Road Trip: USA (Part I)

This week I’m doing a brief overview of some of the not-often-sought-after points of interest in the following cities.

San Francisco:

If you’re looking for some city sights to behold, take the nearest Bay Area Rapid Transit (otherwise commonly known as BART) to the Embarcadero station. If that is too costly for you and your family, another convenient alternative would be Uber. BART is also liable for frequent pauses and minor breakdowns.

Additionally, you can take a short drive up to Twin Peaks, where it gives you the advantageous view of the Bay Area and quite possibly the Golden Gate as well. Just imagine the twinkling city lights beneath your very eyes, ain’t that romantic?

Remember the scene from ‘inside out’ where there was a tram in the background and a building with a clock on it? Take a short walk south and you will spot a clock tower with the flag on its roof. That’s the exact same building you’re looking at — the Ferry Building. It’s one of San Fran’s most iconic and historical buildings, with a plethora of shops and restaurants to indulge in.

Next, check out the Ghiradelli Square. As its name suggests, it is home to the former Ghiradelli Chocolate manufactory. It’s rich in history but also has a row of boutiques and restaurants.

Besides that, another tourist destination and point of interest is The Fisherman’s Wharf, home to seafood galore. If you’re an avid seafood consumer, this is the place to pop by — you’ll definitely love it. Major. Check out Scoma’s or Sabella & Latorre or any of the restaurants between a 2 block radius, you’ll do your tummy a huge favor.

Likewise, if you have more time in your hands, do head to Pier 39, another iconic tourist destination which exudes a very San Franciscan vibe.

Carmel:

A beautiful seaside town on the Monterey peninsula with fairytale-like cottages and galleries. A recent census showed that there were about a few ten thousand residents residing in the area, so that gives you a clue to the crowdedness of this city/town. It can be really misleading at first because you aren’t really sure where to categorize this place under. When I first cast my eyes on Carmel, it was as if I was transported back in time to when I first visited Europe, and a wave of nostalgia just hit me. It was almost seemingly identical to most European countries.

However, before you head down to Carmel, drop by 17-mile drive. It is privately owned so you have to pay an entrance fee of USD10, but rest assured it is worth it. Take the Pebble Beach exit from Highway 1 (exit 339A) towards 17-mile drive. Alternatively, you can head over to Pebble Beach straight if your schedule is packed. Both offer scenic (and if you’re fortunate enough) empty viewing areas overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. Priceless. (unless if you’re talking about 17-mile drive, then maybe not so)

This small quaint town is a must-see for art enthusiasts, as this city boasts one of the most sophisticated and elite art pieces in Monterey County. These art galleries are synonymous with retail shops _ they kind of go hand in hand. When you see a retail shop, you are bound to discover an art gallery next to it. Its rich aesthetic history is credited to its early founders who were also artists. The early city council was also largely dominated by artists, even some of the mayors were artists! I wasn’t surprised to find the art galleries filled with crowds as the locals have a flair for appreciating the arts.

The Carmel Plaza isn’t really humongous as other malls are but it should accommodate most of your needs (or wants, depending on your perspective). Brands such as Anthropologie, J. Crew, Cole Hann, Khaki’s and other small boutiques are some shops located in this cozy plaza, which caters more for Generation X than Y.

Walk along Ocean Avenue and you will spot some famous brands like Coach. However, most of the other shops are high-end boutiques which will mostly suit the shopping habits of the rich. Coach has some pretty good service staff who try their hardest to fulfill your every request, and the prices aren’t crazy sky-rocket high like in Singapore (*wink wink*). Haha.

Stop by one of the wine houses for a short wine tasting session along Seventh Avenue and Lincoln Street. Carmel is widely known for their rich wine (same as Napa Valley, but only slightly lower in terms of quality) so popping by one of the shops wouldn’t be a waste of time.

Carmel has numerous newly-opened Meditarrean and fusion restaurants, so be sure to check them out. Dametra Cafe is one example. It serves a fusion of Italian and Meditarrean (more specifically Turkish) dishes and they definitely will send your taste buds soaring. If you’re heading out for a road trip, another option would be the Little Swiss Cafe. They serve authentic Swiss food, down to the sauces. For your next stop, head by Carmel Bakery, where they sell Starbucks-like coffee and tea and huge sweet pastries. Wrap up your food trail with dinner at the very cozy Village Corner. They have overhead heaters and if you’re a South-east Asian (like I am), you may request a table around the round fireplace. Overall, they all provide excellent service. And do not forget to tip. They love tips, especially the generous ones. (Most recommend a gratuity fee of 15% at least.)

Boutiques also somehow always feels crowded. I’m unable to comprehend it, but somehow everyone still ends up with a personnel attending to your every whim. You want a size bigger? You just ask it. You want another color? You name it. I’m just beyond speechless at their service, it truly inspires me and relieves me that there is still hope in the dying retail sector. (Well, at least in Singapore). Anthropologie is one great example, but other boutiques do provide great service as well. An extremely friendly bunch. Lastly, make sure to visit the Toy Store. Yes, it literally is called that. They also have unique California-themed souvenirs and countless other US-made toy products.

Lastly, the Carmel Mission is another destination for you devout folks out there. They sell merchandise like necklaces and rosaries and bracelets, and for a good sum of money (I’ve forgotten how much) you can pay a visit to the Mission founded by some missionaries from Spain. It has an explicit depiction of the Crucifixion, a very detailed history of the Missionaries and the spreading of the Gospel in California.The restroom is pretty clean too :). It’s a little way off from  Highway 1, but it’s worthwhile.

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