Archive for October, 2009

The Carmel Wayfarer Inn, on the corner of 4th Ave. and Mission St, is just one of many charming inns to be found in the city of Carmel, CA. Elegantly decorated and encircling a lush garden courtyard, we had reserved a room with king bed, trundle bed, fireplace and kitchen. It was spacious and decorated with French Country style. It was perfect for our weekend needs – a home away from home for two humans and two dogs.

We checked in mid-afternoon, with time to enjoy both the cranberry muffins waiting for guests at the front desk and the wine and cheese reception held between 4PM and 6PM. Brie and crackers helped tide us over until dinner. The room gave us a great place to relax comfortable after a long drive.

Arranged by a family relative, we met for dinner at Nico Ristorante, where a pet-friendly back patio allowed both humans and canines. Under the warmth of a heat lamp that dispelled the chill of the Carmel night, we sat down to a feast, served in white linen tablecloths which were graced with trios of yellow roses in flutes and flickering votive candles. It was a perfect meal in many ways, from cuisine to service to family company.

The menu featured dishes from both Italy and Greece. Plates of bruschetta and baskets of fresh bread with an anchovy-pesto dip were the first to arrive on our table. These were followed by plentiful servings of spinach fettuccini with pesto and walnuts, pasta carbonara and a variety of other equally delicious entrees. Red wine flowed freely, as did conversation in the elegant yet comfortable patio setting. The meal ended with tiramisu, crème brulee and baklava, accompanied by espresso for some and decaf for others.

The inn offers a morning breakfast, with homemade granola, fresh fruit, juice, yogurt and hard boiled eggs, along with fresh brewed coffee and an assortment of teas. We opted instead for breakfast at a local café, Belle, were we ordered a morning specialty of polenta with sautéed mushrooms and roasted Roma tomatoes, poached eggs and creamy goat cheese. We followed this with a stroll between galleries and stores, many offering water dishes and dog biscuits to four-legged friends passing by.

Carmel Wayfarer Inn is not the most luxurious inn in Carmel, but neither is it the most basic. Sometimes in-between is just right – amenities that are upscale enough to make for a delightful stay with a price tag that doesn’t break the bank. The décor is warm and inviting and the rooms are immaculate. Having a kitchen as an option is a bonus, especially for guests staying for more than one night. The fireplace: yet another plus.

The inn’s location is excellent, an easy three block walk to Ocean Ave., the hubbub of shopping activity. A longer, downhill walk of about nine blocks leads to the beach, saving the hassle of parking, though necessitating a huffier and puffier uphill return to the inn. Not a bad way to work off spinach fettuccine, though.


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I almost missed old town Truckee altogether. I hadn’t been there for decades and took a turn off the freeway that sent me past condominiums, luxury cabins, spiffy new office buildings and a few upscale shops and businesses I had remembered a mountain community with historic structures and was baffled by the modernization, as often happens when revisiting a small town after it’s had years of growth. Fortunately, I decided to take one last loop back in the opposite direction, where I found the old town I sought.

Built in 1873, The Truckee Hotel has worn the hat of many names – American Hotel, Whitney Hotel, The New Whitney Hotel (which it inherited after most of the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1909,) Hotel Blume, Riverside Hotel, Alpine Riverside and, since 1976, The Truckee Hotel. It won an award in 1994 for historical restoration and is easy walking distance from historic downtown Truckee’s shops and cafes.

Guests need to have an appreciation for the authentic historic ambiance, as opposed to the modernized historic hotel luxury of some older hotels. Heated by the original steam system, there’s always a chance it might go out during the night, which is what it did on my visit – on a twenty-four degree night, no less.

On the other hand, a hotel with central heat, air conditioning and other updated luxuries would not have cost a mere fifty-nine dollars for the night. This was a mountain town and I specifically chose The Truckee Hotel for the mountain experience. Expectation plays a big part in perceived experience. I simply donned a jacket and gloves and snuggled under the covers.

In spite of having a bath down the hall, I was delighted with my room. Where the in-room bath might have been – at twice the room price – I had a sitting area with couch, table and chairs. The bedroom section held an old brass bed, antique dresser and side table and a wash basin with a small mirror and light above. A wall rack and basket offered towels, washcloths, soaps and hand lotion.

I found dinner in an eatery just across the street, a former Bank of America now named the Bar of America. Serving the purpose of both bar and restaurant, I grabbed a table in the dining section which bore the name of Pacific Crest Grill. Though the menu featured elegant options such as Homemade Mushroom Ravioli with basil cream sauce and hazelnuts or Coriander Crusted Ahi with gingered carrot reduction, I went for a simple salad and small Margherita Pizza.

The salad – bibb lettuce with candied almonds, shaved parmesan and champagne vinaigrette, may have been the best salad I’ve ever tasted. The pizza was also excellent, with thick slices of Roma tomatoes and no skimping on the sauce or cheese. I ate two small slivers and saved the rest for the next day. Classy ambiance and decor, upbeat music that ranged from soft jazz to flamenco and excellent service all contributed to a great meal.

The hotel offers a basic continental breakfast, served in a common room on the second level of the four-floor hotel. I picked up a blueberry muffin, some orange juice and hot coffee and returned to my room for a bit before departing for the day’s drive.

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