Pacific Coast Highway
definitely taco de ojo Our next few days of driving were absolute bliss. Our last month or so in mexico we stumbled upon the term "taco de ojo". Literally translated as "eye taco", but used like "eye candy" north of the border. We found ourselves using the phrase often as we drove this stretch of coast heading north.
Such a dramatic change from the slow slope leading towards sandy beaches in southern california. Here, the mountains end directly at the water. The road itself often hovering above a plunge several hundred feet down to the water beneath. We drove this road even slower than we normally do, stopping often to take in a view that hadn't changed that much from the last one but still seemed worth getting out of the vehicle and take it in all over again.
The road seemed like it wound on forever and for a while we wished it had. If darkness had fallen we could have happily pulled over, slept among the cliffs and then been ecstatic to wake up to the same drive. As it turns out even for our slow meandering speed, this stretch of coast just isn't that long. We enjoy a coffee and some chowder atop a gallery looking over the ocean, but mostly our stops are simply for photos and vistas before continuing along our way. By early afternoon we pull into Carmel, or as the locals still find a way to stretch out (into it's formal name)... Carmel by the Sea.
We booked a night in our favorite inn, set out to enjoy a few days exploring the town, its streets and squares and all the wine tasting we could fit into a short stay. Carmel worth a visit...truly a gem.
Over the years it's developed into a masterful collection of culture, art and wine somehow squeezed into what remains a tiny coastal village. It feels like a small town built of one story buildings; but every road, alley and path leads to courtyards filled with shops, galleries and restaurants. Sadly it also isn't exactly built for budget travel, but we always seem to find a way to chart a fairly inexpensive but gloriously enjoyable trail through town.
Carmel was the first trip we ever took karma on as a pup, almost 9 years ago. As soon as our vet confirmed she was old enough and healthy enough we bought a tiny puppy sized dog crate and boarded a flight for carmel... determined to make our dog travel worthy. I think it's now fair to say that was a successful endeavor! As we discovered back then Carmel is actually referred to as the most dog friendly town in the country, and we are still very much inclined to agree.
Every gallery and wine shop we stop into takes no more than a few minutes to see the dog sitting outside, ask if she's ours and then walk outside and usher her inside with an ever more excited welcome than the one they greeted us with moments before. As we sip local wine she receives countless belly rubs and dozens of treats. I'm not sure if karma remembers her first trip to carmel many years ago, but it was clear she was voting for us to stick around longer than the overnight visit we planned.
The following afternoon we begrudgingly leave town, but not before stopping into the Carmel Cheese Shop to stock up for the rest of our trip. This cheese shop is worth the trip to Carmel on its own, and has to be the site of future dreams. Im not much for candy and sweets, so as far as most people's idea of a candy store goes...this is mine. We tasted cheese after cheese, including a parm that had been aged for 85 years. Were talking melt in your mouth goodness here. Eventually we decided on a few we hoped our friends would like, bought some small slices and ripped ourselves away from the store so others could take our place at the counter.
We drove out of town along the famed "17 mile drive" connecting carmel to monterey. This stretch of coast is almost always makes the list of top drives in the world, and deservedly so. Not the tall vistas and sheer cliffs from the first half of our drive, but a beautiful array of rocky outcroppings scattered among the shore of a deep and turbulent bay. You could sit at any one spot and watch the waves crash among the rocks for hours.
Most of this drive winds through silvery old growth trees and rambles among the houses/mansions in the gated golf community of pebble beach. It's insanely beautiful, but feels anything but open and free (in fact they charge you $10 to drive through). That said, it's worth the entrance fee and worth stopping at each and every viewpoint along the slow 17mile stretch.