Piggy Vacation... Yes, you read right, we took a vacation, with a cute little pig (aka my boyfriend's frenchie) Pierre, in my absolute favorite town in California, Carmel by the Sea. I’ve been to the very quaint and cozy destination many times, but this was my first time bringing a dog and I must say, he was very much welcomed! If you have been to Carmel, the little slice of California heaven just about two hours south of San Francisco and neighboring the equally as beautiful Big Sur and Pacific Grove, then you are well aware that dogs tend to be treated as equal citizens, perhaps even better. It’s the perfect place to bring a dog (or significant other) with its very charming atmosphere, a lazy upscale vacation spot most known for it’s artist community history, fairy tale inspired cottages, local restaurants and proximity to Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach is one of, if not the most, beautiful golf courses in the United States, and conveniently located right next to Carmel. Part of the famous 17 mile drive, a woodsy nature preserve on the ocean with two stunning golf resorts, several beaches, famous natural landmarks and grand vacation homes, there is plenty more to discover for non-golfers. Carmel by the Sea proper is quite small, akin to a small ski-town in it's off season, but walking distance to the main beach. I love Carmel because it's beyond charming and beautiful, beaming with art shops and relatively affordable to stay in despite the very expensive real estate. Pretty much all the hotels in the town are very quaint inns with fireplaces and a bed and breakfast type feel. The architecture of the town appears a mix of Mission revival, Spanish romantic and Tudor, making the city quite picturesque and European. Almost every building has dutch doors and a fireplace, making this one of the most romantic and pleasant places to visit. 

A Weekend Itinerary 

Check into one of the many quaint inns located right in town. My favorites are Cypress Inn, Svendsgaard's Inn, Hotel Carmel, Monte Verde Inn, Pine Inn and L'Auberge Carmel in town. There are some beautiful reorts with more amenties very close to town, but not necessarily walking distance like the inns. Some of the best are La Playa Carmel (ocean views), Mission Ranch Hotel, Carmel Valley Ranch, and the Inn at Spanish BayMost of the inns and hotels have rooms with a fireplace and jacuzzi, which I definitely recommend! Head to The Cheese Shop and sample some of the best cheeses, olives, salamis and jams with the assistance of a knowledgeable salesperson, shutout to Aaron for finding us the very best truffle cream brie, a sheep cheese I can't remember the name of but am still craving and some salami that truly made my boyfriend's life for the ten seconds it took him to consume all 9 slices. If you are early enough, grab a fresh baguette and select a nice bottle of wine to pair, Aaron made our day when he informed us of the open container beach laws, and head to the beautiful dog beach before sunset. Find a spot on the viewers deck or lay a blanket down in the most perfect white sand - or if you are adventurous like me, claim a spot in one of the Cypress trees and enjoy your little picnic. 

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Drinks at the rooftop bar at Vesuvio, perfect for sunset if you can make it but also nice after with pretty string lights and a slightly younger crowd by Carmel standards. Head to dinner at Cassanova, just a block away and request the Van Gough table, acquired from a restaurant the artist used to frequent himself. The food is spectacular, I recommend the olives, gnocchi, and cheeses to start. The mushroom risotto, the cannelloni, fettuccini and quail are great entrees. The vibe is super rustic and feels just like a charming small Italian eatery should. Head to the Cypress Inn for some live music and cocktails by the fireplace, the schedule here.

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For early risers like myself I reccomend a brisk walk, run or bike ride around town, to the beach and into some of the small residential areas. Make sure to bring a map (every inn in town has them) so you can find your way back. After that I like to stay in my workout gear, grab a coffee and a pastry at Carmel Bakery (I happen to love their giant cinnamon buns, perfect size to share... or not) and take a stroll through town. If you're more into a boozy brunch, I recommend heading to Terry's lounge, especially if you have a dog, we brought little Pierre and he got to see all the other cuties out in their best lunchtime attire. The spot has a great cocktail menu, I love the French 75 (there and everywhere) and of course there is a doggie menu too. Carmel has so many cute shops and art galleries, some of my favorite being The Cottage of Sweets, Boatworks, Diggity Dog, Pilgrim's Way Bookstore & The Secret Garden and the Carmel Plaza. Stroll the many cute little courtyards and art galleries all over town.

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Take a drive into the beautiful 17 mile drive gate entrance, right at the tip of Carmel by the Sea, grab a map pay the $10 (cash only) toll for access to the scenic route and various beaches and landmarks. If you spend $35 or more at Pebble Beach you can get your $10 toll back, just let the salesperson know. Drive on into the Pebble Beach Lodge and either grab a picnic basket and deli sandwiches from the Pebble Beach Market or enjoy nice lunch on the 18th hole at The Bench. They have limited outdoor seating but if you put your name in first, you can grab a drink at the bar and walk around the beautiful view while you wait. I also love coming here an hour or two before sunset, each outside table is equipped with a central fire pit and I believe they have blankets too. If your're picnicking, there are so many beautiful spots on the 17 mile drive map to sit and enjoy your lunch. Particular points on the drive I love are the lone cypress tree, cypress point lookout, bird rock, and the various little beaches in along the ocean coastline. In addition to going to The Bench at Pebble Beach for a sunset cocktail, the Inn at Spanish Bay also has some nice fire pits to sip a cocktail by and catch the sunset at. And of course for any avid golfers, playing Pebble Beach or Spanish Bay are both dream destinations. 

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Start with a wine tasting at Albatross Ridge or grab a walk by wine passport to sample wines from about 12 different tasting rooms before a lively dinner at Dametra Cafe, a town favorite with live music every night and delicious mediterranean food. Some favorites here are pretty much all the pastas, but I recently tried the dametra pasta and it was wonderful. My boyfriend loved the lamb shank, other great options are the spanakopita, margarita del sol pizza, fruitti di mare and baklava for dessert. Other great dinner spots are listed below the itinerary. Carmel by the Sea doesn't have much "nightlife" past 10pm so I recommend grabbing a bottle of wine or your spirit of choice from Lopez Liquors and some fudge squares from The Cottage of Sweets before heading back to the hotel for a movie in bed by the fire or jacuzzi bubble bath. 

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Sleep in and have coffee in bed, before lazily strolling to relax at the hot springs at Refuge Spa. Then head to town for a late breakfast at one of the many charming spots, particularly La Bicyclette, The Cottage, or a champagne brunch at La Playa Carmel. Pick up some last minute souvenir trinkets, I happen to love my Carmel by the Sea jersey shirt from one of the many tourist shops on Ocean Avenue. If you have time, take one last beach stroll and grab a coffee before you get back into the car and head home, hopefully much more relaxed then you came! 

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Carmel by the Sea 
City Guide Round Up

Porta Bella (dog friendly)
Terry's Lounge (dog friendly)

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