Welcome to the A New Yorker Abroad series where each month our writer Lauren Breedlove will be jet-setting somewhere different, all around the world in the hope that her adventures will transport, inspire, and give you at least a hearty handful of boss planning ideas, from a wild wanderer who’s been there, done that.
When I think of California, chill, laid-back vibes dance in my mind.
Just the thought of the Golden State has a calming effect. Despite my world travels though, I had never, in fact, been to California. To remedy this, an East Coast meets West Coast experience, culminating in Carmel, California ensued.
Relaxation is a California-sized present that New Yorkers want to unwrap, like, yesterday.
With the perpetual state of chaos as the New York norm, it’s only natural that we’d crave a dose of tranquility every now and then. So why not bop over to the other side; the west side; the promised land? You’ll unwind immediately.
New York is so hectic, this will be a welcome respite. After all, Cali isn’t just a place, it’s a state of mind (or so I’ve heard).
There was one burning question that needed to be answered: Would the famous Highway 1, flirting with the Big Sur coastline, be as grand as it’s reputation?
Turns out, it is.
Fly into San Fran & rent yourself some wheels. Carmel is only 2 ½ hours from San Francisco, leaving zero excuses not to venture that way. C town is also perfectly positioned just north of the entrance to Big Sur State Park.
Although recent slides have closed portions of the park, there is still abundant activities to do and views to absorb. Check the site for updated information.
There’s a major grocery store (Safeway) just outside of town and perfect for provisions. There also happens to be a Starbucks in the same plaza– so you’ll feel right at home.
Stay at a small B&B or inn, like Vagabond’s House Inn. They’ve recently renovated a handful of their rooms and it’s bursting with character. Oh, and the tub... swoon-worthy. Read more about my stay here.
If possible, time your arrival for before happy hour. Especially if you will be slumbering at Vagabond’s. Wine + cheese + courtyard fire pit make 4-6 p.m. a very happy couple of hours indeed.
How to Embrace the Cali Vibe:
Carmel is chock-full of California character. So how do you hug that character to your core in epic fashion? I have a few hundred suggestions. I've narrowed them down here since ain't nobody got time for that.
- Buy 7/$1 kiwis or AVOCADOS at roadside stands. YEP, it’s a real thing. Once you pick your jaw up off the ground, you can make all the avocado toast you want.
- Watch the sunset from one of the Monterey Pines.
- Pull off the epic highway 1 a gazillion times to take it all in.
- Eat fish tacos.
- Drink California wine.
- Listen to the symphony of seals. Oh, and the waves too.
- Stroll the impossibly adorable lanes and pick out which millions of dollars fairy tale-ish cottage homes you’d like to purchase.
- Romp along the scenic bluff paths that abound both in Point Lobos Natural Reserve and the side of the GD highway.
- Golf, if that’s your thing.
- Lounge in bed in a cozy B & B.
- Stop and snap a pic of the Bixby Bridge. It's touristy for a reason.
- Picnic in a comically epic location.
- Stand at the end of the world.
- Head up to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to marvel at some of the tallest Redwoods, like, ever. New Yorkers can appreciate big things, amirite? Welp, the trees here certainly dominate the huge arena.
- Drink cold brew coffee.
- Hang like a true Californian; whatever your interpretation of that may be.
Feeds & Sips:
If you’re snoozing at Vagabond’s, you’ll get breakfast delivered to your door. For second breakfast though, I suggest diving into the Cali culture with an acai bowl from Carmel Coffee & Cocoa Bar. Acai bowls are life (second to pizza, obvi).
Pack a picnic. The coast has abundant picnic locales and just sayin', it would be a shame if you didn’t take advantage.
The wine selection at the local Safeway is also on point. And you can buy all three adult bevies there– liquor, wine, and beer, oh my! Trifecta goals.
Budget eats? I got you.
Tommy’s Wok: Authentic, quick & cheap. Large portions of delicious comin' right up.
Brophy's: Best tomato soup you'll ever have. The unique and abundant beer can wall decor is worth going for alone.
Island taco: Salsa bar.
So go on, trade the epic city skyline for epic coastal skyporn. Get cotton candy without the calories. Leave your city digs behind and head to the other side.
The best part of west coastin' may just be that if you feel like being on the go, there’s plenty of options. Feel like putting the ole feet up and reaching a zen like state? There’s that too.
Slow down; Cali-style.