Big Sur GetawayBig Sur - Yes, Sur
When you need a hiatus from the daily drill, hightail it to the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur for a taste of clean California living. Big Sur is sun, sand, surf, and mountains, all wrapped up into one. In typical Cali style, take in all the trekking, stargazing, and morning yoga-ing you can handle. You’ll be shiny brand new after a weekend here, and ready to conquer more than just another hill on your hike. With the Post Ranch Inn as your base, immerse yourself in a rustically simple yet utterly luxurious experience that justifies those late nights at work.
All Roads Lead to Big Sur
And luckily, that road goes right through Carmel-by-the-Sea, your very own version of Pleasantville. As its name implies, the main street runs right into the beach, which could not be more quintessential California. Think of long walks on the beach and endless sunshine that makes everyone look just a notch more attractive The quaint storefronts house some serious tchotchke shops, as well as gems like Luce for gorgeous wines, cheese, and meats and Jan de Luz for beautiful handmade linens and towels. It also wouldn’t surprise us if Carmel has a Guinness World Record for more jewelry stores per square mile than any other town. B&G Jewelers has a mini-empire of five stores and some vintage finds that could rival Fred Leighton. To fuel your shopping, which may or may not be a good thing, head over to Galante to wine-taste well into the afternoon.
Carmel has quite the restaurant scene. For lunch, the options are Grassings and Casanova. Grassings is a little sleepy but if you’re here more than a day, a good option. Casanova is a Provençal restaurant with a laid-back vibe. Request a seat in the large back garden, beneath the ivy trellises. It’s tough to eat unhealthy with big, beautiful salads and mussels floating in a white wine sauce. What a difference it makes when your food is grown just a few miles away.
Dinner options are abundant in Carmel, and a relatively easy drive from Big Sur. Marinus at the Bernardus Lodge isbeyond romantic and the food, as you’d expect, is organic, local, and sustainable. This is one place where you’ll want to splurge on the tasting menu to sample fresh-from-the-ocean oysters, sashimi, and Waygu beef, among other seasonal bites. Also high-end is Aubergine at the L'Auberge Carmel, a serious Relais & Chateau hotel with the restaurant to match. The food presentation is art and very French – think foie gras and beef and fish concoctions in intricate sauces.
For the best in local cuisine, head to Pacific's Edge for amazing views and equally amazing food. Standouts include yellowtail with jalapeño and mission fig tart. Passion Fish is a quick drive away in Pacific Grove, and features a seafood-heavy menu. Or, feast on casual Italian pizzas and burrata at Cantinetta Luca. The Mediterranean boîte Dametra Café has a menu that spans the entire Mediterranean, from Lebanon to Greece. Order it up tapas-style to get the most variety. You haven’t even hit Big Sur yet, but you’ll hit it big with Carmel cuisine.
Home on the Ranch
For California dreamin’, you’ll want to rest your weary head at the Post Ranch Inn.One of the most beautiful hotels in the country, the resort is perched on – orhanging off, depending on how you look at it – the cliffs of Big Sur. Where oceans and mountains meet, this is your vantage point to soak in the good life.
Like California at its most inviting, there’s no pretention here. You’ll almost pass it by, as it looks like a public park from the entrance, with a rustic guardhouse. Post Ranch Inn is a former working ranch, and they’ve retained the homespun feel but souped it up for discerning visitors. At the reception, you’ll be greeted with a glass of 2008 JWP Nacimiento Cabernet, a hotel specialty, or a glass of champagne. Now this is ranch living. Upon checking in, they’ll whisk away your car away and load you and your luggage into a Lexus SUV to drive to the spectacular abode that you’ll call home for the weekend. Lexus is a theme; they have cars on-site in case you have the urge to test-drive and take one home. You have to be impressed with Lexus for knowing their demographic.
Post Ranch Inn is pricey, but worth every single penny. Go big or go home and choose a treehouse, Pacific or cliffside room. The essence of the Post Ranch Inn experience is to shut out the world and connect with nature – and with the lucky duck you take with you for the weekend. You’ll have full Internet access and Blackberry, but no TV. Don’t worry – there’s plenty to keep you busy.
With your own treehouse in the sky, you’ll get in touch with your inner kid, but in a place so much more luxe than any childhood club. You’ll play a lot more than school games here. The Pacific suites are the newer rooms but still have a rustic feel and their own soaking tubs, heated to a toasty 104 degrees. And like every good host, they’ll have your fridge stocked with gratis cheese, fruit, snacks, and high-end drinks. The Post Ranch Inn isn’t a place that’s going to nickel and dime you for the small stuff. Rooms are so comfortable that you’ll easily go through your entire wood pile and spend leisurely hours taking in the view from your deck. Just make sure to be stocked up on wine, or have room service on speed dial. Something else you’ll love is that checkout time is 1pm – yet another example of pure class.
As Far Back As I Can Remember, I Always Wanted to be a Gangster
It will be tough to get motivated to leave the room, but any respectable stay should include dinner at the hotel’s Sierra Mar. Part of the experience is walking to the restaurant along a dimly lit pathway in the chilly California night. This is no camp cantina; at Sierra Mar you’ll have a fine dining experience in your blue jeans. Every table in the inviting dining room gets full, so reserve ahead and score a table by the windows. Speaking of which, our dinner is dedicated to Ray Liotta from “Goodfellas,” who was with an Australian lady friend and seated next to us during our meal. And yes, we did quote lines from the movie between courses.
The menu changes daily and is driven by seasonal ingredients, beginning with an amuse-bouche, which on our visit was their version of a Ruffles potato chip with fresh anchovy. It’s always nice when a restaurant that can take down any top French chef doesn’t take themselves too seriously. For our starters, standouts included an apple and beet salad with fresh herbs from the garden. You could walk to where the salad was picked that morning and yes, you can taste the difference.
It’s also well worth exploring the area’s other food and drink options. Head on a pre-dinner field trip to Nepenthe for the cocktails and the view. To stay close to home, meander across the street to the Ventana Inn, a casual yet high-end California cuisine restaurant. For brunch, fill up at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant or breakfast at the rustic Deetjen's.
Commune with Nature
The hotel property has miles of hiking trails to keep you busy for your entire stay. Also gratis is morning group yoga in your very own teepee studio, and modest lap pools. Alternatively, Big Sur is essentially one big hiking trail and state park. Hike beginner trails to waterfalls at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or embark on stunning cliffside treks at Garrapata State Beach. To live the life of leisure, get pampered at the spa at the Ventana Inn across the street. When the living gets a little too clean for you, cozy up with a bottle of wine on your private deck and drink in the stunning ocean view. After all, that still counts as communing with nature.