our stay we moved to a smaller inn that was a little more isolated. It was up the hill from downtown Carmel on Carpenter Street. Still walkable when going downtown for dinner, but may be better to take Uber or a taxi cab. The highlights of this inn were definitely the recently renovated rooms. In partnership with local wineries each of the rooms at the Vendange Hotel were decorated and sponsored by the wineries themselves. Bottles of wine were available for purchase in each room, but they also offered complimentary wine tasting in the evening. It had a lovely fire pit in the courtyard area adding to its charm. There are only 18 rooms and suites and guests under 18 are not allowed, which makes this a more intimate atmosphere. The new owners have done a great job with the property, giving it the feel of staying at a winery right in the heart of Carmel.
One of the highlights of our trip was walking along the coast from Monterey all the way to the golf course in Pacific Grove. At one point there was a gentleman with a telescope and binoculars inviting those who passed by to look at the sea otters and other marine life. He encouraged everyone to take a look. There were hundreds of otters lining the beach taking in the sun.
These are just a few highlights of our nice little get away from the valley heat. The place I call home is the 209, but one of the greatest attributes is our proximity to many other wonderful parts of California. Whether it’s the snow in the Sierra, the amenities of the big city or a chance to beat the heat, we are only two hours away from almost anything we want to do.
IF YOU’RE GOING
Hofsa’s House is located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel by the Sea. (831) 624-2745 www.hofsashouse.com
Whaling Station is located just above Cannery Row at 763 Wave Street. (831) 373-3778 www.whalingstation.net
Vendange Carmel Inn & Suites is located at 24815 Carpenter Street in Carmel by the Sea. (831) 624-6400 www.vendangecarmel.com