After free breakfast at our hotel, we started the day at the Carmel Mission Basilica, relocated to its present spot by Father Junipero Serra in 1771.
The old stone church was handsome and worn from time. We wandered past exhibits on vestments and china and tributes to Pope John Paul II and Father Serra, and then headed out to the courtyard, with its small cemetery and pretty, overgrown grounds.
It was a bright, beautiful winter day, perfect for a drive on the area's most famous route, the Seventeen Mile Drive. Though coasting the private road costs $8.50 per vehicle, we thought of it as a true bargain: For so little money, we got a glimpse of a world that costs millions to inhabit. We wound along slowly, peering at the seaside mansions, clipped grounds, and arched cypress trees framing picturesque views of the water.
Stopping to stretch our legs on the white sand at Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, we examined the tidepools for starfish and sea anemones during low tide, and found the pools full of those and other interesting buggers.
Farther north, we stopped to tour the small Point Pinos Lighthouse on the northwestern corner of the peninsula. The structure, the state's oldest continuously operating lighthouse, had something melancholy about it. Maybe it was just its age; maybe it was our imagining the lonely lightkeepers years ago, isolated by fog and storms, sending out signals to the vast dark. Or maybe we just needed another Scharffen Berger mocha.
We headed to much cheerier downtown Pacific Grove, which is a great place for strolling. We stopped short at the inviting little porch of Red House Cafe. Over lunch, we agreed we were more relaxed and better fed than three days before. Carmel-by-the-Sea had provided a bit of peacefulness―even if we didn't become vegetarians.