Updated: Aug 31, 2019
Exhausted from finishing my freshman year at USC, I was beyond happy to finally be able to return home for an extended period of time and hang out with my parents. Having spent a year in smoggy, fast-paced Los Angeles, I knew that I wanted to go somewhere where I could relax and be in touch with nature this summer.
While I had been to Monterey and Carmel By-The-Sea many times, small towns popular with tourists for their proximity to the Pacific Ocean, artsy shops and galleries, and historical background, I had never gone further inland. While researching places perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway in California, however, I came across the hidden gem that was the Carmel Valley. Surrounded by lush green mountains and blessed by cool temperatures due to its proximity to the ocean, the valley seemed like the perfect place to stay. My parents and I chose to spend two days at Bernardus Lodge, a highly rated resort nestled in the heart of the valley.
* All photos in this article are taken by me or my dad XD
Photos of our villa interior
Although we had booked the Croquet Room, a relatively affordable room type compared to the others that was located around the resort's croquet lawn, after checking in at the front desk the resort employee who showed us to our room led us well past the lawn at the center of the resort. We grew more and more apprehensive as he led us to the far corner of the property, thinking that we hadn't gotten the room with the view we expected. When he stopped in front of a large villa and ushered us inside, however, he finally announced that we had been upgraded to the most expensive room type in the entire resort, which was more of an individual house than a hotel room. My parents and I could barely contain our childlike excitement at this news, and spent a long time exploring the multitude of amenities in the villa. In addition to having a chicly decorated, enormous living room with a dining table capable of seating ten people, the villa had a separate master bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, which was, of course, very large. Even the bathroom, with its open shower that connected directly through a glass sliding door to a small private patio with a variety of plants, encouraged us to become one with nature and the outdoors. The bathroom also featured a copper soaking tub with complimentary bath products, such as lavender bubble bath and bath salt.
Our villa had an additional main outdoor patio, which overlooked the resort's renowned vineyard and the Santa Lucia mountains in the distance. The patio was fully furnished with comfortable lounge chairs, and even had its own fire pit for our personal use. One night for dinner, my parents and I ate our Japanese cup ramen together on the patio while sitting by the fire pit at night, and the crackling fire, warm soup, and playful banter all contributed to producing a heartwarming memory.
When my parents and I weren't busy lounging around in our villa feeling like VIPs, we went to eat at the resort's award winning Lucia Restaurant or went swimming in the pool. No matter where we went on the property, we always felt like we were experiencing maximum comfort, with string lights strung up on the trees and fire pits all around. The highlight of the resort, however, was definitely its outdoor jacuzzi, which offered an unobscured view of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The fresh mountain breeze made it so that we could relax in the steaming hot water for long periods of time while watching the sun set. While we tried to save money by eating Japanese cup ramen and snacks in our room for most meals, we splurged on dinner at the Lucia Restaurant on the second day. Like any other fancy restaurant, the portions were relatively small, but the quality of the dishes and their sophisticated flavors definitely justified the pricing. From scallops atop risotto with lemon zest to steak with the perfect blend of mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables, our dinner was a wonderfully satisfying culinary adventure. We were also given the perfect seat at the restaurant's outdoor patio, which offered plenty of natural light and gave the feeling of sitting in a small forest.
While my weekend getaway to Carmel Valley with my parents wasn't characterized by a large amount of exciting activities, what made it special was the minimalistic, calm beauty of our surroundings and the memories we made by enjoying it as a family. Even though I have lived in California for my entire life, I realized that even when you think you've seen and experienced everything around you, there is always more to discover if you remember to slow down and appreciate the little things every once in a while.