Arrived in San Jose and rented through Thrifty. San Jose Airport, like most, is a complete mess with all of the new construction. What airport isn’t undergoing major construction?
Next time I will definitely fly directly into Monterey. Was not worth the few dollars I saved by flying into San Jose.
This trip originated because I had a conference in Monterey on Thursday and Friday, so we decided to make it a small vacation and stay in the area through Wednesday.
The conference was at the Conference Center, so we stayed at the Portola Plaza Hotel. It was fine, if not a little tired. We did receive an upgrade to an ocean view suite that came with free snacks and free wine, so that made the place a little better.
While I was in sessions my wife was able to walk around and enjoyed the aquarium, but overall I was unimpressed with Monterey. However, we did have one of our better meals at Montrio Bistro. I highly recommend this place for everyone visiting, and if you live in the area get there as soon as possible.
Friday afternoon we drove over to Carmel to check into L’Auberge for the next 2 nights. Loved this place. It has 20 rooms, I think with a great courtyard and a very intimate feel. They had a guitarist playing while they served drinks and fresh oysters on the half shell for their guests. The rooms were very comfortable, and the bathrooms roomy. Heated floors were a nice touch. The whole place just felt like a beautiful, comfortable home. I wanted to buy the bed, but my wife talked me out of it.
Friends of ours came in for the weekend to play some golf, and enjoy the food/wine. On Friday evening we went to Club Jalapeño for drinks, then to Cantinetta Luca for dinner. Dinner was fine and the gnocchi was very good, but the sommelier was off on his suggesting for wine. As always, go with your gut.
Saturday was wine tasting day. We hired a driver for the day and went to the highlands. Fun day, and we found quite a bit that we really enjoyed. Had lunch at Café Rustica. Another great meal. I had the salmon in a ciabatta bun.
That night we went to Grasing’s and it great. I had the paella, which was very good, and everybody else really enjoyed the meal. Something happened here that I have never witnessed, but wish it would happen more. There was an unhappy child/infant at a table in one of the dining rooms, but the parents did very little to comfort the child, or remedy the situation. The groups at the tables were getting visibly annoyed, and at one point (in unison) voiced their displeasure. The mother then got up and took the child outside. They finished quickly and left. Interesting.
Sunday was golf at Spanish Bay. It was great, and the caddy saved me 5 strokes, at least. Beautiful facility and the course was in great shape. Lunch was a burger at the Tap Room. Our friends had to get back on the road to avoid too much traffic, so my wife and I shopped around the shops at Pebble. Something about that place and golfers that make you go a little ga-ga in the logo shop.
Then it was off to Bernardus Lodge for the remainder of our stay. When you walk in they give you a glass of wine and they take you to your room for check-in. Really enjoyed our time here. Beautiful property and great rooms. Complimentary snacks and a couple bottles of their own wines. We really like the Greva Sauvignon Blanc. Went to Wickets for drinks (very good margaritas) and ended up getting a pizza to take back to the room.
Monday was golf at Pebble Beach. My Mecca. Loved every single stroke. The 18th is a great finishing hole and I can see why Jack Nicklaus has said that if he could play only one course the rest of his life it would be Pebble Beach.
After golf we did 17-mile drive and then headed up towards Big Sur. Stopped for lunch at Pacific Edge. Disappointing. Fish tacos were poor, but my wife loved the grilled cheese. The drive was amazing. I love the coastline. I need to move out of the desert!
Dinner was at Marinus and we chose the 8 course dinner with wine pairing. Freakin’ Phenomenal! 2nd best meal of my life. I don’t know what else to say.
Tuesday was wine buying day. We went back to the wineries and ordered what we liked from our previous days tastings, and had a few more tastes. That night we just stopped by the Volcano Grill for dinner. It was fine. Nothing memorable.
Wednesday we had breakfast at the Wagon Wheel. Great local joint. The pigs in a blanket was presented in an interesting and fun way. Felt like I was 10.
Overall it was a great trip and we will definitely make this a regular trip. The cool weather in Carmel felt so good after several months of 100 plus temps, and the highlands area was perfect with temps in the low 80’s. Maui is still my number one, but Carmel is a close second.