Carmel-by-the-Sea: The Hofsas House

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A Trip to the Hofsas House in Carmel-by-the-Sea Offers European Warmth—and Plenty of Sunshine

Linda Lenhoff

Sometimes you’re ready to travel and you just want the hippest, sleekest, most modern place you can find. Where there’s one control panel that manages the TV, the bathroom floor temperature, the ions in the air, and other invisible but no less useful forces. But as for me, I often crave someplace a little historic, a little traditional, with a story to tell. I want cozy, comfy, and dare I say it, colorful. I want a good old-fashioned fireplace; I’m after—let’s face it—brick-a-brack and the comforts of home (but better). I love tchotchkes and find minimalism, well, lacking. And I feel more deeply satisfied by a room filled with memories, and by sensing that someone cares more than just about the latest trend, the most modern traveler, and the bottom line. I want to stay where someone’s put their heart and soul into the place, and welcomed me there, too.

Hofsas 2Hofsas House, fortunately, has been waiting for me. Located in everyone’s favorite quick getaway area, Carmel-by-the-Sea, just a few moments from the adorable downtown and a little jaunt to the beach, Hofsas House is the family house I’ve always dreamed of, and fortunately, they’re willing to share.

Hofsas House is big and pink and welcoming; it looks like the gingerbread will be ready anytime. Close enough is the big breakfast of divine Danishes and coffees and teas, served in the adorable little living room filled with art by ­­Maxine Albro, who also painted the selfie-worthy welcoming mural outside the lobby. Super friendly owner Carrie Theis toured us around the beautifully landscaped property (oh, the hydrangeas!), which has been a family business for more than 60 years, offering European charm in a peaceful setting. Each of the 38 rooms greets you with different features, from an ocean view to a fireplace, a one-bedroom suite to a patio. hofsa house bedWelcome to Bavaria! Don’t forget to sample the wine and cheese.

Our suite featured a bedroom with two roomy beds, a TV, and a bathroom; along with a living room with another huge comfy bed, a kitchen, a big fireplace, TV, bathroom, and private patio. And more pink and yellow, and pure charm. (And another bathroom!) The table was set for us to enjoy cheese and wine, and the Dutch doors allowed us to open the top half and let in the warm breeze, or go out to the patio table for a second round. The Hofsas House has it all: pool, dry saunas, continental breakfast, wifi, and puppies—yes, Fifi is welcome and will be greeted with much love by other guests at breakfast.

DSC_0340So as I mentioned, I like charm. I like quiet rooms (our quaint bedroom was super peaceful). We could be as friendly as we wanted with other guests, whom we ran into from time to time (and their pups). Or we could hide out.

But this is Carmel, so we did want to get outside. Carmel-by-the-Sea is famed for its Hofsa carmel beachperfect weather, upscale shopping, art galleries, and fine dining, though you’ll also find family food. And wine. We stopped into Scheid Vineyards for a wine tasting. The tasting room was filled with dark woods, small tables, and a bar that spread from one end to the other. We sampled the reds, choosing our favorites slowly (a nice Pinot Noir, a really tasty 50/50) with the assistance of our wine expert. One in particular stood out for me; my husband liked them all. We made a selection to take home and left in search of food.

I wish I could say it was an easy decision, and in our state, we really needed to eat, but still, we meandered. La Bicyclette stood out for its European style selection (like the Hofsa House itself!) and a small crowd of enthusiastic if not seriously refined eaters (veg options, too). And the lights were low and inviting at Bistro Giovanni, luring us toward the wood-fired scents of something good. Portabella is the place for something fancy that you’ve deserved for months yet haven’t had time to splurge on—and relax over. The list goes on and on. You might want to be better prepared than we were by noting a few must-try spots; though winging it didn’t do us any harm.

hofsas 4In the morning, after filling ourselves with really good tea, coffee, and European (of course) pastries, we headed over to Carmel Beach to just be. There’s plenty of walking to be done on this truly white sand beach, where you’ll find families, couples, and puppies enjoying being at one with nature. Or just stare at the ocean, which works, too. Explore Carmel River State Beach and the magnificent Point Lobos State Beach, or spend the whole day at Carmel Beach riffling through that white sand.

DSC_0335 (1)We stopped for dinner at the Beach House of Lovers Point, in Pacific Grove, which always looks so romantic from the beach or when driving by. We had reservations, but there was a wedding party smack in the center of the big room, where the bride looked like she’d sort of landed and wasn’t going to get up. The manager gave us a panicky look and excused himself, then returned to give us an ideal table overlooking the sea. This is a pretty but non-fussy restaurant with organic pasta entries and all the imaginable seafood you’ve come for: a fine salmon filet, seared Corvina sea bass, and lots of meat and potatoes for the guys. The view is the treat, but I’d never complain about the food and, even better, the kind service.

DSC_0331Carmel is no secret to most of us, but sometimes Monterey overshadows, especially if you have kids in tow. Treat yourself to a splurge-worthy stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea, though, where you can wander on foot from fancy streets with shops to white sand beaches with puppies and people in love. I even made friends with a small squirrel, though he got a little closer to my picnic blanket than I would have liked. But then, it’s a really friendly town, and thankfully, there are so many weekends in the year to enjoy there.

 

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The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa: Just Go!

Hyatt M 10Monterey, like Paris, is always a good idea. But the Hyatt in Monterey kicks this up a notch into a great idea, as its 22 acres are nestled within Monterey Pines—making it a mini resort within a major resort. I’ve stayed many times on the main road in Monterey, which I’ve loved, despite tumbling into tourists on bike rides (I literally did this: If you see me coming on a bike, I recommend getting out of the way) and walking en pack from destination wine bar to destination craft brewery. Still, you can’t really knock Monterey, no matter how badly you ride a bike (or steer a four-wheel cruiser, just saying). Monterey is always a dreamy coastal resort; I just had no idea that the Hyatt, tucked away in its own vast corner of town, would be so dream come true.

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It’s fair to say that having a comfy king-size bed in a spacious, modern room set on a golf course is a great way to start any morning, let alone weekend. We sat out on our mini patio watching the early birdies each day. While parts of Monterey can be cloudy in the morning, the Hyatt, just by the Del Monte Golf Course, seems to always be on the sunny side of the street.

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But let’s get to what I’ve come to learn is the heart of the vacation: What’s for dinner? (Not to mention lunch and breakfast, which I’ll mention later.) We were invited to a feast, a special chef’s dinner to introduce the new menu at Tusca, the top-notch restaurant overlooking the greens—not that there was anything wrong with the old menu. Executive chef Paul “Scott” Blackerby led us through three courses (plus dessert), all paired with wines from Bernardus. I’m usually a Pinot Noir girl, and the Rosellas Vineyard stemming from the Santa Lucia highlands was a great find, but I lost my mind a little over the 2017 Marinus Estate Carmel Valley Bordeaux blend, which was too tasty to turn down another, well, taste. But I’ve skipped the food. Well, if the food is the heart of the vacation, at the Hyatt, the wine is the soul. And you need both.

Dinner was surprising, fun, beautiful, and not too much short of divine. Little touches like the goat cheese fritter and the Farout Ranch baby gold beets salad with gooseberry vinaigrette got the taste buds ready for the main events: Brandt Farms ribeye, Monterey Bay Salmon courtesy of Robbie’s Ocean Fresh Seafood. (Robbie himself sat just a couple seats down and told us about every bite.) I ordered the salmon in different forms all weekend, and while dinner’s was delicious (ok, both nights of dinners), the salmon burger for lunch is really what lunch is all about, if you ask me. We also tasted warm salad of Mary’s Chicken and a lot more wine, plus desserts including chocolate orange mousse bombe (and you know I had more than one of those all weekend). Without drooling too much, I really recommend—all of it.Hyatt M 7

Breakfast is just fine, too, with a huge, sweet-smelling buffet including eggs cooked to perfection, along with regular menu items brought to you super quick, in case you woke up hungry even after eating such a big dinner.

 

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Or in case you’d like to get golfing, or check out the two pools or family games. Or the fitness room on-site, or the Marilyn Monroe Spa currently undergoing renovation—which promises to be quite something when finished. Take hike around the loop surrounding the property, or head a short distance into town (drive or grab a Lyft) for all the usual Monterey fun: the aquarium, the beaches, the wine tasting, the people watching. Just keep an eye out for those crazy surrey drivers. Carmel beckons just a couple more miles away.

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If you have a big family—or a small company that feels like a family—look into reserving the President’s House in the corner of the Hyatt property. We toured it slowly and carefully, mostly because we didn’t want to leave. This 2,500-square-foot villa features a giant open living room, along with four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. But it’s the view that caught our eye: The home opens to a grand backyard with a gorgeous pool and pretty nice looking gas range setup. Did I mention it’s private and all yours? Or as I’ve mentioned to my friends: Girls getaway, anyone?

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All in all, I learned why it pays to get off the usual path. The Hyatt spoiled us with wondrous food (I also recommend the strawberry lemonade, which complements the salmon so well), a casual atmosphere, another pub-style restaurant, a warm and cozy central fireplace to gather round, jazz in the evenings, and a super tranquil setting. I love the touristy part of town as much as the next, well, tourist, but I didn’t feel the need to leave the Hyatt’s grounds all weekend, and I suspect you won’t, either. (Ladies: Especially if we all go in on that President’s House.) BTW, I am always packed for Monterey.

 

Where to Send Your Boss for the Weekend

The Clement in Palo Alto Is a Completely Guest-Centric Experience for the

Refined Traveler

Maybe you’re one, or you just know one. It could be your boss (it probably is). Or your

 

mom or Aunt Leticia, or perhaps your in-laws. Maybe you married one. Whichever discerning traveler you’re making plans for will love the new Clement in Palo Alto, which features 23 suites so sophisticated and classy that your finicky friend will have a hard time deciding which room to linger in longest—though should you be lucky enough to get an invite, the Japanese soaking tub will no doubt call your name.

Created by Clement Chen, who also has the Sheraton Palo Alto and Westin Palo Alto up the road, and fashioned on a American-meets-Asian theme, The Clement’s mission is to plain old spoil its guests rotten. Let’s start with the food (which, by the way, is an excellent place to start—your food will meet you in your room or any part of the hotel, including the rooftop lounge, but more about that later). The Clement has adopted an open-kitchen concept, meaning yes, the kitchen is open to you all day and into the night. Pop in to request a snack, and check out what’s in the clear-case frig (crispy-fresh salads, divine cheese plates, fancy charcuterie, sweets, and beverages). Or just call from any phone and order up what you’d like. Don’t miss the house-made potato chips and special of the night. Kids (and moms) also love the warm cookies available nonstop. The chef’s special was tangy bacon- wrapped scallops the night we feasted, followed the next morning by a variety of Benedicts. (In fact, I can well imagine Mr. Cumberbatch enjoying being treated like a king during his stay, as each guest is.) The Clement concept means all food and drinks (that’s right, wine and beer, too) are included in the nightly fee (though some cocktails require an additional fee). Feel free to ask for something to be cooked a little differently—the chef is at your service. Bon appetite, indeed.

Next, let’s pop up to the roof for a bit. Grab a comfy super padded lounge chair, or arrange yourself (and friends) in a plush cabana with a view of Palo Alto’s foliage (golf course?). Towels are waiting for you (as were sunglasses and sunscreen on our trip, along with cold drinks), and a handy phone lets you order up something special (anything on the menu can be brought up to the roof). Enjoy a few laps in the shiny infinity pool, or step into the soothing whirlpool to while away the time. If you’re like me, you’ll be loath to leave the rooftop.

But when you’re sunned out, you can return to your suite (or the petite workout room well-equipped with treadmills and bikes and snacks). Oh, your suite. You’ll be greeted by modern decor in calming neutral tones (plus whatever you’ve requested in your mini frig—again, all included in your stay). We had a bottle of wine (Pinot Noir, natch), popcorn, gluten-free cookies, and the sodas of our choice, plus a couple of the cold cheese and charcuterie plates. A wall of windows lets in wonderful sunshine but can’t exactly beat the 65-inch TV, so we watched a Giants game over popcorn and Pinot. Or maybe you’ll feel drawn to your bedroom, with a distinguished-looking bed with superfine bedding, another TV, more windows. (All lighting, temps, and window blinds are run by a touch or two of a button, of course.) But then, there’s the bathroom. With the giant soaking tub and rainfall shower, you barely need the built-in television in the mirror, but why not enjoy it, too. There’s a separate smart toilet room where you can push more buttons for a variety of needs and surprises, along with a heated floor throughout the bathroom. You don’t have to leave this room, but the downstairs beckons.

Downstairs, a living room offers up a grand fireplace surrounded by interesting art books you can peruse for hours—and staff will bring you anything you’d care to eat or drink. There’s a lovely conference room should you need to do any real work as well. Dining tables and a large fire pit run outdoors along the side of the living area. But isn’t it time to sit down to a meal with family or friends? Grab your table in the comfortable, romantically lit dining room (or stay outside), and choose your specialties from the day’s menu. The service could not be more attentive, and the food is as delicious as it is pretty (and it’s really pretty). Have another glass of Pinot, and watch the chef prepare your food—or just gaze out the window and enjoy Palo Alto’s colorful sunsets and breezy evenings. Evening swim? Late-night movie on your private big screen? The possibilities in this small boutique hotel feel endless.