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11.20.2017

A Romantic Weekend in Carmel by the Sea, California


This trip was hosted by Hofsas House Hotel.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I was not financially compensated for this post.

I have always been a proponent of parents taking some time away from the kids as a couple periodically.  It helps you connect as a couple, explore places without the constraints of bedtimes or age limitations, and (maybe best of all), get some uninterrupted sleep.  Don't get me wrong; we love travelling with our kids and showing them the world.  But I also love (and really value and cherish) trips with just my husband.  Since our last big trip this year (our two-week U.K. road trip) included the kids, the hubs and I were due for some one-on-one travel time.  We decided to go back to my home state of California for a weekend of wine, peace and quiet, and rest!

I was offered the opportunity to experience Carmel-by-the-Sea, California courtesy of Hofsas House Hotel and some of their local partners.  This was just what the doctor ordered - the perfect romantic setting for a quick and rejuvenating getaway.  While Carmel-by-the-Sea would be great for families as well, my reviews here are specific to what we experienced during an adult weekend.  I hope that this will inspire you with where to stay, where to eat, and what to do on your own getaway to Carmel and Monterey, which also happens to be the gateway to my favorite part of California (and possibly the whole US), Big Sur.

The sun setting over the Pacific Ocean as seen from my balcony at Hofsas House



Hofsas House Hotel is a delightful pink hotel, built and decorated in the Bavarian style.  It has been a family-run establishment for the last 70 years, which is evident in the welcoming feel of the grounds, rooms, and customer service (but more on all that below).  Our host was General Manager, Carrie Theis, the strong female entrepreneur granddaughter of Donna Hofsas, the strong female entrepreneur who founded the hotel.  Carrie has the honor of carrying on her grandmother's legacy of providing European-style hospitality in this boutique setting.

Hofsas House - the location.
Hofsas House is primely located on San Carlos Street, one of the main thoroughfares of  Carmel-by-the-Sea.  It is in walking distance of everything we wanted to do and see in Carmel, and a quick (less than 15-minute) Uber ride to the attractions and restaurants in nearby Monterey and Pacific Grove.  Carmel-by-the-Sea has the feel of being an international destination for those who want a relaxing weekend away for golfing and wine tasting, or the chance to explore one of the world's most picturesque coastlines driving the California 1 through Big Sur.



I couldn't resist posing with the pretty pink exterior at Hofsas House
One of the most memorable features of the hotel is the Bavarian-style mural commissioned with renowned muralist Maxine Albro

Hofsas House - the service and amenities.

The coat of arms for Hofsas House is emblazoned with a Latin phrase meaning "leisure with dignity," which couldn't be a better description for the service at the property.  Quiet, but friendly.  Private, but a welcoming family environment.  Part of what makes Hofsas House special is the customization of the experience.  Aside from different romance and themed packages they offer, Hofsas House staff love speaking with guests (especially around the fireplace in the lobby during the complimentary continental breakfast) to provide advice on what to do and see to help guests plan their days.  They want every guest to find something they love about Carmel-by-the-Sea, just as they do.


We had a delicious red from Carmel Road and a selection of cheeses from The Cheese Shop waiting in our room


Hofsas House - the room.
The rooms at Hofsas House are all decorated differently, which is another way that the property feels welcoming and home-y.  Our room was quite spacious, and included a small kitchen and fireplace.  The bed was incredibly comfortable, which combined with the sounds of the crackling fire and the ocean waves breaking, made for my having some of the best sleep I have had in months.  As is common in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the rooms have Dutch doors so that you can open the top and enjoy the views of the ocean, and the ocean breeze, from the comfort of your room.

Seriously one of the more comfortable beds I've ever slept in!  The owner and GM, Carrie, tells me that comfort is one of their priorities at Hofsas House.
The ocean view from our room through the Dutch doors at Hofsas House


Where to eat.
The Carmel and Monterey area is a foodie paradise.  We didn't eat a bad meal while we were there.  Here are my recommendations for restaurants. 

Fifi's Bistro Café (Pacific Grove). This French restaurant and wine shop has the best French onion soup I've ever had.  This restaurant was recommended by a friend, and did not disappoint.  The soup is a must-try. 

The delectable French onion soup at Fifi's in Pacific Grove

Croque monsieur at Fifi's Bistro Café

Artemis (Carmel-by-the-Sea).  As the hubs and I love Mediterranean food, we were very excited to try Artemis, which was a quick walk from Hofsas House.  From the flavorful hummus to the authentic kofte, we were beyond pleased with the taste and quality of the menu items.  The service was also personal, and the setting intimate and romantic.  Be sure to check out their extensive wine list!

Homemade bread at Artemis, which is especially delicious dipped into their house-made humus

Artemis' humus appetizer

The dolma at Artemis took me straight back to the flavors we experienced in Turkey a few years ago

When my husband saw kofte on the menu, his mind was made up.  These deliciously spiced Turkish meatballs looked and tasted authentic.

Brophy's Tavern (Carmel-by-the-Sea).  This Irish pub is less than a block away from Hofsas House, and with multiple TV monitors it is the ideal location to catch whatever sports matches you need to see while in the area. 

Wall décor at Brophy's Tavern

The burgers are Brophy's are delicious, and you can't go wrong with their classic bacon cheeseburger

Braised pork and goat cheese quesadillas are just one of the unique menu items you'll find at Brophy's

What to do - Wine Walk.
A weekend in Carmel wouldn't be complete without sampling the vino at some of the local tasting rooms.  They are all in walkable distance, and the perfect way to experience them is through the Wine Walk by the Sea passport.  The passport includes cards for 10 tastings at your choice of the 13 participating tasting rooms.  Split them between you and your partner, or get one passport each (just don't use them all in one day!).  Our favorite tasting rooms, which we recommend you hit up when in Carmel-by-the-Sea, are Caraccioli (their Brut Cuvee is sooo good), Dawn's Dream (they even have a super fun photo opp), and Galante (they have the tastiest bold reds).

Wine Walk by the Sea map and set of cards to use at the tasting rooms to redeem your tasting

Caraccioli is known for their bubbly


Dawn's Dream has a claw foot tub that matches their logo to pose in for your Instagrams and Snaps
Galante had a fun cowboy/western theme to their décor

The bold reds at Galante were delicious


What to do - boutique shopping and art galleries.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is loaded with both boutique shops and art galleries.  Some of my favorites from the weekend are The Hat Shop, Ajne (a parfumerie), Ms. Fabulous (how could I not shop there!?), and The Art of Dr. Seuss

Pretty hat boxes stacked at The Hat Shop


The Hat Shop in Carmel-by-the-Sea allows you to try on many of the vintage and new hats in their stock
Ajne sells specialty fragrances as well as options to create one-of-a-kind personalized fragrances




I love that Ajne also offers "furfumes" for your pets

Fresh local lavender bundles can be purchased at Ajne as well

My favorite clothing boutique in Carmel-by-the-Sea is Ms. Fabulous... though it can be dangerous to shop here after a few wine tastings!

You can appreciate some unique art and get all the nostalgic feels at The Art of Dr. Seuss

What to do - California history.
Any kid that grew up in California knows all about the missions.  You can experience one of California's missions yourself when in this area at Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo.  This mission, which was founded in it's current location in 1771, pre-dates US independence, let alone California's statehood. 




What to do - Monterey.
Just a 10-15 minute Uber ride from Carmel is the city of Monterey.  Made famous by Steinbeck, you can visit iconic spots such as Cannery Row (great restaurants, bars, and shops); you can have a house made milkshake and sample chocolates at Ghirardelli; and you can always take a romantic walk on the beach.

If you're looking for a bit of out-of-the-box adventure, Monterey also has a great escape room experience at Exodus.  They have choices of either Sherlock or Masquerade themes.  We chose Sherlock.  I don't have many photos (as you can't take photo or video once in the room), but we had a lot of fun during our hour with Exodus.  I am proud to say that we did indeed escape the room in time with minimal hints.  I think the key was the great teamwork and organization from our group. 

We escaped in about 40 minutes!


A statue at Cannery Row

A lovely beachside stroll was a great way to end our evening after the escape room

What to do - picnic on the beach.
Beach picnics are quite popular in Carmel-by-the-Sea.  We had one for lunch on our final day.  We got our food from 5th Ave Deli then walked down Ocean Avenue to the beach.  Even in the fall, it was the perfect weather to be outdoors. 

5th Ave Deli even has an assortment of baskets and bags to buy for your picnic

You can choose from a selection of ready-made deli items, or order fresh deli sandwiches

It wouldn't be Carmel-by-the-Sea if there wasn't wine!

The beach was clean and even had some shaded spots - perfect for picnicking

My hubs loved his reuben and I love my tri-tip sandwich


After lunch we walked along the water

As Carmel is very dog-friendly, we saw a lot of furry cuties during our beach stroll



The beach at Carmel-by-the-Sea is so picturesque




The fresh air, the peaceful ambiance, and the amount of possible activities made Carmel-by-the-Sea an ideal destination for a quick couple's getaway.  Have you ever been?  I'd love to hear your favorite Carmel activities, so comment below!

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