A Trip to the Hofsas House in Carmel-by-the-Sea Offers European Warmth—and Plenty of Sunshine
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 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. Welcome 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.
So 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 perfect 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.
In 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.
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.
Carmel 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.