The clock was already in the double digits when I slipped away to the Carmel Coffee & Cocoa Bar for a supplement to the hotel's breakfast. I got a latte for Sara and chose from 12 different kinds of hot chocolate for me, settling on a deluxe Scharffen Berger mocha―now that's a classy way to get caffeine.
Finally awake, we decided to drive inland to explore Carmel Valley. The cloud cover had burned off, and the fields were green with fresh grass and dotted with live oaks. In the town of Carmel Valley, we stopped at Château Julien Wine Estate, where you get a free tasting of Merlots and Chardonnays while taking a 30-minute tour of the French-Swiss estate. At Heller Estate, we tried organically grown wines and appreciated the whimsical sculptures. After wine tasting, we needed a light lunch, so we had a salad and sandwich at Corkscrew Bistro and Wine Bar.
We stopped at Garland Ranch Regional Park on the way back to Carmel, following a trail into a meadow and then up a forested hillside covered in oaks and bay laurels. It was a shaded, relaxing hike, and once we'd headed out, we didn't see anyone else on the trails.
Back in town, Sara was already thinking about our next meal. We assembled a magnificent picnic dinner at the Cheese Shop in Carmel Plaza. The wine and cheese selection was impressive, particularly for such a small space, and the staff kept offering samples to aid our decisions. We ended up with a Monterey County Pinot Gris, a sheep's-milk cheese, a fig spread, olives, and a crusty loaf of bread.