4-1/2 Hours in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

If you can make it to Carmel, California by 11 am, there is no doubt you will have an enjoyable day in one of America’s most exquisite and storybook towns, which is also responsible for the inception of modern bohemian California culture, poetry, art, theater, and… van life.

11:00 am – After an easy 1-hour drive from Santa Cruz we found street parking in the village just a few blocks off Ocean Ave. We walked to our primary destination, the Carmel Art Association, where a special 95th anniversary show was getting set up featuring some art by my great-aunt Moira Wallace (1910-1979).

11:45: Exploring and flipping through the stacks of paintings and illustrations at the gallery made us hungry so we walked two blocks to the Little Swiss Cafe, which smelled like the hearty breakfast-all-day establishment we were looking for. That was confirmed by the packed house, so we put our names on the waiting list and spent 15 minutes circling around the block to window browse the countless art galleries.

12:05: We were seated at the perfect corner booth and drinking diner coffee from white ceramic mugs in no time. Our server was the friendliest and the breakfast and lunch menu was the best — just the right dose of hearty home cooking that powered us through the afternoon ahead.

1 PM: We wrapped up lunch and headed over to Carmel Beach where the white sands meet the Pacific Ocean. Pebble Beach to the north and Point Lobos to the south, Carmel’s public coast is one of the most amazing destinations for people visitors and dogs.

3:30 pm Before heading out of town we stopped at one of the picturesque cottages on Carmel’s historic register of buildings, which happens to include some family history. “The Grant Wallace House” was built by my great grandpa, and he and his wife raised my grandfather and great aunt in the tiny askew cottage during the ‘20s and the Great Depression. The house is no longer in the family but some time latter it was remodeled to look exactly like the original, only safer and better insulated.

3:45 pm Last stop was Bruno‘s Market & Deli, the most perfect grocery store left in America only 3 times the average prices. Whether you want some fresh cuts of beef, gourmet cookies and scones, or provisions for the AirBnb, this is the place you want to shop when you’re in Carmel.

5:15 pm no traffic on the drive home and we’re back on the West Side of Santa Cruz by sundown.

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