Sunday, December 29, 2013

Weekend trip to Carmel by the Sea and Big Sur

Every long weekend I spend in the Bay Area makes me appreciate it even more. The state is a treasure trove for a travel enthusiast and after all these years, it has never failed to amaze us! We went on a camping trip  to Big Sur during Thanksgiving. We camped at  the Fernwood campgrounds. It was not the best time for camping as it was freezing but it was really pretty and we had an awesome time.

Big Sur is one of the most dramatic landscapes in the US. There are coastlines with jagged rock formations, and crashing surf along rocky coves. We drove along Highway 1 and stopped at all the vista points. Garrapata State Park is a 4 mile area from Garrapata Creek Bridge to Gate 1 (it is near Pt. Lobos). Bixby bridge is one of the main vista points along the way where you get beautiful unobstructed ocean views. Hurricane Pt- a mandatory stop for me, is further south of Bixby bridge. It is at an elevation and has great views of both north and south of Hwy 1. Another stop that we make every single time is at Nepenthe - it is a restaurant along Highway 1 with great views.

There are some places were you can park and walk down to the ocean. Some of these have beach access while others have great views. Either ways, it makes for good small hikes along beautiful scenic trails- all in a day's play :)

All along Big Sur the color of the water is beautiful - you can see various shades of blue, green and also almost translucent water. The vegetation and wonderful rock formations catch your eye. This place never ceases to amaze me!

With every Vista stop we "Oohed" and ""Aahed" and shot photo after photo.

This is a part of a short half-hour hike we took. We walked down the slopes to sea level where the water was the most beautiful shade of aquamarine. The aquatic vegetation is supposed to be awesome - evident by the lush plants and seaweed all over the area.

On our way back, we stopped at Carmel by the Sea in Monterey county. It is a very pretty town by the sea. I loved walking along the boutiques and cafes that line the street leading to the water. There are some beautiful bed & breakfasts and wine tasting rooms. The city organizes various art and film festivals. 

A little trivia - The funniest thing I have read about Carmel is that  they have an unusual law that prohibits wearing high-heel shoes without a permit ;).

The beach is beautiful. They allow dogs at the beach and it was fun watching them play in the water. Most B&Bs are pet friendly too.

Restaurant suggestions- 

Nepenthe is our favorite stop to grab some grub while visiting Big Sur. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. Cafe Kevah is in the same location and offers breakfast, coffee and snacks. Both of these have great views.

Another good restaurant in the Monterey area is Montrio Bistro.  The food is amazing and the ambience is great. 

Seafood lovers can't miss the Old fisherman's Grotto. Start with the amazing clam chowder, coconut prawns, crab cakes and fried calamari. If you like your entree on the sweet side try the macadamia nut crusted halibut or the crab ravioli which was awesome. Else try the pesto parmesan salmon or the veggie pasta. 

For coffee breaks, try the Carmel Bakery in Carmel or the Paris bakery cafe in Monterey. Paris bakery had some of the best custard filled brioches and almond croissants.

Happy New Year everyone! Have a great holiday:)

 - Dee

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Point Reyes

This past summer was great for traveling. We made the most of it by going out for many day trips. The San Francisco bay area is  perfect in terms of the numerous options for weekend fun. Some of our favorite day trips are to Napa, Half moon bay, Santa Cruz and Big Sur. Another favorite drive is along highway 1 north with stops at Muir woods, Mount Tamalpais and Point Reyes. 

One weekend we drove all the way to Point Reyes. It is more beautiful than any of the pictures below that we could capture. The fog gives it an ethereal feel and the landscape looks different with every turn. The drive leading to the lighthouse is really green. It is just an hour out from San Francisco but it has beautiful European charm. Something about the vast expanse of open green space and ocean views makes me associate it with places like England or Ireland. 

When there is no fog, you can see a long part of the coastline. Between January and March go there for whale watching.  Point Reyes National seashore is a great place for a picnic or stop at other beaches along the way like Limantour beach or Heart's Desire beach. 

The place is also perfect for activities like kayaking, biking and hiking. You can book wilderness adventure tours or  do kayaking on Tomales Bay and Drakes Estero.

It rained once while we were there. It didn't last long but the scenery just changed completely. The sky turned a beautiful shade of crimson and the rainbow looked great blanketed in the fog. 

Beach picnics are super fun. But expect the weather to be generally cold or to change suddenly. I have visited Point Reyes 4 times and it has been very cold and windy each time. We have mostly been there during summers afternoons. 

Visibility can sometime get very poor. While it is no problem driving, it gets misty and cold. It irks me to no end as it tests my photography skills! 

...and this is how the seashore looks on an almost perfectly clear day! 

We have many restaurant favorites but this summer we made it a point to try out new ones. We found a few good ones that I am ready to go back to :) 

One of our great finds was this Mexican restaurant named NopalitoYelp guided us to this place and we loved every bit of it. Even the complimentary spiced garbanzo was awesome! The rustic ambience along with the open kitchen is charming and the food tasty. Service was impeccable. We made last minute reservations and they were able to accommodate us. 

Appetizers were the highlight  - you cant miss the Totopos con Chile and Corn. 

The entrees were not as amazing as the appetizers, but based on the appetizers our expectations were sky high! The Quesadilla de Bruselas was very different than the usual Mexican faire. The trout was good. Usually not a fan of Tamales, so this was the least favorite dish we ordered.

- Dee