Set in one of the oldest residential areas of Monterey, and nestled in a beautiful English-style garden, Old Monterey Inn is a Tudor-style mansion rich in charm and elegance. Originally built by Carmel Martin Sr. and his wife Lydia, and completed in 1929, the house was the residence of the Martin family until Mr. Martin’s death in 1965. After that the mansion was the home of the Sweet family, who then carefully and painstakingly restored it and turned it into a B&B in 1978.
The Scottish-born Martin family first arrived in Monterey in March of 1865, en route to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. The family later returned to settle there, prospered through farming, and played an important part in the history of the Monterey Peninsula. You can read the details of the Inn’s fascinating history at this page.
I first found Old Monterey Inn just before the internet became big, definitely before search engines, and long before the iPhone was even a glimmer in Steve Job’s mind. Some years earlier I had purchased several books listing the most beautiful inns and b&bs in the various states, books which had a lot of words and no photos, just black and white drawings. The titles were something like “The Best Inns of California” or whatever State might be the case. That January I was taking my first vacation in several years after the renovation and opening of the restaurant, and I planned a solo trip to my favorite destination: the United States. The trip included several locations, and I made a point of staying in some of the lovely inns I had been drooling over.
I landed in New York, rented a car and drove to Norwich, Connecticut where I let myself be pampered for four days at the enchanting Norwich Inn & Spa. From there I drove to Litchfield, CT – aka winter wonderland – where I stayed for another three or four days, exploring the area while based at Boulders Inn by Lake Waramaug. The inn is no more, unfortunately, but it was glorious, and their restaurant was renown for their excellent food. I just looked at the map, and cannot find it listed under any other name, so it may have become a private residence. If you google Boulders Inn Lake Waramaug you will be able to see a few images.
My time in Litchfield was when I tasted the best New England clam chowder ever, at the West Street Grill in Litchfield. Every other chowder pales in comparison, and I have been making mine the Litchfield way ever since.
After that I drove the scenic route through the Litchfield Hills back to Long Island and JFK airport. I flew cross-country, spent a few days in Marin and San Francisco with my friend Valerie, then drove down the coast to Carmel and Monterey, where I stayed a couple of nights at Old Monterey Inn. It was not a long stay, but it was a memorable one, for several reasons. Besides the exquisiteness of the Inn, there were also their sublime gourmet breakfasts, and the fact that my enjoyment was dampened by a bad cold, which had been threatening for several days and hit full blast when I got to Monterey. Oh well, it was still wonderful!
One other specific memory around my stay at OMI: among the magazines available in the living room I found a few old issues of Bon Appetit, you know, issues of back when the magazine was still wonderful. As I browsed through them, I found a recipe for a dessert that sounded glorious, a two-layer baked custard called Cappuccino Créme. I was going to write it down, but luckily the then owner said I could just take the magazine if I wanted to. Gratefully I did, and when I made that dessert back home, it turned out to be as heavenly as it looked in the photograph. I have not made it in years, but it is on my baking list, and when I do I will share it with you.
The drive continued south towards Los Angeles, with a two days and one night pit stop at the San Ysidro Ranch in the back hills of Santa Barbara. Honestly, as I type this I am thinking I need to organize another trip like that and revisit some of these places. Driving into Los Angeles pre-google maps was a daunting thing, my focus being on not taking a wrong exit from the freeway. It actually turned out to be easy, even with just notes. I stayed in Beverly Hills, but I do not exactly remember which hotel, because it was a hotel this time. What I do remember is dealing with Neiman Marcus’ sales people who were as snotty as those ladies in Pretty Woman, at least they were at the time, visiting the Beverly Wiltshire, and buying a gown in one of the boutiques where the sales people were not snotty at all. Then I flew back to Italy.
When I arrived back in Carmel last October, I went through the list of events scheduled for the following months, and found Old Monterey Inn listed on the Holiday Inns of Distinction Tour. All my memories were triggered, and I put it on my list of places to get to during December, when everything would be decorated for the Holidays. On a wanna-be-sunny (but did not quite pull it off) afternoon in mid December, after exploring Pacific Grove, I looked up the Inn on Google maps and easily found my way there. The Inn was/is as glorious as I remembered. It was also very quiet, with no cars parked in the yard. I thought it would be the perfect moment to take photos without disturbing anyone. And so it was!
The kind young woman who welcomed me and explained that the period before Christmas is slow season (as I have noticed it is almost everywhere in the United States, Hawai’i included), also allowed me to use my tripod for indoor shots. As you can see, she also gave me access to a few of the exquisite bedrooms.
The image at the top of the post and the one above feature the main dining room, where I remember sitting at the head of the table (to the right in the pic) enjoying an unforgettable breakfast, which, among several things, featured the best granola with yogurt I have ever had, and freshly baked waffles with strawberries. Of course, if you prefer you can enjoy breakfast in your room, or even in the garden during the warmer season.
In the image below is what is known as The Library room. Not pictured is an entry alcove brimming with books. Further down is the Mayfield Suite, and below that is a view of the upstairs landing.
Then she led me to the Garden Cottage, which you access by exiting the back of the building. It was so lovely I asked if they accepted dogs, as I could have lived there a long time. The sitting room by the entrance now looks quite different from the way it is pictured on the website, a little more “modern” if you like, and the outdoor furniture is not quite as nice as pictured. But the bedroom with the bay window is the same, and that jacuzzi bath tub in the alcove rounds out the perfection of this space.
Add to all this the fact that the Inn features full spa services, and you are in bliss.
I concluded my visit in the garden, where a couple of deer said a quick hello before shying away into the bushes just as I was raising my camera. This is when I discovered that the Old Monterey Inn is not just a place where humans can go and stay, but fairies as well. In an old broken vase set on a stand in the garden, I discovered one of the prettiest faery homes I have ever seen. Isn’t it lovely? It reminded me of the Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand. Dona, if you see this, maybe you should create one in your garden! You, too, Linda!
I know, now you want to plan a trip to Monterey. No need to be newlyweds to stay at this beautiful, romantic Inn.
500 Martin Street, Monterey, Ca 93940 | ph. (831) 652-8999 | email@example.com | website
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