As I entered my seventh month of pregnancy, my husband and I decided it was time for one last trip...
before our third son's scheduled arrival. As any parent knows, there is ne'er a free moment to oneself, much less as a couple, once the awaited child is welcomed, so taking a "babymoon" to load up on some much-needed romance was in order for us.
We were desperate to escape the muggy, oppressive September Florida heat and opted for a refreshingly cooler ocean climate: Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur, California. Crisp and comfortable, the area hovers between a comfortable 50-60º.
Our vacation began by flying into the San Jose airport and driving to the Hyatt Carmel Highlands, which overlooks Big Sur Coast. This Hyatt property combines beautifully rough terrain, the great outdoors, and the luxury you can always count on from the Hyatt family. When I say this is a man's man property, I don't mean that only men like it, as it really is the most romantic couples' destination, but rather that the grounds exude a wonderfully masculine sportsman quality. Think of it as the beauty of camping, but in a 5-star resort. Now THAT'S the sort of camping I can get behind.
Our room featured a balcony with cliff and sea views, signature Hyatt Grand Bed™, and modest appointments. But the crowning jewel was the stone wood-burning fireplace - perfect for a cozy night cuddled up in front of the fire with a glass of wine, listening to the powerful Pacific pound against the cliffs below. Of course, my happy condition prevented my wine consumption, but I had no problem substituting chocolate. An exorbitant amount of chocolate. I blame the hormones.
Upon arriving in your room, it's possible to ask the bellman to start a fire for you, but if you'd rather wait, there are wood stations all over the grounds that provide easy access for those wishing to build a fire.
I loved the perfect mix of nature and luxury -- the whole hotel smelled faintly of woodsmoke, which provides a homey, outdoorsy feel. This theme is echoed at the giant fire pit -- perfect for roasting marshmallows and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. We continued this cozy, rustic luxury at the Sunset Lounge, which was a pleasant place to relax. Again.
As for dining options, Jeff and I were eager to experience Pacific's Edge restaurant, located within the hotel and awarded by Wine Spectator, Zagat, and AAA. We were sadly disappointed. While the view alone should recommend it -- all windows overlooking the Pacific -- actually seeing anything can be hit or miss due to unpredictable fog. While the atmosphere is very upscale, we found it a bit stuffy and the decor seemed out-of-date. Our formal waiter was grossly under-attentive and we spent large spans of time without drinks or food. The food, when it arrived, was pleasant enough but not overly remarkable. Perhaps this place would be better for just a glass of wine? If you decide to try it yourself, remember that reservations are required.
The hotel's location made it an easy jumping point to both Carmel and Big Sur, where we explored the quaint towns and their restaurants. We had another bad meal experience, which sadly was recommended by the Hyatt, at a Mediterranean restaurant called Demetra Cafe. While the staff was very friendly and welcoming, we found the food to be bland and unimpressive. Thankfully, we were rewarded the next night with a win. La Bicyclette in Carmel is a lively French bistro which offers amazing flatbreads and soups and a sophisticated group of locals.
As for dining in Big Sur, we fell in love with the Restaurant at Ventana Inn. The reasonably priced and fresh cuisine hails from local farms, and the atmosphere continues that rustic lodge-feel with more fireplaces and amazing views of Pacific. And no, views of the Pacific never get old.
Our "babymoon" drew to a close, but Jeff and I still have memories of our special time together. I highly recommend the Hyatt Carmel Highlands -- especially for couples. If you're on a tighter budget, consider utilizing the time-share portion of the property, called Highlands Inn.
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