It was our first time to Carmel-by-the-Sea, oblivious East coasters that we are. Our presence in the town, furthermore, had nothing to do with anything other than we had last-minute tickets to “Quail – A Motorsports Gathering.”
We needed a nice, clean, sane place to hang the hat, and promptly – the whole town was sold-out, accomodations-wise.
Hotel Carmel took us to their bosom, so to speak, housing us, feeding us and charming us with a variety of little touches that set a boutique hotel apart from the plethora of others vying for the same clientele.
Formerly the Dolphin Hotel, the 27-room Hotel Carmel completed a half-year renovation recently and offers, first, quiet – it’s slightly off busy Ocean Avenue, but still just a short hike to the galleries, restaurants, coffee joints and bustle, not to mention the crashing waves of the Pacific. Rooms have 42-inch flat-screen TVs with Smart TV and media streaming, original photography of Big Sur and Carmel, Nespresso machines, wood and wicker furnishings, and Lather products in bathrooms. A hot tub next to a gas fire pit is open from 9:30 AM – 9:30 PM, and it’s big enough for two or three. (But not four or five.)
Breakfast was the highlight of each day, set out in the lobby beginning at 7:30 AM, except we snuck in at 6 to snap some photos. Breakfast is comprised of bagels, jams and toppings, home-made granola, assorted milks of assorted fat content, and coffee or tea.
One sits and noshes while perhaps popping in and listening to one of the 100 or more cassettes, mostly 70s and 80s pop hits, lining one wall.
Brophy’s Tavern, next door, offers a “bites and bevs” menu amid a “sports bar” flavor, where bonhomie, lively talk and the Game, whatever game it may be, the order of the day.
A complimentary wine hour starts at 5:30 nightly.
We spent two nights at Hotel Carmel, did our thing at Quail, and it all worked out, didn’t it?
“Never hurry and never worry,” says Charlotte the Spider.
The thing we were most impressed with, though, had nothing to do with the hotel – and yet it did.
It is something of a rite of passage for Da Luxe to check into a hotel, immediately wander around the neighborhood taking careful note of landmarks and street signs – and ending up completely lost. It’s happened in Paris, it’s happened in Beijing – and it happened in Carmel-on-the-Sea.
And our phone died.
And we couldn’t remember the name of our hotel, so we couldn’t ask anyone.
And in Carmel-by-the-Sea, street signs either do not exist or they are pleasantly affixed to small posts.
Up and down we wandered as it grew dark, muttering. It had been an all-day travel trip including a two-hour drive from the San Francisco airport, and we were beat, grouchy and increasingly incoherent.
Finally, we spied a squad car idling at a red light, dashed up and pleaded with the officer to direct us home.
“What’s the name of the hotel?” the officer asked.
“I don’t know. The Carmel something.”
“What street is it on?”
“I don’t know.”
“What does it look like?”
“It’s a building next to a parking lot.”
“That’s not much to go on.”
“There is a restaurant attached to it, and the restaurant has vintage beer cans lining one wall.”
That did the trick.
“It’s three blocks behind you. Have a nice day.” He was talking about Brophy’s, of course.
Off he sped.
We about-faced, walked the three blocks, and blessed beer and beer cans, the Hotel Carmel, and officers who know their town.