Monday, August 4, 2008

Coursing Through Clint's Carmel-By-The-Sea

Friday, August 1, 2008

During his early morning call, Llew dissuaded me from making the rigorous journey by public transport to Carmel. He suggested I spend the day, a fairly free one, exploring parts of Santa Cruz instead. It was at that point that I remembered that Desmond Mascarenhas, cousin of our friend Ian, lived in Silicon Valley, not too far from Santa Cruz. I decided to call him with the idea of meeting briefly with him over a cuppa. Breakfast done, I actually managed to spend a good couple of hours working on my Anglophilia manuscript.

I positioned myself with my laptop in my room in such a way that all I saw outside the window was a curve of the hill bordered on both sides by towering conifers. Occasionally a car passed silently by and the bucolic scene was deeply comforting to my psyche and immensely productive. Revision went smoothly as I awaited Desmond’s arrival on campus. Despite bad traffic on his approach to Santa Cruz, Desmond, who lives in Los Altos Hills in Silicon Valley arrived about 2pm.

After lunch in a small Thai Restaurant in Santa Cruz, we took the Pacific Coast Highway south past the aqua waters of Monterey Bay. Arriving in the town of Monterey, on the south side of the Bay, a half hour later, we found parking, then strolled the length of Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name. The area is a tourist paradise, reminiscent of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and famous for its aquarium, considered one of the world’s finest.

Back in the car, we drove further south past the neat ranch homes of Pacific Grove and Asilomar before taking the famous 17 Mile Drive along the craggy Monterey Peninsula where I was delighted to see a variety of sea lions basking on the rocks and other bird life. The weather was just delightful and the golfers were out in full force, making the most of the benign weather. Then, we arrived at Pebble Beach, one of the world’s most famous golf courses, which slopes gently down to the very edge of the water. Within this rarified world of Californian old and new money, I was able to sense a gracious way of life. Then, we were entering the famous hamlet of Carmel-By-The-Sea whose most famous mayor was the Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood!

Exploring Carmel was a little bit like strolling through Disneyworld, so carefully contrived is this fairy-tale environment. Cottages and shops that seemed to have emerged straight out of the illustrations found in children’s storybooks enchanted me and offered many photo opportunities. The town slopes down to a snow-white beach to which we also walked past happy tourists and local residents. The shops offered the most enticing merchandise and I was hard pressed to resist exploring the interiors of every single one of them. Carmel completely lived up to its reputation as one of the prettiest parts of the California Coast and I was so glad that Desmond chauffeured me around his neck of the woods.

Our evening ended with fine cuisine at the restaurant attached to his country club at Saratoga where the hostess obligingly arranged to find me a pair of trousers to replace the jeans I was wearing as the restaurant dress code does not permit jeans or sneakers! It reminded me of the Ritz in London that carries jackets in a range of sizes and lends them to gentlemen who stop there for afternoon tea with no knowledge of the prevailing dress code. The meal including succulent swordfish was delicious and I ate one of the best salads I have ever tasted—a truly Californian concoction with pine nuts, mandarin oranges and goat cheese in a citrus vinaigrette. Dessert was a Chocolate Lava Cake served with vanilla ice cream. Having eaten dorm food all week, this meal tasted like manna from the heavens. Desmond made a wonderful companion and superb tour guide—just the kind I love when becoming acquainted with new places and I feel grateful that he made the time for me.

It’s hard for me to fathom how I managed to see Carmel after all despite that fact that I did not have a car and heeded Llew’s advice to abandon the idea of reaching g there through public transport. I am convinced that some things are meant to be and if you have a clear vision of where you wish to be and intend to get there strongly enough, circumstances conspire to make that vision a reality. This certainly was true of my exploration of the mid-Californian coast.

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