A year ago I found solace in a quaint little village in Monterey county, California.
It reminded me a lot of The Shire because of the tiny cottages along the roads. It had flowers peeking out of the windows, potted blossoms scattered by the staircases and 3-foot tall fences that looked more like a decoration than a safety perimeter.
Of course they didn't need fences to serve that purpose, the streets looked so peaceful it seemed almost impossible for anything bad to happen.
And so we walked around like Disney characters living a fairytale. Sniffing flowers one minute and taking a photo on a wooden chair against a tapestry of pink blossoms the next. We climbed the stairs of cottages hopping no one would see us gush over their cute patios. We squealed, we laughed, we talked but we also made it a point to enjoy the quiet.
The village itself resonated a comfortable silence. It wasn't the boring kind that will make you lose your mind. It was the kind that helped you think. We stayed lost in our silent thoughts until we started hearing the misplaced sound of music echoing from a distance. The further we went, the more it made sense. There was a music festival in town. Vacationers and cottage dwellers were enjoying an afternoon of beer, BBQ and music in one of the bigger gardens in the center of the city. Its not all about solace after all. Not that I'm complaining. I actually find it interesting to see the contrast of fun and silence in one place.
This set-up is what excited a huge number of artists to build house here. Apparently 60% of the houses here are owned by artists seeking aesthetic beauty to calm and inspire. I completely understand why. I could instantly think of a hundred poetic lines just by breathing the air.
But I didn't write. Instead, I ate... the best Lobster Bisque in the West Coast.
Flaherty's Oyster Bar is known for their clam chowder, lobster bisque and well, oysters. But for me, the most memorable was the Bisque. The secret ingredient: Artichoke. The server said it adds a distinct kick in flavor when it's mixed with tomatoes, lobster and parmesan. This pureed goodness is definitely worth another trip.
Strolling around their downtown center was like visiting Hogsmeade. The roads were paved in stone and once in a while you'll smell freshly baked bread and get an occasional whiff of coffee beans. We also saw al fresco restaurants with dainty table settings, art galleries, fancy antiques and quirky boutiques.
I guess the beauty of this place is in it's simplicity.
Sometimes you don't need grand buildings or beautiful lights.
Sometimes it's about the simple things and the quiet places.
Sometimes it's about hobbit-like houses, wizard-like streets and un-shamefully corny Disney moments.
Carmel by the Sea, 2011