In the midst of packing, my mom and I took a break (she deserved it much more than I did) to enjoy what May California days remained. We forgot about the to-do list, scooped up our dog (“where are we going?”), and took a drive south to Carmel by the Sea. After all, what better way to soak up California than to soak up some California sunshine on the beach?
The drive to Carmel itself was a run through of the things I love about California: Highway 17 under bright blue skies winding through stalwart redwood forests, a stint of dusty road accompanied by telephone wires running through rows of agriculture, the faint smell of sea breeze twisting around strange cypress trees. Diana Krall warmly crooning on the stereo. Windows down. Hands out. Doggie face out (and then back in as she realizes the wind is too strong).
My dog, I admit, is a bit of a sensitive miscaninethrope. Every time she returns from a trip to the barn, Coco spends hours cleaning her paws, removing every foreign tangled burr buried in her coat. When she sees people, she perks up her ears and tilts her head to the side, clearly on a mission to win humans over with her charm. When dogs come to sniff her butt, however, (which is a perfectly normal dog thing to do) she jumps and runs away, almost as if she is offended by such crude canine behavior.
Awkward canine encounters were common during our trip to Carmel because dogs are a common sight in this seaside town. Carmel is known for its hospitality to dogs (and their owners, too). The Forge in the Forest, where we stopped for lunch, for example, has a separate menu for canine guests, ranging from chicken breast to more-expensive-things-I’m-not-sure-I-would-ever-buy-for-a-dog. Coco appreciated the complimentary water bowl and inhaled the few pieces of chicken we gave her.
On our way to the beach, we stopped by a newly built multistory shopping center with a beautiful courtyard in the center. Within the fauna, a dog fountain trickled down to a level where dogs can reach. My dog sniffed around it, but wasn’t thirsty enough to try it. She probably didn’t understand that this was a dog fountain meant for dogs and since she is, indeed, a dog, it would be appropriate for her to drink from it. But no, she waited to drink from a water bottle later while my mom and I sat in the courtyard with cups of coffee.
At the end of our day, my mom, Coco, and I sat down on the beach, mostly in silence–taking in the white sand, the blue-grey rolling sea, the slightly cloudy sky. As my dog rested her head on my leg, my mom and I said our silent goodbyes to a place we had truly grown to love, thankful for this moment of solace by the sea. The same sun may shine on every place in the world, but, sitting on the Carmel seaside, I was tempted to believe it saves its tenderest touch for California adventurers (while sneakily making your skin tender and red with its power).