We had no plans to go to Carmel. In fact, we whittled down a long list of day trip destinations to Santa Cruz and San Francisco and threw the two back and forth like a beach-ball until the question-mark hanging over us became so large that we couldn’t stand it any more. And, as we sat in a San Jose Patxi’s devouring pizza (after a morning in San Jose)… we still couldn’t decide our next move.

Finally, I let GPS decide a destination for us… and it chose Carmel… when asking it for good coffee (I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies of GPS and its logic). Once decided, we were on our way.

Carmel wasn’t on the original list of day-trip destinations because we have a future road trip that incorporates Carmel in the works… a drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara planned out with vineyards, Missions and cute little boutique hotels. It requires 4-days and hot weather. Carmel was a planned stop — with the Mission and Presidio. All three can be crossed off that list, though we didn’t spend much time exploring Monterey or Carmel (the town) on our way to the beach and will probably head back for a meal and coffee.

Note: parking is a PAIN in Carmel if you want to park near the beach. The secret: Californians don’t like to walk. If you drive several blocks back from the beach and one or two away from the town, you’ll have no problems finding a spot.