Friday, June 5, 2009

I Call Shotgun Part 5: Carmel and Monterey on foot, if not on toe

On Monday, the last day of our trip, we hobbled out of our hotel early to see the sites of Carmel. Fortunately, Carmel has a very small downtown lined with shops and secret courtyards, perfect for a morning walk – even when one of us was limping due to the aforementioned toe injury. I needed my coffee, so our first stop was the Carmel Coffee Roasters on Ocean Avenue. Every few feet we passed a dog, or two or three dogs, and sometimes a dog brawl accompanied by the owners’ surprised exclamations of “Oh, he’s never done that before!” and “he’s usually so friendly!”. Sure, lady. Little dogs like to get into fights; it’s part of their charm, and it’s also pretty funny to watch. Carmel is a dog-friendly town, so owners tend to understand the occasional snarls emitting from scrappy terriers. We walked down to the dog beach at the end of Ocean Avenue and saw dozens of people with their furry friends braving the cold coastal fog.

I wandered into a posh looking shop, attracted by a colorful dress in the window (my weakness), and was promptly approached by a tense saleswoman who took the coffee out of my hand and set it on the counter. While making the politest of remarks, of course. I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t exactly worried that the remaining 1/8th cup of coffee would find its way onto her $300 dress or the mink and chinchilla coats displayed 4 feet above my head along the wall. But I didn’t. What I really would have liked to explain to this lady is that I am a Santa Barbara girl, no stranger to overpriced “boutiques” like hers, and that I am more intimately familiar with expensive chinchilla fur than she will ever be. Granted, that’s because my grandmother used to raise and kill the adorable little rodents for fur. I would have left that part out. Instead, I left seething over the sheer nerve of the pompous sales-lady. And then I saw a small bottle of “vintage coke” in the neighboring art store’s window with a “SOLD” sign proudly displayed, and just had to laugh at the whole thing. Wealthy communities can be pretty quirky.

Just as I was cultivating a rather negative opinion of the stores in Carmel, Charles and I entered a hat shop down a little corridor off of Ocean Ave. Now, hat shop salespeople are my acid test for whether I warm to a community or not. If they let you try on all the hats you want with nary a glare, then I say they are good people and there is hope for the posh community yet. Harrod’s hat department, incidentally, has remarkably patient and kindly salespeople – even when their exorbitantly expensive hats are being manhandled by brash Americans (not me!). The Carmel Hat Company was a pleasure. The saleswoman obviously loves hats, and encourages patrons to enjoy them also. I’m always on the lookout for the perfect Cloche—but even with stacks of lovely hats, it was not to be found.

On a tip from my friend, the one who got married, we went to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf on Monterey Harbor. I immediately started snapping pictures of a sea lion rolling around in the surf. We walked along the pier, creating a trail that looked like a connect-the-dots route between clam chowder sample tables. And there were a lot of samples, chowder handed out in front of almost every restaurant, each person claiming to have “the best.”

Some were rich, thick and creamy, others were lighter, some had big chunks, some were watery – but they were all hot, which on a cold day by the sea, was delightful. I decided on Domenico’s on the Wharf; their clam chowder was very good (on the heavy, chunky side) and they had a bathroom, which after the coffee and clam chowder, was my top priority.

The restaurant also had a stunning view of the harbor. Sea lions lounged in a pile like puppies just outside the wall of windows, and giant pelicans launched themselves from the roof overhead. My giant clam chowder bread bowl warmed me up and laid a foundation of carbohydrates in my stomach in preparation for a second afternoon of wine tasting in Paso Robles on our drive down South.

1 comment:

Brian said...

That was my fiancé that helped you! We have our own place now, The Hat Shop Carmel. Please visit us next time you are in. Please give us a call for directions 831-625-hats or 831-233-2471.