One moment, I was driving Big Sur, and in another, I was in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The two are not far from each other.
And in the change of moments, after two hours exploring a sunny coastline with dotty vegetation, all remnants of Southern California vanished. Succulent ground cover was replaced with grass—bare feet-loving grass that I hadn’t seen in its natural state in months—trees transitioned from palms to pines, and the air circled heavier under a newly graying sky.
Carmel streets are narrow, more or less checkerboard and often steep as they criss-cross through the town, a growing neighborhood raised alongside the ocean since 1902. Cypress trees thrive, their curving trunks the shape of the crescent beach, and together with the waves, and the clouds, and the often rocky shore, they create a scene that is distinctly Northern California.
I’m headed north. From here out, I will no longer expect warm temperatures or sun. I’m drawing closer to the Pacific Northwest, but first, I drive through Carmel. It’s a busy day and that has left little parking, and what parking there is does not attract me as my car doesn’t do well on steep hills. Though a Mercedes-Benz, it was born with a habit of rolling back. It is a $76K+ convertible that I had custom made in Germany, and this tendency to roll back is its one flaw. Nothing is perfect.
A mature couple walks down a quiet street near the beach, wearing bucket hats and zip-ups, holding hands. The houses look expensive; no person my age could afford this. I’m not in spending mode, and today is not a day for window shopping—for houses or the boutiques that line Ocean Avenue—so I don’t stay long in Carmel; it captures me for only a few hours, long enough to decide that I like this seaside town just fine.
Learn more about Carmel-by-the-Sea here.