Tag Archives: Carmel

Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop, Carmel Valley

The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop in Carmel Valley

The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop in Carmel Valley

We were heading out for a day trip to Big Sur and decided to stop for breakfast before we crossed the Carmel River Bridge. The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop is roughly three and a half miles from Highway 1 so a wee bit out of the way but we thought we would give it a try. It is situated in a small shopping center, which is similar to the Barnyard Shopping Viallage on the corner of  Highway 1 and Carmel Valley Road, but on a much smaller scale. Just look out for the green awning with a wagon wheel on it.

The Wagon Wheel is a rustic little place with plenty of parking outside. It was not very busy at all, in fact there were just two customers sitting at the counter. It opens at 6.30 in the morning and we arrived just after 7. We chose a table by the window and we were warmed by the early morning sun.  It had been foggy in Monterey but here it was bright and clear. When the sun rose a bit higher it hit Tom right in the eye but immediately the server came over and dropped the blind. Our server was bright and cheerful and she soon took our order and gave Tom his coffee. Tom ordered one of the specials – Polish sausage and eggs for $9.50. As oatmeal was on offer, that is what I chose but instead of the regular oatmeal I went for the slightly dearer option – slow toasted, thick cut oatmeal. I also had a choice of a small or large portion s as I was hungry, I went for the larger size ($7.25). It included toast, so I chose the whole wheat.

It’s not called the Wagon Wheel for nothing because everything screams ‘cowboy’ at you as soon as you enter. The walls are covered in photographs of cowboys and horses and all sorts of tack hang from the rafters. Of course there are horseshoes on the walls. Even the mugs are decorated with cowboy hats, spurs etc.

My oatmeal came in a large, round, deep bowl on an oval plate, which had the same decoration round the edge as the mugs. The toast was on plate with the bowl. The sugar came in a pottery bowl but the milk jug was extraordinary. It was made out of white china and in the shape of a cow. It wasn’t immediately clear as to where the milk came out. At first Tom thought it was the rear end but I noticed the tail was curled, so obviously the milk came out of the mouth. The oatmeal was very tasty and hot – just how I like it. Tom enjoyed his spicy Polish sausage but wasn’t too impressed with the coffee as he likes it strong and bold.

The restroom  is outside, up a couple of steps. The key hangs just to the left of the door as you go out. The light didn’t work, which didn’t bother me as it was wasn’t too dark inside but might be a problem when the sun isn’t shining. There were two stalls inside, which I found unusual. The same cowboy theme from the cafe is extended to the restroom. On the wall were two wanted posters, one for Butch Cassidy and the other for the Sundance Kid. By the sink was an old sign showing charges to use soap, towel, water, etc. The total cost for using everything came to a few cents. A saucy photo of a lady getting out of a hip bath hung near the door and last, but not least, a sign advising you to squat when wearing spurs. The restroom facilities were clean and acceptable.

Overall we would recommend the Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop as a very pleasant little place to stop for breakfast if you are in the area.

The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop
7156 Carmel Valley Rd
Carmel, CA 93923

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Coastal scene from Point Lobos State Reserve

Coastal scene from Point Lobos State Reserve

Our destination was Point Lobos State Natural Reserve  to the south of Carmel just off Highway 1. On our last visit to Big Sur, we had planned to stop off at the park but, being tight with our cash, we wanted to park outside and walk in. There were no safe spots outside the park so we carried on. This time we were prepared to pay the entrance fee.

We set off before 6 while it was still dark. There was a nip in the air, Fall is upon us. Traffic was surprisingly heavy for a Sunday morning at that time. Within an hour, we were approaching Monterey. It was beginning to get light. Then we ran into fog, which was not unexpected. We hoped the sun would burn it all off in due course.

Of course breakfast was a priority and we stopped at the Barnyard Shopping Village outside Carmel at the From Scratch Restaurant – see previous post. Driving back towards Highway 1 afterwards on Carmel Valley Road, we were surprised to discover that we couldn’t turn left. We assumed there must be another way out of the Barnyard  Shopping Village which would have brought us to traffic lights where we would have turned left.

Old whalers cabin in Whalers Cove at Point Lobos Reserve

Old whalers cabin in Whalers Cove at Point Lobos Reserve

The entrance to Point Lobos SNR was on our right about a mile further south. There were several cars parked outside but we turned into the park. The entrance fee is $10 per car or $9 for seniors. We happily parted with our $9 and received a brochure, which included a very detailed map. Looking at the map, we decided to head for Whalers Cove first.

The car park was very nearly full but we were lucky to grab the last spot available. This is the only place in the reserve where scuba divers can enter the water and we decided that most of the cars parked there must belong to scuba dives because there were a lot of people walking around in wet suits andy most of the vehicles had scuba gear in the back. According to the Point Lobus SNR, only half of the park can be viewed onland.  By scuba diving you see the other half.

Immediately we were struck by the awesome beauty of the place. A sheltered bay was in front of us thick with kelp. We walked back up the road to the old cabin at the side of the road. A plaque outside said it was built by Chinese fishermen in the 1850’s. It is now used as a cultural history museum. Peeking through the window it looked interesting but it didn’t open until 9 am. Just opposite a sign marked the beginning of the Granite Point Trail so that is where we headed.

Sea otter at Point Lobos State Reserve

Sea otter at Point Lobos State Reserve

It was a beautiful trail and so peaceful. The sun had come out and it was quite warm but it felt chilly when walking through the shady parts.  Fortunately I had my sweatshirt on. I also had my binoculars and was on the lookout for sea otters as kelp is their favorite feeding ground. I saw no sea otters at that point but I did hear the distinctive tap, tap, tap of an otter probably using a stone to break open a shellfish. The path twisted and turned and a different view was revealed every couple of minutes. From the other side of the bay, I watched a boat pull into the cove and half a dozen scuba divers swam out to it. The first part of the trail is wheelchair accessible and where that part ends there is a conveniently placed bench.  If it hadn’t been in the shade I would have taken the opportunity to sit down and take in the view.

Instead we took a less accessible trail down to Coal Chute Point. The point is so named because in the 1870’s coal was discovered nearby. After the coal was mined it was taken first by horse drawn wagons and then loaded into ore carts on a tramway and taken to Coal Chute Point.  The water there is very deep and ships could get close to land to take on the coal as it cascaded from the chute. Now there is a a wonderful view of Monterey Bay.  It was here I saw my first otters of the day. A pair of them were not far off shore, an adult and lighter colored juvenile. The white face of the adult was clearly visible. They swam on their backs and dived every so often. After one dive the adult appeared with a shellfish in its paws and it turned on its back and swam out of sight. It was a real treat to see them so close. Tom spotted a bird down below, busily probing the rocks. It was black with yellow eyes, a red beak and light pink feet. I’d seen one before at Mendocino and couldn’t work out what it was. This time I tried harder. A lady walking by saw me consulting iBird West on my iPad. She said she thought it was an oyster catcher and with that information I was able to find out that it was a Black Oyster Catcher.

The trail we were on went a little further towards Granite Point and joined up with the Moss Cove Trail but we turned back. The museum in the whalers cabin beckoned us. Inside the cabin Wayne, the volunteer in charge, was happy to talk about the reserve and passed on lots of useful information. The exhibits in the museum displayed not only the cultural history of the area back to when a branch of the Ohlone tribe called Rumsien were in residence for about 2,500 years until the early 1800’s but also the commercially viable industries which sprouted up in the mid 19th century.  The first to arrive in the early 1850’s after the Rumsien had disappeared were Chinese fishermen who made the perilous journey across the Pacific in small junks. They set about harvesting abalone which abounded in the ocean. This industry flourished until the 1920’s.  In the mid 1850’s a granite quarry was established in Whalers Cove. The car park is now on the site. From the trail you can easily see where the quarry was. Portuguese whalers arrived in the 1860s and that business thrived for over 20 years.

The pristine park we can enjoy today was very nearly a non starter. In the 1890’s a scheme was hatched to sell 1,000 residential lots in the Whalers Cove area. Fortunately an engineer from back East came and fell in love with the area. His name was Alexander Allan. He bought 640 acres and he also set about buying up all the residential lots which had been sold. In the 1920’s, efforts were made to protect the cypress tress which grow here and no where else. First of all Allan sold some of his land to the State of California and later donated a whole lot more and the reserve was born.

The fog rolling in at Point Lobos Sate Reserve

The fog rolling in at Point Lobos Sate Reserve

It was time to move on and explore some more of Point Lobos. Our next stop was where both the Sea Lion Point Trail and the Cypress Grove Trail start. The park was getting busier but once again we found a parking place without too much trouble. We decided to take the Cypress Grove Trail and discovered a whole lot more of the attractions to be seen. At the end of this small peninsula is the Allan Memorial Grove. It is a circular trail and we took the counter-clockwise direction. We walked to the first overlook and were surprised to see some fog rolling in which looked like smoke coming off the trees. While I was admiring the view and Tom was busy taking photograps, a group of bird watchers turned up. One of the guys was wearing an Oregon Ducks T-Shirt and he commented on my Oregon Ducks sweatshirt. It always surprises me how many people say ‘Go Ducks’ when they see my sweatshirt. They were a chatty group and as we were leaving someone spotted an Oregon Junco – how appropriate. Apparently it is hard to tell the difference between them and the Yellow Eyed Junco apart from their call.

Further along the trail as we neared North Point it became steeper and the views more spectacular. At Pinnacle Cove there were steps going up and then down on the other side. Although there was fog offshore it was not drifting ashore so the views along the coast were of the Big Sur coastline which has to be seen to be believed. I can see why they call this reserve the ‘jewel of the California state park system’. Back in the car park, we contemplated taking the Sea Lion Point Trail but opted to drive to the end of the road to take in the whole park. The road is a wee bit narrow in places and because folks are so busy looking at the views, they tend to wander into the middle of the road. One has to drive very carefully. At the start of the Bird Island Trail we turned around in the car park and headed back.

We certainly enjoyed our time at the Point Lobos State Reserve and wonder why we had never visited before.  I’m sure we will come here again and walk some more of the trails.


From Scratch Restaurant, Carmel

From Scratch Restaurant in the Barnyard Shopping Center off Highway 1 in Carmel Valley

From Scratch Restaurant in the Barnyard Shopping Center off Highway 1 in Carmel Valley

From Scratch Restaurant is located in the Barnyard just off Highway 1. Many times we have driven this way and neither of us realized what a gem there was so close to Highway 1. I had found the restaurant online the day before and thought it would be worth trying out but we were not prepared for the Barnyard. For those who you who have not discovered it either, let me explain. It is a shopping center but it is more than the normal run of shopping malls. It is called the Barnyard Shopping Village because it consists of half a dozen large barn like buildings which house small shops in and around them which all fit in with the barnyard theme.

All this cuteness has a downside. Finding any one shop is difficult. We drove round several times without spotting the From Scratch Restaurant. I saw a directory on a wall so we stopped to look at.  It wasn’t all that easy to find the restaurant but we realized we were pretty close, at least we were near the correct barn. Nearby we noticed the Carmel Valley Roasting Coffee Company and thought we would first of all find the restaurant and then come back for a coffee.  I knew the restaurant opened at 7.30 and as it was only 7 am, so we had plenty of time.  We walked around a very nice patio, with benches to sit on and lots of flowers, and saw a sign for the restaurant. OK, we knew where it was, so we went back for a coffee for Tom and a hot chocolate for me.  The coffee shop was very nice. For starters the coffee was good but the surroundings were very pleasant too.  Several comfortable sofas and coffee tables were placed around the room and most of them were vacant. The half an hour we spent there was relaxing and the natives were friendly.

Just after 7.30 we set off to walk to the restaurant thinking it would be easy.  It wasn’t. We thought the sign we saw was above the shop but we were proved wrong.  There was a very nice florist there and a couple of other interesting shops but no restaurant.  We wandered a bit further and come to another inviting patio but no sign which said From Scratch Restaurant.  On a pillar there was a noticeboard which looked suspiciously like a menu board showing the specials.  On closer inspection it was what we were looking for but there was no sign saying From Scratch Restaurant and if there was we certainly didn’t see it.

Inside there were a few customers and lots of empty tables. We were told to sit where we liked and we chose a table near a fireplace and close to the window. The server came straight up with the menus and she was very friendly. Tom ordered Smoked Salmon Benedict, which was 12.95 and I had Oatmeal for $5.95.

The decor was very nicely done. On the wall near us were lots of original water colors by Mary Alice Hinman which could be bought for $150 each. The opposite wall displayed framed colored photographs by Miguel Dominguez which could also be bought. On the mantlepiece above the fireplace were a decorative teapot, fruit in a tall glass jar and a sign which said ‘ Live High’.

Before long our food was served and it looked wonderful. Tom really enjoyed the benedict which was plumped full of smoked salmon and my oatmeal, although it was not steel cut oats, was scrumptious.  In fact the food was amazing.

Our visit ended with my trip to the one unisex restroom. Although it was not quite as luxurious as I expected it was perfectly adequate. A poster, depicting whales and tropical fish, hung on one wall and an orchid growing in a pot sat on a small table.

This is definitely one breakfast restaurant which we both recommend highly and will certainly be visiting again. I’m sure it must get really busy later in the morning so I suggest you get there early if you plan to visit.

Big Sur

Carmel beachWe set out just before 6 while it was still dark. There is just something about being on the road while most people are still fast asleep. To watch the scenery unfold slowly as the sun rises is awesome. First you see the tops of the hills appear as the sky lightens. Then the trees stand out as silhouettes. Finally everything is visible and then the sun appears in all its majesty. It is going to be a beautiful day.

We are headed for a beautiful part of the California coast – Big Sur. When I knew I was coming to California for the first time just over ten years ago, the item on the top of my itinerary was to drive south on Highway 1 from Carmel to Los Angeles. Our first stop today is in Carmel for breakfast – see previous entry.

There is no denying that Carmel is a pretty town. Some of the buildings are unique. Take the Tuck Box on Dolores Street. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. Back in the 60’s, when Tom was stationed at nearby Fort Ord, he would come here for breakfast sometimes. It is still there and they serve not only breakfast but lunch and afternoon tea (very English). Next time we are in Carmel, we will come here for breakfast.

Driving through downtown Carmel at 8 a.m. in the morning is a real pleasure. Admittedly none of the shops are open but you do get to appreciate the layout of the place and how well maintained it is. Later on today it will be swarming with tourists and it will be difficult to find anywhere to park.

We decide to pay a visit to Carmel Beach. I have never been to this part before. Just head on down Ocean Street and there is a small car park at the end. It is a very nice beach, sandy and clean. There were a lot of dogs with their owners, joggers and couples walking hand in hand. This is a very romantic place to be.

Soon we are heading back to Highway 1 and on our journey to Big Sur. Now Big Sur is not oneBig Sur coastline single destination but a 50 mile stretch of the best views imaginable of the Californian Coast. There are several State Parks dotted along the coast – Point Lobos just south of Carmel, Garrapata a bit further along, then Andrew Molera, Pfeiffer Big Sur and finally Julia Pfeiffer Burns. There are a lot of places to park along the way but they are just dirt pull outs and a couple of vista points. These get really crowded later in the day. If you see cars parked at the side of the road then you can safely assume this is a good spot to pull over and maybe even find a trail down to the sea. For a guide to locations to stop at check out this website – ‘A Guide to California’s Big Sur’.

The road is a two lane highway which hugs the curves and climbs and ascends like a ride in a theme park. Today the views are spectacular with no fog at all. Just south of Carmel there is a signpost which warns that there are hills and curves for the next 63 miles.

I kept my eyes peeled for whales, watching out for spouts of water far out to sea which look like puffs of smoke. At this time of the year the males are returning to Alaska after spending the winter in the Sea of Cortez down in Baja California. They are closer to shore than on the southerly migration. In a few weeks the females and their calves will be passing and they will be even closer to the shore.

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Katy’s Place, Carmel

Katy's Place, Carmel, CaliforniaWe are on our way to the Big Sur coast. Yesterday I looked online to see what was available for breakfast in Carmel. This place had good reviews so that is why we are here. It is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. and we rolled up just as it opened.

From the outside it looks pretty and upscale, as do most places in Carmel. Overlooking the street is a deck with tables and chairs but today is too cold to contemplate that. Later in the day I’m sure that is the place to see and be seen.

So we opted for inside. The entrance is at the side which is a bit confusing. There was a guy sweeping up and Tom asked him if there was anywhere to buy a newspaper. He pointed out a newsstand a few feet away but it was hidden from sight. Also outside are benches, magazines, noticeboards and a huge coffee dispenser which I am sure will all be needed later on when it gets busy.

Inside it is not very big and the tables are small. It seats just 50 with 6 seats at the counter plus about 20 outside. There are no booths. There were only three other customers but our server appeared rushed and was not very friendly.

The menu is huge and the choice vast. I checked out the oatmeal straight away and, guess what, they serve steel cut oatmeal. My prayers have been answered. The prices are pretty steep but, hey, this is Carmel. The oatmal was $8.50 but if comes with toast. I also ordered a side of fruit which was a hefty $2.95. Tom ordered a Joe’s Special which was $12.95. He also had coffee which was $2.95. I stayed with the water, which was free.

The decor is very good and pleasing to the eye. Lots of nice pictures on the walls. Near where we sat were some old adverts for Sunkist lemons and various other food items. The windows have well tended window boxes on the outside.

We didn’t have long to wait for the food. Mine came on a huge oval plate with a large, shallow dish filled with oatmeal. Also crammed on the plate were two small plastic pots – one with sugar and one with butter, a good sized stainless jug of low fat milk (I was asked which milk I would like), 4 half slices of unbuttered wheat toast (my request) and a fair sized ceramic bowl holding the fruit. The oatmeal was good but less nutty than what I make at home. I’m not complaining though because at least it is steel cut. The fruit was great – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and slices of strawberries. I asked Tom what he thought of his and he said ‘OK’. He was not impressed with the coffee though.

I was not disappointed with the restroom. There were two unisex restrooms but I only checked out one. It was the best I have used for some time. Clean, bright, big, well-equipped and sweet smelling. There was a lace curtain at the window and nice prints on the walls. The water was good and hot.

Our verdict – very expensive and not really worth the extra even taking into account Carmel prices but the place is nice and well appointed.

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