Photography by Yuri Krasov

Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, just a couple hours drive from San Francisco, is actually on the golf course, so it’s practically a gigantic golf club with swimming pools and fire pits, luxurious Accista Spa and Stay Fit 24-hour fitness center, and even Monterey Bay Racquet Club. There, you can get a free rental racquet and get a lesson from the tennis director Hans Roemer who teaches the noble sport to hotel guests and their offspring daily.

The said hotel guests reside in dozens of little buildings scattered in the vicinity of the 17th and 18th holes, and to get from building #1 to building #20 takes a power walk, or you can catch a ride to your destination in a golf cart driven by a polite hotel staffer.
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Turn away from the front desk upon check-in, and you hit Knuckles Sports Bar, where the walls are made of recycled materials from basketball courts and bleachers; all TV screens are tuned to various games; and you can pour beer from the taps right on your table. I could’ve guessed the theme from the address at Old Golf Course Road, but until I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I couldn’t have imagined the magnitude of Hyatt Monterey.

Recently renovated to an astounding grandeur, Monterey’s largest conference hotel has 550 guest rooms, 40 000 sq. feet of multi-use function areas and lots of green open spaces that even include a dog-walking trail. Hyatt Regency Monterey is a pet-friendly hotel, and dogs on a leash are as common a sight here as men in business suits, heading for a meeting room or families with children playing ping-pong or grilling marshmallows by a fire pit.

There is plenty to do and enjoy here even for a non-sports cat person, as I have discovered on my walk around the campus.
First, I found a cat house built specifically for a stray that used to hang around for occasional food handouts, but eventually got his own residence here. His name is Tiger; he is a well-fed tabby, and doesn’t mind some behind-the-ear scratching from a strange woman.
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Second, I signed up for a massage at the spanking new Accista Spa. It’s a gorgeous modern facility with plush relaxation rooms, soothing music, and assortment of teas, nuts, and fresh berries to keep you serene but energized. The spa employs wonderful masseuses who use aromatherapy oils from Ajne organic parfumerie and apothecary in the neighboring Carmel-by-the-Sea. I so enjoyed my pine-and-lime massage oil that the next day my husband and I took a little side trip to the Ajne store for some highly individualized perfume. Every scent is selected here for each customer based on character traits questionnaire administered by the husband-and-wife Ajne team – Jane Hendler, president and organic perfumer and Rex Rombach – creative director and distiller.
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Third, I made a dinner reservation at the hotel’s fine dining TusCa Ristorante, where chef de cuisine Johnny de Vivo serves some mean cured meats, fruit de mar with locally-caught fish, and blood orange caramel dessert among other Tuscan-California delicacies. After dinner, we stayed a while at the Fireplace Lounge in front of the restaurant, where a singer was performing Cole Porter classics, accompanied by a live band.
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Bright and early next morning we started for the Big Sur coastline. The air was filled with ocean breeze; the water was azure, and wild irises; California poppies and miniature succulents were blossoming on the cliffs above the Pacific. We headed for the Big Sur Coast Gallery and Café with its impressive collection of the contemporary American art. The Gallery occupies two recycled water tanks made of seasoned redwood planks. Round windows, narrow staircases and a cute little patio adorned with light-weight hanging art pieces, add to the appeal of the glass, metal, ceramic, painting and photography collection that makes the Coast Gallery a not-to-be-missed stop along California Highway One. White marble contemporary sculptures grace the entrance to the gallery.
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Café tables hide under red umbrellas on the roof of a tank. With the recent renovation and reopening, the café is geared toward serving seasonal local and organic produce. Suffice it to say that a charcuterie board prepped by the chef/manager Matthew Farmer on the day we lunched, contained California-grown caper berries and quince jelly; Red Hawk, Mt. Tam, St. Pat, and Humbolt Fog cheeses from the famed Cowgirl Creamery; and Fra’ Mani salami from Berkeley.
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That night, we dined at Pacific’s Edge at Hyatt Carmel Highlands. The restaurant has a comprehensive wine list and serves abundant and well-executed fresh seafood dishes, yet it is best known for its views. Overlooking the Pacific, its floor-to-ceiling windows grant the best sunset views from every seat in the dining room. If you think yourself lucky for getting a table right by the window, prepare for a sunset invasion with flashing cameras. There is always a moment in the nightly ritual when most diners jump to their feet and run to the glass wall for that perfect shot of a Pacific sunset.

“Laid-back luxury” describes the Beazley House in Napa, California, perfectly. If you’re looking for a quaint and cozy bed and breakfast in the heart of wine country but also want to enjoy the indulgence of five-star accommodations, look no further.
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The inn, housed in a sprawling 1902 mansion, has a distinctly historic feel. The wood floors, huge staircase and stained glass windows seem transported from another era and everything is immaculately kept – but never at the expense of comfort. Homey details are everywhere, from the book-lined shelves in the expansive den to the black-and-white family photos on display. Innkeepers Jim and Carol Beazley, who founded their B&B 31 years ago, extend that welcoming warmth to every aspect of their operation. They’re both regular presences during breakfast, which is served from 9 until 10:30 a.m. in the sun-splashed dining room (or delivered to your room on request), and treat guests like visiting friends.
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Speaking of breakfast, you don’t want to miss it if you’re staying at Beazley House. Offerings include hearty but healthy options like the mini Mexican-style breakfast quiches and cornbread muffins my husband and I enjoyed during our recent stay there, as well as house-made granola, fresh fruit and orange juice. The Beazleys are also happy to accommodate special dietary needs. They made a special vegetable-based breakfast dish for my vegan husband and made sure there was soy milk on hand for him too. But even if you are not a breakfast eater, do not miss the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies that are always kept in the house’s den. Aside from feeding their guests well, the Beazleys are full of helpful recommendations for nearby wineries, spas, tours or restaurants.
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Some of the rooms at Beazley House are upstairs in the main house, and a few are in a stand-alone carriage house separated from the mansion by a gorgeous garden and patio. We stayed in the carriage house’s Blossom View room, and could’ve happily taken up permanent residence there! It featured all the basic amenities one could want – big, comfy bed with great sheets; spacious bathroom and tub; cable TV – plus some luxurious extras, like the Jacuzzi-style spa tub in the room. In a signature friendly touch, we also found two wine glasses and chocolates waiting for us inside upon check in. We didn’t bring our boxer-lab mix pet with us on this trip, but the Beazley House is dog friendly and we definitely plan to take her along on a future visit.

Beazley House stands on First Street in the middle of historic old town Napa, within walking distance to a plethora of restaurants, shops and galleries. If you visit the inn, I suggest not over-planning your trip. Give yourself time to walk around, explore all that’s nearby, and to solicit some suggestions from Jim and Carol Beazley. Be warned, you might also be tempted to ask them if you can join the family business.
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When you are in Napa and wish to tour the wineries, contact Calistoga Bike Shop. They offer several different tours you can make on bicycles and they deliver your purchases to your hotel. A fun way to see this beautiful valley.
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If you’re seeking an affordable but well-appointed hotel a little ways down the coast in San Francisco and you happen to be a literary buff, Hotel Mark Twain is the place for you. OK, the literary part is not required, but it might bring an extra appreciation for the Mark Twain quotes painted onto the walls of the hotel’s stairwell. Even if you’ve never cracked a copy of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” however, there’s plenty to recommend Hotel Mark Twain.

The boutique hotel sits just a few blocks from San Francisco’s Union Square and the Convention Center, so whether you’re on a business trip or vacation, the locale is central.
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The building’s décor includes charming historic touches like plantation shutters and a brass railed staircase, but the rooms are decidedly modern and a nice continental breakfast is included . My husband and I were happy to find ours spotlessly clean, with a large closet, flat screen TV and complimentary WiFi. And in addition to the eco-friendly bath products, there’s one other bathroom feature worth noting: that holy grail of hotel living, excellent water pressure!
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Other hotel amenities include a no-frills exercise room with some basic cardio equipment and weights, a 24-hour front desk and valet parking. This hotel is not the place to stay if you plan to spend a large portion of your trip at your hotel and expect a spa-like experience, but if your plan is to explore the city while staying somewhere convenient, well-priced and well-tended, Hotel Mark Twain fits the bill. And if you are vegetarian, there is no better restaurant anywhere than The Millennium Restaurant at 580 Geary Street San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 345-3900.

Photography by Emma Krasov

Traveling to Vienna in spring is a double treat – the weather in this gorgeous European capital is balmy, and white asparagus is in season. Let me elaborate.

I remember how I came to try white asparagus for the first time. It was in Chicago, and the preparation was done by the world-famous chef. Under my server’s intense gaze I bit into a pale meek stalk, and couldn’t force myself to take another bite. “So, how is it?” he said. “Bland,” said I – to his barely contained outrage. Since then I was not actively seeking this perennial shoot intentionally held underneath the soil to keep it colorless. It didn’t do anything to me – until I’ve tried it at Palmenhaus restaurant in Burggarten, Vienna.

Silky, tender, mild, but full of spring-like fresh flavor, it was simply served with a boiled potato, some bitter greens, and buttery-lemony hollandaise sauce. What a delight!

Steel-and-glass Art Deco Palmenhaus, where Emperor Franz Joseph liked to spend his time off admiring the hot house palm trees, is not the only place that serves white asparagus. Every self-respecting eatery in the city does it in spring and early summer.

While I continued to order it everywhere, I took time to explore other notable staples of local cuisine and the local culinary scene in general.
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At Le Loft, located at the top floor of the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom overlooking downtown, I appreciated traditional marinated herring in mustard sauce, paired with a local wine.
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At Zum Schwarzen Kameel, a historic restaurant first open in 1618, I indulged in the Tafelspitz, a favorite dish of Emperor Franz Joseph, who allegedly ate it every day for dinner.
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At Meierei im Stadtpark, a former milk drinking hall on the Wien River, I devoured a world-famous Wiener schnitzel, deliciously breaded and sprinkled with lemon.

At least once a day during my trip, exhausted by the sightseeing overdose, I did what tourists do – lounged on a banquette at one or another notorious Viennese café drinking coffee and snacking on chocolaty Sachertorte or vanilla-drenched Apfelstrudel.
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There is nothing like a cup of strong mélange to lift a weary traveler’s spirits at a modern Café Motto am Fluss on Danube Canal, or a glass of creamy Wiener Eiskaffee at Café Schwarzenberg, in operation since 1861.
The city is brimming with all kinds of indulgences. Viennese inherent sophistication defines everything here from art and design to sublime culinary delights.

Before leaving Vienna, I stopped at Demel – the historic café und konditorei heading into the third century of its relentless excellence. Formerly a supplier to the imperial court, Demel still carries Empress Sissi’s favorite candid violets and Les Langues de Chat (cat tongues) chocolates exquisitely packed in vintage design boxes tied with silk ribbons.
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Okay, take it now. I will admit that it is there for the taking. More, I will gladly give it to you. Indeed, if my “man card” is to be surrendered after an article such as this . . . take it! I’d rather have it forfeited than have someone later claim that, while in Portland, my visit to Voodoo donut (a Portland phenom) for a top-selling Bacon Maple Bar was somehow a pre-ploy to get that man card back (knowing full-well I would be writing an article largely about beautiful gardens and affable people.)

No, I will happily admit it. If stopping to “smell the roses” and various other Portland blooms with the girl of my dreams had come without the left over waft of pastry goodness coupled with maple and bacon, I would still have gladly deemed this trip to Portland one of my favorite short escapes ever.
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Maybe the women in my life are to be credited for a draw to blossoms. Could it have come from my mother who ensured several early childhood exposures to Butchart Garden’s http://www.butchartgardens.com just north of Portland and past the Canadian border? Or, possibly it arose from a talented artist of a grandmother? Perhaps from another grandmother’s style and grace as found in a daily simple, single rose afloat in a crystal bowl? Could this have even come from the hedge of roses or garden of a beloved mentor? All good precursors, yet this “exposure” trip to Portland with my wife and best friend, Brandi, will most certainly cement any sentiment toward all things flowered and leave me saying, “if you ever have only two August days in the Portland area, I would spend them this way.”

Courtesy of the Portland Visitor’s Bureau (thanks Marcus Hibdon for your hospitality) our itinerary was near completely laid out before us and (minus some driving woes – GET THE GPS IN YOUR RENTAL CAR WHEN DRIVING IN PORTLAND!!!) virtually worry free.

Trips to the various garden gems of the “City of Roses” (Portland’s official nickname) began with a visit to the self-proclaimed “haven of tranquil beauty” that is the Portland Japanese Garden http://japanesegarden.com/. The allure of the Japanese Garden came not only in the five intricate gardens within its confines, but in the people who we found there. As delicate as the gardens themselves, Brandi and I watched, in awe, as a 90+ year old couple strolled in front of us (there to celebrate their 70+ wedding anniversary.) We were taken by the husband’s gentle care and concern for his wife as he directed her pose for a snapshot. “Look up into the sun” he encouraged, “you always look so beautiful with your face to the sun.” Such tenderness seemed oh so apropos in this protected and carefully planned garden. From the parking lot of the Japanese Garden, a short stroll down the hill finds you in the International Rose Test Garden. The Test Garden touts some 10,000+ rose plants ranging from

The classic simple red bud now has varieties named for “budding” stars (my favorite – after the Brandy Rose of bed A27 of course! – being the Dick Clark Rose . . . like that man needs any more immortalization?) While other local attractions in “the park” could have taken the remainder of a long, enjoyable day in Portland (The Arboretum, Children’s Museum and the Portland Zoo to name a few of the other locations that sit on Portland’s 400 acre Washington Park http://www.washingtonparkpdx.org). . . a man’s got to eat!

Our day then segued to a welcomed and unforgettable brunch at Salty’s on the River http://www.saltys.com/portland/. Let me start by saying Salty’s is more of an experience than a meal. If your dining-out vocabulary only knows words like “Golden Corral” or “Cracker Barrell” or even “Red Lobster” then it is high time you joined the ranks of cuisine connoisseurs that can appreciate ambiance and flavor joined with a view like none other! I can’t say enough good about Salty’s. Again, the people at Salty’s seemed to say it all. We watched birthday parties, anniversaries, business luncheons and, yes, couples (like us) finding enough space outside to spark romance.
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The buffet was like none other I have had. A standard brunch buffet of breakfast foods, a seafood buffet, roast beef, ham, crepe and omelet bars (Curtis even made me his signature “Green Eggs and Ham” spinach omelet) were only equaled by the chocolate fountain and, my personal favorite, trays of locally fresh-caught wild salmon options. The Blackened Salmon with Thai Chill was my first and last bite of the meal . . . I had to go back for another bite and did so without worry of jeopardizing the lingering goodness of the orange-cranberry cookie and the caramelized nut tart. For me, the ultimate irony is that all who know me will tell you it is no novelty for this writer to gush about a dining experience; however, it has been nigh impossible for me, with a severe allergy to all shellfish, to comment on a seafood restaurant! Upon booking my reservation, I let Managing Partner, Linda Addy, know of my desire to experience Salty’s yet of my extreme shellfish allergy. She not only willingly accommodated my needs, she assured me that their Co-Owner shared my allergy and I could rest assured that my meal would be 100% delicious and 100% shellfish free. Chefs used new pans on my behalf. I tried sushi for the first time with full confidence that I could do so without fear of shellfish exposure. I ate in perfect bliss! Brandi too enjoyed every bite (though an admitted seafood dodger.) The cost of the meal might be more than the aforementioned chain restaurants, but the experience will long be worth the memory and our return is certain.

Day Two in the greater Portland area found us walking in a locally-owned garden paradise in Beaverton, Oregon (a welcomed respite just a few minutes from the bustle of Portland.) Innkeepers Harold and Margaret Meyering and their Cornerstone Bed and Breakfast hosted us for a night’s stay. With lofty pines and blackberry bushes abounding, and birds and squirrels playing/feeding on the deck outside our window during a homemade strawberry waffle breakfast, Harold and Margaret know how to welcome their guests! These God-fearing, loving hosts have endearing family pictures on the walls of their spacious home. Rooms are clean and bright and have their own bathrooms. Entrance is available from inside the home or from the deck door allowing patrons to come and go as they please. We felt a great connection to the Meyerings and hope to see them again on a return visit.

From Beaverton we returned to Portland with our sights set on the Rhododendron Garden in Crystal Springs. This self-guided tour through a wooded, lake area couldn’t have started our day off better. Geese, ducks and squirrels (all seeming plenty tame – approaching and following us at close range) were our only companions for the early morning stroll.

From the springs, we set off to experience the Portland Saturday Market. Shops and booths abound. Street vendors seem to thrive and people come out en masse to enjoy the festivities. The market is just a stone’s throw from Voodoo Donut. After an hour wait for our donuts (yes they are that good!) we strolled through the market (under the river overpass) with our tell-tale pink box of donuts and little care in the world.
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As expected, my favorite part of the market was the people we encountered. While waving in and out of booths, Martin Kruming (of San Diego California), approached me in passing. “Are those donuts really that good” he asked. I had purchased a half-dozen donuts (I know, I know . . . who needs more than one dough ball with maple flavoring and 2 hunks of bacon on the top . . . but relishing in Americana and getting caught in the moment, I had 5 more on hand.) “Try one”, I prodded. Martin reached into the box and pulled an arm off of the “Voodoo doll” donut (their classic jelly-filled chocolate bar that has been pre-cut and cooked in the shape of a doll.) His wife and daughter both cried out, “what are you doing eating that poor guy’s food?” I must confess I couldn’t have felt more solidarity or contentment had Martin Kruming been my father! He was quick to the uptake and came back to his wife and daughter with, “haven’t you met John and Jane? (pointing to me and Brandi.)” He promptly introduced us (as John and Jane) to them both. I we shook their hands and smiled. No introductions necessary. Martin’s story could have only been eclipsed by the next encounter some ten minutes later with Chris Boeck from Panama. As I returned to feed the meter, Chris’ sister (celebrating her brother’s arrival and her son Peregrine Painter’s 13th birthday) had stopped her SUV to let Chris take a picture of Voodoo Donut. “I will give you $20 for your box of donuts”, she exclaimed. “Donuts you can have . . . the box I can’t part with (conversation piece for my office.) I approached the driver’s side door of her vehicle and revealed a second bacon maple within the box. I gave it to Chris and, if possible – and my fellow foodies you will get me when I tell you it is – I found more enjoyment from watching him enjoy what I had just enjoyed a few minutes earlier than if I had eaten that donut myself. Had I become one of the eclectic eccentrics of the Portland Saturday Market? Sure seemed that way! Moral of these 2 stories . . . You’ve simply got to go to the Portland Saturday Market and make your own new finds and new friends!
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Our day and time in Portland ended as we caught the Lan Su Chinese Garden downtown before hoping a plane back to Salt Lake. This beautiful garden might best be called stunningly “precise.” The intricacies of detail in this garden (actually a Chinese palace that was created in China and then taken apart and reassembled piece by piece here in Portland) are “awesome” in the true sense of that word. In one portion of the courtyard, every stone is aligned and patterned to be at precise height and color to form exquisite lotus flower designs.

Although smaller than other gardens visited on the trip, we found this stop certainly worthwhile as the completion of our trip and as a capstone for A Couple Exposes the City of Roses.

For those of a certain age the mystique of Ft Lauderdale, Florida, is associated with the teen movie and song of “Where the Boys Are” ~ all about college spring break. While that is still ingrained in many of our minds, I can now think of Ft Lauderdale as where the joys are. Joy need not be a big expansive feeling, but one of peace, security and a care free mood. In Ft Lauderdale I found that kind of joy in beach side accommodations, perfect weather, vistas of ocean, sand and palm trees, dazzling cocktails and a range of dining options.
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My home base was the Westin Beach Resort with only the calm traffic of Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. between it and the beach. The high rise ocean side room with expansive windows teased me into staying in the room longer, perhaps than I should have. With sunrises and moonrises and the ever changing color of ocean and the variety of people watching, can you blame me? Outside poolside dining at the Waves Bar and Grill was friendly and satisfying with a Mahi Mahi Sandwich and rum drink, as was the sunset beverage at the beach level Shula’s on the Beach bar later that day. And while I missed the tricky scheduling of drink with the sunset ~ setting early in the evening during my visit before the bar opened ~ it is a challenge I recommend.
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Just because I was staying at the very comfortable and chic Westin Beach Resort did not keep me from exploring other hotels and lounges along the coast, as the Westin is in the middle of the action. Almost next door is the upscale Living Room Bar on the second level of the W hotel, again with expansive patio views of ocean and sky. I had a delicious Kobe Beef slider with a Pear Martini that fit my mood perfectly ~ so much so I came back the next evening, to try their Belvedere Raspberry Champagne martini. The W pool is a floor above the bar and is only available for guests of the hotel, with the special stairway down to the Whiskey Blue bar offering underwater views of the pool.
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In the opposite direction on Fort Lauderdale Blvd. I found the Gallery at Beach Place, with a Sonic fast food spot, complete with roller skating wait staff and views, once again of the ocean and beach. On down in that southerly direction is the Bahia Cabana, an old time Ft Lauderdale tradition. Here I had a fish and chips and their specialty drink of the day, complete with views of the inland marina. Despite a gusty wind, the casual dining experience, where I met a long time friend, was a highlight of my casual time in Ft. Lauderdale. Sky, water, sunshine, boating activity, congenial conversation, satisfying food and drink: what more joy is there?
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I took a water taxi back to the Westin from Bahia Cabana and got a glimpse of the inland homes and boats of the area. The water taxi is a boon for tourist without a car, especially those who have time on their hands to wait for the next boat and do not want to walk long distances. My wait was worth it, and I’d take it again, more extensively had I had more time.
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For historical significance you can visit the Stranahan House, the oldest of the residence of the area. Times of entry to the house museum and tours are quite strict so pre-planning is a necessity. There’s the Galleria Mall for traditional shopping and the Las Olas Boulevard for upscale art galleries, one of a kind shops and casual street side dining. And one should not forget to visit the International Swimming Hall of Fame, preserving the awards and memorabilia of that sport.
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Far inland at Plantation, Florida, is the Mosaic Theatre where I took in a Southeast Premiere of a play called “Lombardi” ~ of course about the famous football coach. The intimate professional theatre experience was rewarding. It was ironic that outside the theatre that very night there was an intensive high school football game in progress.

Talk about art imitating life! Small joys are what many of us search for in holiday vacations and the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood airport makes it all the more easy to enjoy the joys of Florida.

As you make plans for a weekend getaway, keep this in mind: Carmel and Monterey are a quick two hour drive south of the San Francisco. For those with an appetite for some of the best wine tasting and gastronomic treasures around, it’s time to get going. Recently, my husband and I made the trip – staying in unique properties and enjoying the verdant region with its knock-out views.
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Monterey’s historic Cannery Row was our starting point. Don’t dismiss this out of hand as “too touristy.” The area is steeped in history as the epicenter of Steinbeck country. It’s the ideal place to jump start the fun. We checked into the InterContinental The Clement Monterey – the perfect location (for us and the car). The modern hotel sits on Monterey Bay (and a national marine sanctuary) and fits into its seaside locale with a weathered exterior and boardwalk. The interior is upscale and inviting and the rooms are comfortable, spacious, loaded with amenities and many have views of the main street and the scenic bay (some with balconies). From here, it’s a quick walk around town.

 

We strolled over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, inhaling the salty sea air along the way. This popular venue inspires conservation of the oceans through “teaching” exhibits of sea life. From sharks to jelly fish, sea turtles to penguins, there are wonderful displays to be discovered, including the reinvented Open Sea wing.

 

For lunch, we tried the Monterey Bay Aquarium Restaurant – Cindy Pawlcyn’s latest adventure serving up fresh, local and sustainable creations. Every seat has Bay views – all the better because with borrowed binoculars and a guide, you’ll be able to identify the birds you spot. Hog Farms grilled asparagus, wild Pacific Dungeness crab cakes and the Thai style mussels are hits.

 

Afterwards, we set out on the Cannery Row Wine Walk. Each tasting room has a unique vibe and friendly staff.
A Taste of Monterey (representing more than 70 wineries): Don’t miss the 2007 Cobblestone Chardonnay and Boëté’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc.
Scheid Vineyards: Find great Reserves, especially the 2007 Chardonnay and 2006 Claret. Their 2008 50/50 is a unique Cabernet/Syrah blend.
Baywood Cellars: Try the sweet wines – the 2003 Symphony Late Harvest, 2000 10-year Tawny Port and the Grappa Limoncello.
Pierce Ranch: The 2010 Albariño 2007 Tourbillon and 2007 Tempranillo are outstanding.

 

Dinner that night was at the hotel’s C Restaurant, where we experienced a spectacular view of the marine sanctuary, the setting sun and the endless ocean. The restaurant is an avid follower of the Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program – you eat only what’s sustainable. Since local ingredients rule, we opted for the smoked trout sashimi with radishes, cured lemon and miso-yuzu vinaigrette, pork shank terrine with Dungeness crab and beluga lentils, and caramelized day boat sea scallops served with a porcini mushroom-leek stew. We paired local wines with each delectable course. It was an easy elevator ride home to be lulled to sleep by crashing waves and glow from the fireplace.

 

The sunrise over Monterey Bay the next morning was stunning. On our way south to Carmel, we stopped at Morgan Winery, tucked into a shopping area just outside of downtown. Bright and airy, taste both Morgan and Lee Family Farm wines including the 2008 Double L Syrah and the 2008 Garys’ Pinot Noir.

 

From there, it’s a five minute drive to the picture perfect (and one of the pet friendliest) towns – Carmel-by-the-Sea. This charming enclave is home to shopping, galleries and cafes.
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Carmel’s scenic beach is a must see. Then it was lunch at Cantinetta Luca with its colorful interior, brick lined walls and wood-burning oven. The classic Italian food is simple and rustic. We ate the best grilled king prawns with corona beans, roasted peppers and salsa verde as well as house made salumes and a funghi pizza with criminis, spinach and gorgonzola. All this was matched with vibrant Italian wines; it was heaven.

 

Wine tasting in Carmel is easy – stroll the streets and courtyards and stop along the way. Figge Cellars: The 2009 Pelio Chardonnay, 2006 Syrah and 2008 Paraiso Pinot Noir are not to be missed. Cima Collina: Favorites include the 2005 Hilltop Estate Pinot Noir and 2009 Tondre Grapefield Riesling. Caraccioli Cellars: Love the 2006 Brut Cuvee, 2008 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir. Galante Vineyards: Enjoy the 2005 “Blackjack Pasture” Cabernet, 2008 “Olive Hill” Petite Sirah and an interesting blend in the 2007 Grand Champion.
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The lush Auberge Carmel is nestled in the midst of downtown. It is a serene and beautiful French country oasis. This Relais and Châteux offers luxe accommodations in a boutique setting. The landscaped courtyard was awash in bright flora and a lovely place to relax. Each of the 20 rooms is distinctive; all boast rich fabrics, warm interiors and large bathrooms (some with soaking tubs).

 

Dinner at L’Aubergine, the cozy 12-table restaurant in the hotel was memorable. Four luscious courses featured ingredients delivered by local farmers. The amuse bouches were awesome, especially the English pea sponge cake with pea purée and pea shoots.
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Luscious hamachi with sea beans, sea water, bonito jelly and uni was just one of the four courses. Others included ocean trout with crispy skin and halibut with sea lettuce, oyster and pig tail. And the international wine selections were incredible. We ended the delicious evening with a strawberry cream cheese parfait.

 

Next morning, the full breakfast (included with our room) gave us the fuel to make the scenic drive home.

 

It’s always the time to visit Monterey and Carmel. You know you’ll eat, drink and sleep well!