The other thing I like about Bernardus is it's basically on a country road so there are horses across the street and deer come out at dawn and dusk and there's a fabulous park, called Garland Park, about a mile down the road. It only takes about an hour to fly to Monterey from Los Angeles. The airport is a breeze and you can be out of there and in your rental car in less than twenty minutes.
We arrived at Bernardus around 11am. The wine was already out. Their idea of check-in is not signing documents but sampling their wine in front of the fireplace that burns real wood. My kind of place. Since it was lunch we decided to eat at their bistro which is called Wickets. They have a croquet lawn, hence the restaurant name. We shared the charcuterie plate which was a divine selection of cheeses and savory meats. Then we shared the pan roasted chicken with carmelized cipollini onions and mashed potatoes. I was in need of something sweet so we ordered the cookie plate and were rewarded with freshly baked peanut butter with chocolate chips cookies. It was amazing; almost as good as the bath. After lunch we walked around the grounds, taking in the chef's gardens and the lama, yes lama, on the adjacent property.
Then we hung out in our room and took a nap. For dinner we drove into Carmel by the Sea and had dinner at La Bicyclette an affordable French bistro with excellent food. I started by catching the menu on fire. We had secured reservations at the last possible moment, the hour beforehand, and were therefore seated at the smallest possible table for two, tucked inside a niche that was supposed to be cozy. I literally caught the menu on fire just by holding it in front of me, over the tea light. The waitress told me it happens all the time. Happily, the couple who had reserved the really nice table for two next to us showed up with a baby and had to be seated elsewhere so we were relocated to their table.
Dinner was perfect! Russell started with the mushroom soup and I with the mixed green salad with beets and goat cheese. He had the lamb and I had the special fish. It was outstanding. For dessert we shared their specialty, a crock of housemade chocolate mousse. So light, so rich, so creamy. So incredibly good. Sleep came easy after that meal.
I always feel the best part of a vacation, no matter how long, is the first day you wake up in your destination. The rest of the vacation is stretched out before you with a promise of perfection and you haven't started counting how many days are left. I let Russell sleep in while I went for a long run through the adjacent neighborhood and ended up at Garland park. It was a gorgeous day. I walked back slowly, lollygagging by each horse ranch along the way. They all seemed to be for sale.
Russell had fresh coffee waiting for me. (This has taken me years of training because he doesn't like coffee - a minor character flaw I have chosen to overlook). But I had other things in mind. No! Not that! I put on my bathing suit and took a dip in the heated pool. It was sublime. Well, except for the twenty-something studio executive who was sitting on his balcony over the pool taking phone call after phone call. Every other word he uttered was "like". "So, like, no I didn't listen to the audio, but like, I will and like what time is lunch?" OMG! Does this guy realize how completely moronic he sounds?
I had a "like" problem a couple of years ago. I was not in my twenties. I just have a habit of picking up vernaculars really easy. You should have heard me when I lived in Dallas. I could "y'all" like a native.
So I was like saying like all the time until one day I waited in line at Starbucks behind a teenager who was on her cell phone. Like the pool guy every other word she said was like and she sounded like a stupid bimbo. I thought. OMG! Is that what I sound like?! It became my New Year's resolution to stop saying "like". With the help of a twelve step program, twelve steps being twelve friends assigned the task of pointing it out every time I said the egregious word, I was able to stop.
After my swim Russell and I went into the village. On our way down the charming Carmel Valley Road we saw a sign that said, "Gourmet Sale Today". Gourmet Sale!? That sounds awesome. We found a place to park along the already packed road, excited at the prospect of what a "Gourmet Sale" would be. Maybe some home grown designer herbs, perhaps some locally produced olive oil or artisan bread or maybe even some heirloom tomatoes???? Apparently "Gourmet Sale" is code for "Yard Sale." Seriously? Yard sale? Yes, yard sale. That's all it was. It wasn't even gourmet crap, just run of the mill yard sale stuff. The kind you can get in Tustin.
Back in the car we marveled at how easily we had been suckered in by the Gourmet Sale sign. We concluded it was brilliant marketing and we ought to try it next time we're having an "Estate Sale."
Course our neighborhood doesn't allow garage sales, estate or otherwise.
As we approached the village there were several signs posted that said "Peddler Sale". "Peddler Sale" now we're getting somewhere. Carmel was once an artist colony so immediately we began imagining stalls with the wares of local craftsman and artists. Perhaps some paintings of 17 mile drive, a charcoal of Big Sur? Suckers!!! "Peddler Sale" is code for "Flea Market" and not even a good flea market. Although I did manage to find a couple of pieces of costume jewelry, allegedly from the 1960s.
We couldn't believe we got sucked into the marketing ploy twice. This whole area must be populated with retired marketing people. We decided it was time to drink wine so we went across the street to the Bernardus tasting room. The tasting is free when you stay at the Lodge. We arrived just in time to get looped in (and I mean looped) with another group that knew the wine peddler (nice huh - I'm already employing the local vernacular). Since we were standing next to them we received the benefits, meaning we got extra large pours and were privileged to taste bottles not normally shared. By the time we were done, we were pretty well lubricated and carrying a case of the stuff.
We decided to walk down the street and get something to eat. We ended up at the Corkscrew. It was outstanding and not because we were drunk. We had the special - which was a squash and gruyere cheese fire roasted pizza. It was heavenly especially with the half bottle of wine we ordered. For dessert we had the special tart with the amazing linzer type crust. Any emotional damage caused by the false advertising was eliminated by the post meal sopor. Clearly it was nap time.
For dinner we ate at the Lodge's marquee restaurant "Marinus." We've dined there a few times and it's been amazing every time, well worth the lofty price tag. Maybe it has something to do with the dazzling fireplace, ablaze with real wood. Lighting is everything and the room is beautiful. Unfortunately all the elegant lighting in the world could not save us from the supreme lack of service. We were astonished. Usually the service is one of the cornerstones of the Marinus experience. This time not only was the service lacking but the worst part is, they didn't even realize it, even when we politely pointed it out, several times!!!!!
When you eat at Chili's you don't get too irritated when they bring your over-chilled chardonnay after your salad. But when you're paying over $100 per head, you kind of expect them to bring your wine before they've served your first course, especially since the half bottle you ordered was chosen specifically to go with the first course. Even though we reminded them to bring the chardonnay halfway through our first course it didn't arrive, not even with an apology, until after the plates had been cleared. Russell was so angry he told them to take it back since we were pretty much just waiting for the second course, with which he had ordered what would have been a second bottle of wine - this time red to go with the meat. The red showed up in time but we were already gone, in mind that is. Bummer cause I always liked that place.
The next day we made it up to ourselves by packing a picnic and going on a hike in Garland park. The day was exquisite, cloudless but breezy with a hint of Summer warmth. I actually got Russell to hike more than an hour and we made it up to Inspiration Point. Unbelievably we had it all to ourselves. The custom made sandwiches we bought in the village were punctuated by the half bottle of wine we had brought from our room. It was perfect, except we should have brought a whole bottle.
Then, like we usually do when we go on vacation, we flirt with real estate. You know the drill.
You love the place, you think you can live there. We drove around and found some open houses to meander through, imagining what our lives would be like if we lived there. Russell pretends like he's really interested, so much so that I think he's serious, and I begin planning how I'm going to decorate.
He does this all the time - it irks me.
On our way back to the lodge we meandered through various neighborhoods and discovered to my utter joy, pun intended, a pen full of piglets!!! Yes, baby pigs. They were adorable!!! There was a sign on the fence that said, "Yes, feed us." So of course we did. Who knew pigs love grapes.
For dinner we drove back into Carmel and ate at Aubergine in L'Auberge hotel. The room is quaint, the food is splendid and the service peerless. It turns out the staff from Marinus left to go to Aubergine. No joke. I discovered this when I lamented to the waiter how disappointed I was in our meal at Marinus the previous evening. We had the four-course prefixe menu and it was amazing. The amuse bouche was a single oyster served on chilled sweet soy sauce. I could have had eleven more, ok more like twenty, of those and a bottle of champagne and been sublimely happy. The rest of the meal was just as exalted and I had the pleasure of meeting the chef.
The next day we headed back to Los Angeles and reality. Unfortunately there are no piglets there. Pigs but no piglets. Bye bye bathtub....