DATE NIGHT

Thank you for all the good wishes that came our way this week.   I marveled on that as I sat for the three plus hours in the lovely waiting Pavilion at the Community Hospital of the Montery Penninsula, waiting for Robert to have his “procedure”.  If one has to sit and fret and call on one’s angels, there couldn’t be a better place to do so then this windowed perch looking into the tall pines and Coast Live Oaks of the forest between Pebble Beach and Monterey.

As to the results, it was inconclusive, good and bad. The bad is that after three plus hours of fiddling with his Atrium, it could not be “unzapped” and brought into right working order.  The good  is that the taciturn spot was finally revealed for just where in the world it was, and the better is that it was judged to be merely inconvenient and not fatal.  So now he’s on to little pills presumably made from a king’s ransom and consequently not available through your insurance or ours.

But here’s the fun part.  Since we had to arrive in Carmel the night before for labs, we simply made a Date Night of it.

Ocean Avenue, Carmel by the Sea

A lot of people think of Carmel by the Sea, California as a typical tourist trap, and there is no denying that it is charm personified.  And some people say it is only for “The Newly Wed and Nearly Dead” and there is actually something to that accusation, for a lot of the tourists are honeymooners and a LOT of the residents are retirees living on their stock options. But it IS charming and presents the perfect place for an evening stroll midst quaint shops and boutique cafes and places we decided to re-visit.

We love libraries. Robert is a volunteer at our own Atascadero Library because one of the ladies happened to mention one day – something like -“Oh my!  You’re tall! We could use you with the shelving.”  And just like that he considered it his own special “service activity”.  Whenever we have traveled, we have tended to check out the local library, as if it is some kind of a guideline to the community.  In London, Robert was terribly disappointed that not everyone could just walk into the famous Reading Room at the British Museum (although I’ve heard that restriction has been modified since), so we spent the time looking at the mummies instead. And if we had gained entry to the Reading Room to see if it had or had not “lost it’s charm”, it might very well have rated as our favorite. But having missed that opportunity on our one trip to London, we have our own #1 and it is definitely the Harrison Memorial Library on Ocean Ave. in Carmel California, designed by another favorite – the architect Bernard Maybeck, who also designed the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  How good is that! It was our first stop as we strolled Carmel the other evening, and it looked just as inviting as ever, with its cushy chairs by the big window and cozy, narrow aisles, and large crackling fire.

Harrison Memorial Library

For one year between the time we sold a house in Carmel Valley, until we purchased our current Castenada Lane, we rented one of those quasi-European, charming rentals nestled between businesses in quaint buildings of downtown Carmel.  This was in the Stonehouse Terrace Court behind the restaurant, La Dolce Vita and surrounded by this and that, and up the stairs and above the Pasta shop, where most of the fresh pasta used by Carmel restaurants began.  The apartment has a downstairs outer door, and often I would discover tourists on our inner landing, still exploring nooks and crannies and not realizing they were nearly standing in our living room. It was a fun year for the most part and a different experience living right among the Newly Wed and Nearly Dead.  But convenient.  Kitty-corner across the street from the complex is the long established Mom and Pop grocery store, Nielsen’s,  that Carmelites all love, with it’s pre-packaged home-style dinners you can pick up and its home delivery and excellent wine selections and primo meat counter.

Street entry to our apartment

Above the Pasta Shop

Nielsen's Family Market

We strolled by those landmarks of our previous life and eventually arrived at the Date Destination.  And this is the real secret and tip for anyone visiting Carmel.  Go to the Hog’s Breath if you wish (although Clint doesn’t own it anymore) or the Mission Ranch (which he DOES)  with its local-hangout piano bar and view of the Carmel river flowing to the sea, or old favorites Casanova or Forge in the Forrest.  Or go to Il Fornaio at the Pine Inn, and if you do that do NOT reserve a table, but wait at one of the two bars for bar stools to  open up for that is what the locals do and you always end up making friends even if you’re hanging at their very back and watching for their last mouthful. You meet a lot of interesting people that way for it becomes something of a Carmelite party, everyone standing with their drinks, enjoying the open kitchen, sharing stories, stranger to stranger.  I can’t imagine enjoying that sort of scene anywhere else, but somehow it all works at Il Fornaio.  So go to all those eateries if you wish, but also save a time for the best kept secret in Carmel, the destination of our Date Night – TOMMY’S WOK.

The Best Kept Secret!

There is no sign on the sidewalk in front.  You have to know that it is there.  Down a (not even especially charming) walkway behind some other businesses is the entry to Tommy’s Wok. Inside a room no bigger than our guest bedroom are about 12 small tables, close together, and the best Won Ton Soup ever.  And a host of other wonderful dishes.  The most action however happens from the parking lot in back, where if you know the right door to access, you find yourself smack dab IN the small kitchen, wok’s ablazing, and this is where the locals in the know come in droves each night to pick up their take-outs.  But we came for a Date Night, and it had been a long time between Tommy Wok fixes, so we sat in the small room in front and had a wonderful yummy time.

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