1. Farmer’s Markets. Monterey has amazing markets just about every day of the week and they were the inspiration for all of my recipes last year. You can read more here, Guide to the Monterey & Carmel Farmer’s Markets.
2. Walk, run, ride bikes, play, bonfire at Carmel Beach & Carmel River State Beach. It’s especially quiet here during the week (so much so I could play my Croatian lessons on my phone speaker and hear it perfectly while walking), the sand is soft, the views from the very short walk or drive from Carmel Beach to River State Beach are breathtaking, it’s the perfect spot for bonfires and was where I took John Shea every morning for runarounds (until I was put on bed rest).
3. Hike & Explore in Big Sur. Walk through the redwoods, hike in Big Sur , stop to eat at one of the small cafes on Highway 1 (the view while eating at Nepenthe is unreal), walk to McWay Waterfall and something we didn’t get a chance to — stay in a cabin in Little Sur.
4. Food & Coffee
Best burger: In-n-Out (I miss you)
Best stand-in take out burger in Monterey: Islands
Best restaurant burger: Grasing’s in Carmel
Best macaron: Lafayette Bakery in Carmel
Best crepes: Monterey Crepe Company (Cam’s favorite coffee is also from here, mine is from The Carmel Coffee House)
Best huevos rancheros: From Scratch Restaurant
Best bakery: Pavel’s Bakerei in Pacific Grove (you have to get there early for the fresh donuts and pastries!)
Best place to get a coffee and sit outside in the sunshine while watching your children play in a big grassy field and the kids’ gardens: Earthbound Farmstand. During the Fall it has a pumpkin patch and festival, during the winter they do wreath making workshops. They have an event calendar you can grab inside their little shop.
5. Walk the quaint streets in Carmel-by-the-Sea. I loved buying David Austin Roses for a steal at the Thursday farmer’s market and then picking up a coffee while walking John Shea in the stroller through the town and often for a stop to say hi to the owner of his favorite toy shop, Anubee.
6. Hike Point Lobos. Such a breathtaking trail that hugs the rocky coast the entire way — it’s something that we did regularly on the weekends inbetween studying. You can see swarms of seals, seagulls, dolphins and whales in the coves along this hike.
8. Visit Napa. It feels pretentious at times (at least it did to us) but the amazing wines make up for it! Also, you can’t miss the fresh food at Farmstead.
9. Monterey Wine. You can go to tasting rooms throughout Carmel-by-the-Sea, downtown Monterey, Carmel Valley and our favorite (though not sure if it’s still open?) Chateau Julien Vineyard.
10. Walk along the Monterey Harbor. It’s especially pretty in the mornings but was also a nice refresher after our language classes when we’d pick up Cam from DLI.
11. Play in and eat dirt. Just kidding. I only wanted to to see if you made it this far 🙂
Churches: We tried out a number of good churches like Carmel Presbyterian and Shoreline Community before finding the right fit at Bethlehem Lutheran. The very small congregation is used to young military families coming for only a short year or two before having to say goodbye and yet they immediately treated us like family. They’re a living example of community. We miss them! Gracie was also baptized here before we moved.
Housing: We searched and searched for a house out in town but could not find a single one in our budget so we lived on base for the first time in La Mesa, and loved it. We had great neighbors, there were a ton of families with little kids and a bunch of playgrounds. Our backyard was in a really sad state when we moved in, which was perfect for Cam to have a project, ha! He left that space with a lawn, stone path and raised garden.
CHOMP: Cam is making me laugh outloud for putting this in here (“beautiful beaches! great wine! OBGYN!”) but I had such a great experience with my doctor and delivering at CHOMP (Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula) that this could be helpful for other expecting mothers. Dr. Alexander was my OB with Gracie and he is hands down the best doctor I’ve ever had. I’m so grateful that we had him during all of the complications of my pregnancy and Gracie’s emergency c-section. We met a couple who actually extended in Monterey just so they could have Dr. A deliver their second child!
Calligraphy! One of the things I wanted to begin to learn while back in the States was calligraphy and I could not have asked for a more gracious teacher than Debra Ferreboeuf. Please feel free to email me for her contact info.