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Hunting for Treasures in Carmel, California

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You may have glimpsed this from some of my other posts in The Carmel Journals series, but Carmel is a true treasure trove of beautiful shops filled with quality items. And that is without counting the numerous art galleries, most of which – alas – prefer not to have photos taken.

I have resumed my explorations, and even when I think I have seen them all, I find yet another one. I love how so many shops here in Carmel are locally owned and personally curated by the owners, at least the ones I am attracted to are. I cannot imagine I will cover them all, but I plan to share all the special ones (to me) that I come across. I always ask for permission to take photos, and explain what they are for, and everyone so far has been welcoming, friendly and kind.

 

Follow me on yet another walk-about in Carmel town and we will discover treasures together, including a lunch stop.

 

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And we will begin here, on Ocean Avenue at the junction with Junipero. On Halloween Day, the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea celebrated its centennial. One-hundred years since the town’s official incorporation is definitely something to celebrate! A long series of celebratory events has dotted the calendar throughout 2016, but on Saturday, October 29th was the Centennial/Halloween parade. Alas, I missed former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood riding on the stagecoach, but still managed to capture a few images. The parade was not long, but quite colorful. Like in most small town parades, the special fun was in watching the relatives and friends of those in the parade cheer and wave.

 

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If you know me, you know that I am not much for crowds. Once the parade was over, I sneaked off in less crowded areas of town and explored. I wanted to show you this slightly out-of-the-usual-way gallery because of the stunning things I saw in their window. I usually pass Anne Thull Fine Art Designs store on my way to or from the post office, which is just half a block down from it. When I am on a mission, I tend to not look around or dilly-dally, but I could not avoid noticing the unique things in the windows. So I finally went inside for a browse.

 

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This amazing steam engine complete with railroad bridge used to be in the window, and was one of the first things I noticed. Well, you can’t help but notice something this spectacular and reminiscent of the Hogwarts Express. I found out that it is all made from reclaimed pieces of wood and metal by Northern California artist Glen O’Neill, four-times winner of the Monterey County Fair’s best in show. I can see why, and not just because of the steam engine, but also his other pieces featured in the gallery, each one artfully created, each one unique.

 

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The other thing that had caught my eye on my post office errands were these exquisite jeweled wine glass stems by Edgar Berebi, whose work Anne Thull also represents. One more beautiful than the other, they are made using Swarovski crystals and, for practicality’s sake, the glass tops can be easily removed for washing.

 

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The life-size grown grape vine below is just one of the many creations of Anne Thull herself, and you can view more at this page.

 

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There is so much to gawk over at Anne Thull’s gallery, and I suggest taking your time when you visit. You can find the shop on the corner of San Carlos and 5th.

 

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Continuing on along 5th, past the post office, and then making a left on Dolores Street I finally got to take a few photos of a charming boutique that had caught my eye last June. Styled to recreate a romantic bedroom, Ruffle Me To Sleep features a line of whimsical and comfortable robes and sleepwear, as well as a curated selection of cashmere items and other accessories for the bedroom and bath.

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In the back end of what she calls her ‘stordio’ (store/studio), Dee Borsella designs and creates all the robes, nighties and pajamas you see in the store. These are made in limited collections using beautiful and comfortable fabrics, with each piece featuring rich textures, signature prints and rich embellishments that combine romantic vintage with modern comfort.

 

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Dee’s passion for clothes design began as a young girl, and she tells the story of how Ruffle Me To Sleep came to be in a little fairy tale she wrote. Here goes…

 

“Once upon a time, in a land-by-the-sea, there lived a girl who dreamed of making beautiful clothes. She loved to sew, and learned her craft as a little girl watching her mother work magic on gowns for the Royal Court.

The girl’s dream of becoming a fashion designer came true as she traveled the realm and used her creative magic on party dresses for all that attended the Royal Balls and parties. Her greatest happiness was seeing her creations come to life, and witnessing the joy they brought to near and far.

But, alas, as the centuries passed and the parties and balls began to fade away, more and more of the villagers abandoned dressing up, and fell under the spell of the dismal Holy Sweats. Gone were the luscious gowns of before, and soon everyone was wearing sacks in dismal styles. 

Oh no, what could she do? How could she break the spell?

One day, while in her garden, a little bird perched on her shoulder, ruffled his feathers and chirped ‘loungewear, loungewear.’

‘That’s it!’ said the girl. ‘I will design the cutest and most comfortable line of sleepwear and robes. They will be oh-so-sweet, pretty enough to be worn as lingerie, yet contemporary enough to answer the door should Prince Charming happen to knock. Everyone will be mesmerized by the frills, and I will transform the robes of the entire village.’

 

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The very next day, as she strolled the streets of the village peppered with art galleries, shops and quaint hidden walkways, she came across a sunny courtyard where she could set up shop an create to her heart’s content. 

The villagers soon felt the magic in the air, and came to the courtyard to marvel at the enchanted lounging clothes. As the girl did her magic, she saw the dismal spell beginning to wear off. Wanting to reach more villagers, she moved her shop to a sunny spot on the boulevard known as Dolores Street, where she still creates to her heart’s content.

And that is how Dee Borsella’s loungewear and store called Ruffle Me To Sleep came to be, where as long as there is creative magic mixed with delighted customers, there will always be a happily ever after.”

 

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You can find Dee Borsella and her wonderful creations on Dolores Street near the NE corner (the right side if you are coming from Ocean Ave.) with 5th St.

 

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It was time for a break and some nurturing, so I met with my friend Dee (another Dee) for lunch at a Carmel classic: Anton & Michel restaurant. As you can see it was a glorious day, and as Dee had her sweetie-pie dog Honey Marie with her, we sat in the beautiful courtyard at the back, perfectly named Court of the Fountains, and where dogs are welcome.

 

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Anton & Michel is an elegant fine dining restaurant, located on Mission btw Ocean and 7th, that has been a reference point in Carmel for over thirty years. In 2013, a full makeover breathed some fresh air into the establishment. The menu features contemporary California cuisine laced with Mediterranean flavors.

 

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I just had to start with a favorite of mine: Classic French Onion Soup ($10), which was excellent, though I would have preferred if it had featured fresh herbs instead of dry ones.

My next choice fell on the Seafood Salad Sandwich with Avocado, Micro-Greens and tangy Citrus Sauce ($14.50), which I chose with a mixed green salad, while Dee ordered the Hamburger with Cheese, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Pickles and Romanesco Sauce ($14.50), served with fries.

 

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For some reason I had visions of chunky seafood (lobster roll style) dancing in my head, but when it came, the seafood was more of a mush, all chopped up finely together. Lack of chunks notwithstanding, the sandwich was delicious, as was Dee’s hamburger, from what she said. I still would have preferred recognizable seafood in chunks.

 

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We enjoyed our leisurely lunch while sweet Honey Marie nibbled on some special treats her Mommy had for her. Isn’t she a pretty girl?

 

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I decided to skip dessert, as I was full and wanted to still be able to walk, not wabble, while taking more pics. But as we walked back out towards the street, I was sidetracked by Lula’s Chocolate Shop. How could I not have noticed this on the way in is still a mystery to me, and not just because of the chocolate part, but because of all the beautiful Halloween/fall decor. Of course I had to have a browse.

 

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Lula’s Chocolates is based in Monterey, which is where the factory is located. They produce assorted chocolates, truffles, caramels and other delightful confections. Their first Lula’s store is the one at The Crossroads Carmel shopping center (on the other side of Hwy 1), and this one in Carmel town is their second. But you can find Lula’s chocolates and confections all over California, in various specialty shops, markets, wineries, as well as Whole Foods.

And if you are in Carmel, they are currently having a sale on all the Halloween/Fall packaged items. Can’t wait to see the Holiday displays!

 

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I may have skipped dessert, but I ended up having dessert anyway, as I sampled a chocolate and a divine caramel. My favorite? The licorice caramels! They are so good they are a risk to have around.

In downtown Carmel you can find Lula’s Chocolates on Mission Street, btw Ocean and 7th, next to Anton & Michel.

 

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I knew where I was headed next, as I had dashed past it a couple of days before and noticed that, as foreshadowed by the first image in the post, the Christmas Fairies had taken hold. Or maybe I should say the Elves.

On a regular day, Carrigg’s of Carmel sells a seriously glorious selection of furniture and furnishings. I fell in love with the lamps when I was here in June, and would sigh each time I would walk past a window, or had a browse inside the store. I had been planning on featuring them anyway just because of all the beautiful items, and then… surprise! Except for those two witches on the door, Halloween decorations had made way to Christmas! And not just a few items here and there, but a true Christmas/Winter wonderland. Just look at the windows! And sorry about the reflections, but that’s what happens on a sunny day.

 

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And these two witches are really cute! It did not occur to me to purchase one, because when I am out photographing I am not shopping, as I need to stay focused, or I would never get it all done.

Again I asked if I could take photographs, explaining what they were for, and I was approved. Usually photographs in the store are not allowed, but they kindly removed the signs saying “no photography” just for me.

 

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To me it was like being back in Dusseldorf, Germany, where I lived for five years, and the fantastic Christmases they have there. The whole city is transformed with incredible decorations, both as styling and for sale, and Christmas Marts are everywhere. The same happens in Vienna, where my brother Roberto used to live, and generally in most cities in Germany and Austria, as well as Northeast Italy.

As I found my way around Carrigg’s I temporarily transformed into my Mom, and walked around starry eyed before I remembered to take pics. These are the moments when I yearn to have a Christmas tree again – which I haven’t since I left Italy in 2002. But for that I would have to have a home base, preferably a fixed one, so it will have to wait just a little longer. In the meantime, I get to enjoy all the decorations around town, and be grateful to shops like these who go all out.

 

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As you can see, there were/are all sorts of decorations and in different color themes. For as much as I love the silver and blue theme, to me Christmas is red and green. And I love the Fairies like these ones above right. And I think mischievous Elves hanging from chandeliers are just wonderful, don’t you?

My Mom is going to love this post! I must admit it is a bit of a surprise for her. She already loves Carmel though she has never been. After this my Dad may have to get over his fear of flying. And that would be a good thing!

 

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For your Christmas shopping delight, you will find Carrigg’s of Carmel on Ocean Ave., at the SE corner with San Carlos, on the left side of Ocean if you are looking towards, well, the ocean.

 

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Do you celebrate Christmas, or any other December festivity like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or St. Nicholas Day, or Santa Lucia Day, or the Winter Solstice maybe, essentially any Holiday that gives you the pleasure of decorating and gather with family and friends? What kind of decorations do you do? And which are your favorite colors?

 

More treasure hunting in Carmel to come. But in the meantime, you might enjoy these other chapters in The Carmel Journals series:

 

 

And just beyond Carmel:

 

 

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