After four days straight of solo-parenting the girls, two of the said-girls giggling in their room instead of napping, the baby on my hip, and looking in the mirror at a mama in desperate need of self-care (you know it’s bad when you forget when you last washed your hair,) I was catching up on the phone with Aaron before he flew home. He then said the most magical words, “Hey, how would you feel about going to Carmel for your birthday?” “Oh my gosh, YES!” Pure excitement. I had been hoping to do a trip with our whole family, as we stayed pretty rooted at home this summer. Carmel has always been a happy place for Aaron and I; it was where we took our mini-moon when we first got married, and where we celebrated many anniversaries together. The last time we visited, I was 36 weeks pregnant with Sadie (for our 5th anniversary.) A trip to this beautiful place was certainly overdue. 🙂
Where we stayed:
While we’ve visited a handful of inns in Carmel over the years, we opted to stay at The Forest Lodge for the second time. With it’s uniquely spread out cottages (our favorite being the upstairs Garrett Loft,) breakfast baskets, and immediate walking distance to some of our favorite spots in Carmel, I couldn’t wait for the girls to get to experience it with us. I like to think of it as a treehouse/Snow White’s cottage hybrid, but with a beautiful white bathroom. 😉
Our room had a king bed, fireplace, a spacious bathroom (where we put Reese’s pack n’ play and white noise machine for when she needed rest,) and a little nook that Hadley and Sadie slept in. There was something so peaceful about being upstairs…with much more privacy, and all of your surrounding views being the trees and skyline. The girls loved getting to have their breakfast on the upstairs porch, outside and among the trees.
What we ate:
If I’m being totally honest, our trip had a rough start (traffic + moody babies that didn’t love the roadtrip life= not the most fun, ha!) We got to our room, got situated, then set off to find a pizza place. Carmel is known for gourmet, small, bistro-like restaurants, which isn’t *quite* friendly to a family of five (with three kids four and under!) 😆 With the baby nearing bedtime, we grabbed two pizzas (at Cantinetta Luca) to take to our room, and they did not disappoint. I’m not even a huge fan of pepperoni pizza, but it was one of the best I’ve ever had. It ended up being a sweet memory: gathering around the fireplace to eat some delicious pizza together.
We kept breakfasts simple, enjoying the complimentary breakfast baskets that were dropped off at our door every morning. With english muffins, bagels, fruit, yogurt, and some hard-boiled eggs, everyone was ready for the day.
Aaron and I wanted to enjoy some Carmel-dining as much as we could, so we grabbed some BBQ tri-tip sandwiches from a well-received deli and took them to eat at Whole Foods (where the girls could easily eat some mac n’ cheese and berries in peace…outside. 😆 ) It might seem a little backwards, but as parents to little ones, you’ve got to be adaptable. 😉
For dinner, we took the girls to a place we’ve gone to and loved in the past: Forge in the Forest. While it worked so well with the girls (getting to eat outside but having warm heaters all around,) Aaron and I kept saying how amazing it would have been had it just been the two of us, ha! Since it was my birthday dinner (and on your birthday you should get to eat whatever you want) I opted to get a fire roasted artichoke for dinner…one of my absolutely favorite things (a majority of the country’s artichokes are grown in the valley right beside Carmel, so they’re super fresh and perfect.) Aaron got the lobster pasta, and the girls split a wood-fired pizza (when you’re on vacation, you can have all the pizza you want, eh!?)
Things we did:
While we were tempted to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we kept thinking how we wanted a low-key and mellow trip, and going to a super-busy aquarium might not be suited for the vibe we were opting for. We ended up taking the girls on walks throughout Carmel, and went to the beach in the late morning. The water there is so incredibly blue, and the sand softer than any sand I’ve ever felt. Hadley and I were the first ones to go out to the water; there was something so special about feeling the icy-cold water on my toes, with my first baby beside me…holding my hand.
Reese got to feel the ocean for the very first time, and in that same moment, Hadley lost her footing and fell in. I cannot believe that I got it on camera, all on accident, but Hadley looks back and laughs, because quickly after, I caught her and wrapped her in a spare swaddle blanket I had packed in my diaper bag. I’m telling you, those swaddle blankets have endless uses! 😆
After naps, we walked around the streets of Carmel, let the girls pick out a treat from the candy shop (I even grabbed some mint chocolate chip cookie malt balls for Aaron and I to share,) and made our way back to the beach to watch the sun set. What is it about seeing the sun set on the ocean’s horizon that is so calming? I couldn’t say something more cliche than that, but gosh it’s true. It felt like time slowed down in those moments building up to it, with the big girls happily playing together in the sand (digging themselves into sand pits…but hey, no stress about the mess, they made the sweetest memories,) and Aaron, Reese (being worn in my carrier) and I taking some pictures and taking in all the beauty we got to see together.
Our activities were simple, but that was the goal for this trip: to slow down and not have any “to-do’s” on this trip. While we love our fun-filled Disneyland trips as a family, every so often it is lovely to go somewhere new (to the girls, at least) and make some memories together. While there were definitely some harder parts to the trip (Hadleys tumble in the ocean….and the girls having a hard time sleeping well the first night,) I’ve loved hearing them talk about how they want to go back to Carmel, how they love going places with us…it makes it all so worth it.
Thanks for reading!