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Walking Over Haddon in The Peak District

I confess I'm a fair weather walker, which means I often want to walk on our holidays, but whether we go is always dependent on the weather. I have a Goretex jacket but it's like a talisman. I own it, but I don't want to wear it and I hope vainly that just by having spent so much on it an schlepping it with me that it's going to ward off the rain! As you can see my travel planning involves a good deal of "magical thinking!" In California our cultural exuberance (paired with low standards) means we shamelessly call anything a "hike"  - as if we've scaled Everest in an afternoon. Here in England I'm not sure I even qualify as a "walker" because that denotes a level of seriousness I've failed at previously. Minimally it means you're wearing boots  and have an Ordnance Survey map (and possibly a compass) in your back pocket. I guess I'm more of stroller to be honest and I've blogged about my strolls all over the world; m…

A Quick Weekend in Carmel and Monterey

Big Sur, surely one of the most beautiful places on earth?


We headed down the coast for the weekend,  adding a night in Carmel to the  free night we had at the Hyatt RegencyMonterey. So, while the room was free here's  a photo of what we recieved for the extortionate pet "fee". Yes, that's a bag of "pet-a-fours" which is French for four dog treats that cost $75!  I wasn't feeling the love, but the dog was happy once we broke them open and I couldn't complain because, minus the pooch fee, there was no charge for our stay.


Despite cheerful personnel and updated rooms I won't be heading back to the Hyatt. It's just too corporate  for us and the  low rise blocks of rooms feel warren like rather than elegant. It may be a  good bet if your  kids would enjoy the pool or if it comes up for a song on Priceline, but overall it's not somewhere I would  recommend. However we enjoyed our weekend, the coast is so stunningly lovely and it amazed me that we can be down here in a couple of hours.


Coastal views on Highway 1

Gardens at Nepenthe

The coast just north of Big Sur

We've been down here so many times that we've done lots of hiking and seen many of the sites before,  including the Monterey Aquarium, Point Lobos and the Carmel Mission. This time we opted for a lazy weekend. We enjoyed lunch in Moss Beach, a night-time wander around Monterey, breakfast in Big Sur and a relaxing afternoon at the beach in Carmel. Carmel has to be one of the most dog friendly cities in America. Most of the hotels allow dogs and the beach has "off leash" access for all the pooches, much better than letting the dog off leash and hoping we won't be fined - which is our normal technique.




The beach at Carmel is a paradise for dogs!


There are lots of great places to stay down here including two of my all time favorite hotels, the Post Ranch Inn and Ventana Spa and Resort, both at Big Sur. However, neither are dog friendly and they didn't fit the "cheap and cheerful" theme of this quick weekend away. Instead we opted for the Monte Verde Inn a block from Ocean Avenue and only a few blocks from the beach. 

I've stayed at the Monte Verde before and it's certainly a better value in the off-season. Previously we had rooms 11 and 12, which I would recommend when traveling with friends as they share a small deck which is very pleasant. This time we had a rather small room that opened directly onto the courtyard but it was perfectly adequate. The rooms have  a rustic cottage feel and they have done the most that they can with a relatively modest property. I appreciated the glass of wine when we arrived and the fact that they are so dog friendly. At the price we paid it wasn't a rave for me, but it worked for a quick weekend with the dog, I guess it's a wavering thumbs up.



 Adequate but not fancy


Courtyard outside our room
Our room was rather small




















Happily the sun came out for our drive down to Big Sur and the coast was beautiful. I love to stop at Point Lobos State Nature Reserve but it's a no go with the dog, highly recommended otherwise. It's a great place to see otters but on this trip we were lucky enough to see several, one in Moss Beach and another from the deck in front of the Intercontinental in Monterey. Seeing this face was reason enough to make the trip.







Travel Tips: 
Carmel can be expensive in season and it's smart to check for any additional discounts on travelzoo and localgetaways before you commit to a property. 


Try to fill up your tank before you drive down Highway One, you don't want to have to fill up in Big Sur where petrol is very expensive.

If you're driving from the Bay Area consider stopping off at San Juan Bautista (just off Highway 101, not far from the 156 turn off) where you can visit one of the less well known California Missions. This site pairs wonderfully with a visit to beautifully restored Mission at Carmel.

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