Choosing the best of California and translate it into a single article would be a more than impossible and unfair mission. That’s why we decided to divide it into several thematic articles so that you can decide what is best suited to your trip. We chose in this article to tell you about the magical city of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Whether you decide to travel with children to California or enjoy it as a couple, we will give you a glimpse of our experience so that you can be the one to build the trip of your dreams. Shall we start?
Of course, if you have not read the first part of the best of California, click here.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, a small European city in the coast of California
It’s no wonder that along Ocean Avenue, Carmel’s main street, we can find dozens of art galleries. Carmel is not only a magnet for tourists but it is, and always was, for artists from all over the world.
Its cobbled streets, its countless corridors that lead to beautiful flowered terraces, its houses with a gable roof, refer us to the typical postcard of a medieval European town.
Carmel-by-the-Sea and its fairytale houses
It is in the architecture of Carmel that I want to stop for a moment because without a doubt it is what most attracts attention and what most made artists fell in love with it.They came in part because of its beautiful architecture (among other things), and the architecture came in part thanks to them. It was the year 1924 when Hugh Comstock decided to travel to Carmel to visit his sister and brother-in-law. There, in that small oasis of artists, he met one of them: Mayotta Browne, a doll maker who would become his wife months later.
The artist made so many dolls that her own house began to look small. It was there when she asked her husband to build a house to showcase her creations and sell them.
Comstock had no idea of architecture, but what he lacked in that aspect, he had plenty in imagination and creativity; and the influence of one of his favorite illustrators, Arthur Rackham, was what he needed to build his first creation: the Hansel house, later known as “The dollhouse”.
For its construction he did not use leveler so the house really seemed out of a fairy tale: a chimney of stones stacked almost randomly, an outer wall that mixed elements, and an uneven structure that was camouflaged with plants and flowers of the garden.
As we said before, Carmel was a magnet for artists, and it was not long before they discovered the magnificent creation of Comstock and asked him to build houses for them. This is how what would later give fantastic aesthetics to the city was born.
Today there are 21 houses built by Comstock that are still standing. In the tourist information center of Carmel they offer a map with all those houses marked in it in order for you to make a beautiful self-walking tour (do not hesitate and do it, not only for the houses themselves but because it takes you out of the center of the city and into solitary streets where you will really breathe the air of Carmel).
Some of the land to build the houses were purchased by Comstock for just $ 100. Today some of his creations rise to the incredible price of 4 million. If we talk about investments …
Do not miss this beautiful photo gallery by Linda Yvonne: Once upon a time…
Carmel-by-the-Sea and its passageways and courtyards
In addition to its houses, Carmel is characterized by its curious patterning of corridors and patios that abound in the city. Walking down Ocean Avenue we can even overlook them (unless we have at hand the map of the Comstock houses where the 41 inner courtyards that make Carmel one of the most beautiful small cities in the USA are also marked).
What may seem the entrance to a house can be a corridor that leads to a beautiful place covered with flowers, or fountains, such as our favorite one: The Court of the Fountains.
So if you’re in Carmel do not let yourself be guided by the horde of tourists who walk in a straight line down Ocean Ave. towards the beach. Turn around at each entrance and let yourself be carried away by the medieval feel of the city. You will surely discover hidden beauties that even the 4000 inhabitants do not know about.
If you prefer a guide, do not forget to see the official website of Carmel´s Courtyards.
Carmel-by-the-Sea and its beach
If all the above was not enough to choose Carmel-by-the-Sea as part of your itinerary for the Best of California, let’s stop for a moment on the beach. Going down Ocean Avenue, following the ocean breeze, you come to what could be one of the most beautiful beaches in the Californian state.
Fine white sands, cypress trees, hills in the background, and a huge coastline that invites even dogs to enjoy it (yes, Carmel is perhaps one of the most “pet-friendly” destinations we have discovered).
To get to this beautiful city you have to turn on Ocean Avenue from Highway 1 and travel 1 mile to reach the center. Being a small city, it is advisable to leave the car at the bottom of Ocean Avenue, right in the free parking lot of the beach, and from there walk and enjoy it on foot, the best and only way to do it.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is easily covered in a day. But it is one of those places that invite you to stay, to enjoy traveling without haste. It is an ideal place to base and explore the surroundings that California has to offer: Monterey and its aquarium, the Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur, Point Lobos, among other urban and natural wonders of which we will discuss in a future article.
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