California Dreamin’ on a summer’s day

Even before we arrived at Ocean Avenue, the hubby and I heard the pulsing sound of waves crashing coming from Carmel Bay.

At the entrance to the narrow pedestrian street – Mission Street, the street where Europeans, celebrities and the dollar unchallenged frequent when in the mood for quaint, cozy and rustic beauty.  We stood watching two dogs, who lead their owners as they walked heads held high sniffing in the breeze. Then we began our slow rudderless walk down San Carlos Street, a street where I can’t resist the flowers – where past and present collide at every turn.

Past haunting pines, past mom-and pop bakeries we walked inhaling the fragrant scent of strong espresso coffee and poppy seed strudel. Past breathtaking Spanish colonial buildings and fairy-tale cottages and colorful yellow stucco shops that cater to tourists. Past sidewalk cafes where visitors from around the globe speak in foreign languages while they sip their drinks. Past Art galleries and jewelry stores and shops selling high end handbags.  Past tourists searching for beauty and Americans trying to improvise a life.  Past all this we walked.

My husband doesn’t enjoy the aimless lingering and looking like I do but does like the private streets that are considered the most stylish best places to live in Carmel.

The interiors of the hotel is not posh, but a startling mix of antiques and marble. Tall flame of the woods and trees form interlocking canopies over the table of our balcony.  I inhale nature, left in it’s original state,  graceful, a show untold.

At the beach that day, we soaked up a gentle sun, and curled our toes in the white sand.  The sound of the waves crashing and the suction of sand in to the ocean, a melodic rhythm soothing to my nerves. I smelled the suntan lotion, felt the salty air on my skin. My ears pricked when I heard an unusual bark. Having been in Monterey a few days prior, where on a bike-ride along the boardwalk we saw sea lions frolicking in the sun, I say, “Sounds like the sea lion song.”

My hubby puts his book down, “It’s the guy next to us. He’s flapping his arms, he’s got man boobs.”   I harness one hand over his mouth and another on mine to stifle our laughter.

After five minutes the man walks in our direction. “Now you’ve done it,” I say to him.  On the spot, I blurt out, “What do elephants wear on the beach?” Before the hubby can respond, I say, “Their trunks!” Our giddiness is evident even when it turned out our neighbor wanted the time.

That evening we dined at Forge in the Forest, in the outdoor patio of lush gardens and redwood tables in the comfort of the open-air and fresh California cuisine.

The next morning we decide to hang out on Ocean Avenue, it seemed relatively peaceful but was swarming with car aficionados of all ages from several continents. Concours on the Avenue, included seriously dressed men in dark blue suits as judges wearing Gucci loafers jostled with blond beauties in mini-dresses and large brimmed hats. Important looking men stood on the side lines drinking coffee and smoking cigars.  Bored looking photographers wearing sleeveless vests open to the waist wandered around listlessly taking shots of strutting looky -loos. The whole scene could have been inserted into a parody of an Italian film.

Having formerly owned a  Red 1967 Jaguar 340 Mark II, it was a beautiful, well-built luxury car.  I would drive it with the windows rolled down inhaling the leather upholstery admiring the wood dash as I listened to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  I absolutely revere just about anything that was made yesteryear.

My keen eye marvels at the workmanship and attention to detail of these classics. But whether I’m assessing a classic car, a house architectural style, a piece of estate jewelry, antiques, or a vintage article of clothing- the design, style and construction is a visual delight because it espouses idealism and pure aesthetic.  But given today’s  public needs, objects reflect fickleness and pluralistic tastes. And it’s become apparent that our environment is determined by economics and technology. The more we gravitate into mass produced, the more I appreciate the Art that once was.

After a few official speeches there was a musical interlude featuring a baritone who sang The Star Spangled Banner. We snapped photos of the cars we each liked. My hubby was mildly interested in a 1950’s Ford Good Humor Ice Cream truck and the sports-cars.  I, on the other hand, opted for unique, and stopped my stride when I spotted a gorgeous chocolate brown 1975 Mercedes Benz 450 SL Convertible Roadster.  It’s plush looking camel seats and great body style was clean, simple and elegant.

I stopped into a church, I passed along the way” runs through my head as we visit the Mission Basilica. It surprised me to find that California’s first library is Father Serra’s personal Bible.

Yet, as we walk back through the narrow streets of uneven pavement, alive with the scent of roses and children running, dogs barking, the screech of the seagulls and courtyards of voices calling down from balconies, and easels set up on every corner. Now this is the real Carmel, I thought with the unearned insight of the casual tourist.


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