“We’re not going to Hawaii.” Imagine uttering those words to a little person who has been fantasizing about going to Hawaii for the past year and watching the cloud of shock, disappointment, sadness and confusion slowly cover her face. First world problems, I know. But think back to when you were a kid and looking forward to something. Doesn’t matter how big or small it was. Your disappointment was unbearable!
I’m grown and I was sad and discouraged too not just that we were not going to Hawaii, but for disappointing my kids. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as I watched their reaction but I kept it together because damn it, that’s what moms do! Pssst…little secret, I did shed some tears later in my car (you know, one of those ugly cries), which is what I do to let it out. You should try it. It works every time!
Here’s the thing, life happens…and sometimes not at all the way you planned it. It’s just one of those things that as you age, you learn to overcome and adjust as best as you can. Not so easy for a kid, though. And not when they’ve been waiting for the most exciting thing to happen for years!
This, my friends, was going to be the year! Our summer vacation was supposed to be exhilarating! See, for the past 5 years or so, we had fantasized about going to Hawaii for a vacation (who wouldn’t!) 2018 was going to be the year that we finally got to do it. The kids, especially my little one were elated! And you know how that goes! She literally talked about it almost everyday! I must confess on some days I regretted telling her so early in advance that we were going to do it this year.
As with any vacation to a new destination, there was a lot of planning to do – budget for the trip, which island to go to (luckily I have a good friend from Hawaii), accommodations, plane tickets, activities, and much more. I got this, I thought. After all, I’m the planner in chief and thrive on being prepared. This vacation was going to be no different, or so I thought.
Typically, I start planning at least three months in advance. This time around, I found myself scrambling to get going two months prior. Fast forward to 3 weeks before the trip and I hadn’t booked anything. Yes, I had narrowed down which island to visit (Maui, of course), where to stay (resort not condo), done some research on ticket prices, and activities to indulge while in Maui.
I was ready to start booking everything when just like that everything unraveled both professionally and personally. I felt like I was drowning and could not do anything to save myself. I felt demoralized, sad and a little lost. I cancelled plans to go to Hawaii, shared it with my kids and walked around in a haze for a week.
I allowed myself this pity party for a few days like I always do then dusted myself off and decided that I was going to make something work for the sake of my kids. They had worked hard and excelled in the school year. They deserved a vacation even if it meant going away for just a few days.
I put my thinking cap on and started brainstorming all the beautiful places we could visit that were not too far away from home (2 to 3 hours max) and expensive. I was looking for a destination with fun family-friendly activities, one that would make us feel like we had gone away and experienced something special and new.
My lightbulb moment came in the early morning hours while I was brushing my teeth (yes, creativity comes in the oddest of moments!) Monterey Bay, CA of course! It was about two hours away, close to our favorite beach destination, Capitola, and the beautiful, quaint town of Carmel. Also, it was the perfect place for children; included kid-friendly educational and fun activities like whale watching, horse riding, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, swimming, the popular Monterey Aquarium and much more.
Because of the short notice, finding a place to stay was no easy feat. But I was not going to be defeated. Within a couple of days, I found a lovely hotel, Portola Hotel & Spa, by the Fisherman’s Wharf and booked one of the last studio rooms available. Even though it was not perfect for a family of 4, I was determined and convinced we would make it work.
With the hotel secured, I set out to plan our activities for the short 4-day trip. I settled on the whale watching in Monterey, the beach in Capitola, a quick visit to enjoy the beautiful sunset and cuisine in Carmel and finally a drive down the 17-mile drive to the picturesque Pebble Beach golf club for brunch and to enjoy the beautiful views. Who knew that it’s a free golf club (well “free” if you’re not a golfer!) The price you have to pay to play golf is downright ridiculous! In that sense, it’s exclusive!
Our 4-day adventure did not disappoint, a testament validated by this declaration from my little one as we left Pebble Beach, “mommy, that was a wonderful vacation!” Mission accomplished I thought to myself! Hawaii was a distant memory. 😀
Here’s a taste of our 4-day adventure presented in stunning photos and videos because, frankly, they do a better job than words.
We hope they will inspire and remind you that with creativity and persistence, you can overcome the bumps that life throws at you.
Portola Hotel & Spa
Enjoy the beautiful Atrium bustling with tourists during your stay at Portola Hotel & Spa, and wonderful amenities, including a pool, bar, restaurant, hot tub and more.
Just enough for a family of four, the studio suites include a small but cozy sitting area with a couch that converts into a bed. You can also request a twin roller bed if you need one.
The patio was a nice option to have too. Perfect for your morning cup of coffee or winding down in the evening with a glass of wine after a long day of sightseeing.
Bustling with tourists and locals, and lined with restaurants offering mouth-watering seafood, and quaint shops selling delicious candies and souvenirs, the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf is perfect for a stroll at any time of day. It’s filled with your usual seaside delights, including sea animals like seals and seagulls, boats, and people enjoying the various sights and sounds of Monterey Bay.
Whale watching is a must the next time you venture into Monterey Bay! You’re guaranteed to be awed and inspired by these majestic sea animals! We were lucky enough to spot at least 10 of them, a group of 5 dolphins and an abundance of seals doing what they do best – hustling the whales – during our two and a half hour ride. It was by far the most eye-opening and memorable activity of our mini-vacation.
If you’ve never been to Carmel beach, you’re missing out on one of the most spectacular sunsets! I had the lovely fortune of experiencing that magic 25 years ago and couldn’t wait to share it with my kiddos. Unfortunately for us, it was foggy and overcast in the evening we decided to visit the beautiful white sandy beach but that didn’t stop us from having a good time!
If you’re a Mediterranean food lover, then Dametra Cafe is your go-to restaurant in Carmel. You’ll love the beautiful ambiance, delicious cuisine, traditional music, and friendly staff!
Would you get up and dance in a room full of strangers! We did! My daughter and I were summoned from our tables onto the dance floor as the small band began to play traditional Arabic music. As we danced self consciously at first in the middle of the restaurant, we were joined by other patrons! Because of our willingness to put ourselves out there, almost the entire restaurant guests mustered the courage to get up and dance! It was beautiful to watch and made us move with more confidence and ease. “Life is so random,” my daughter said to me later! “Who would have expected that to happen when we walked in here!” What an unforgettable experience it turned out to be for all of us!
Tucked away in the north end of Monterey Bay, Capitola has one of the most beautiful beaches in Northern California. It’s the perfect spot for a quick escape with friends, family or even by yourself. So the next time you want some surf and sun, grab a book, your usual beach amenities and head to this gem. We promise you’ll come away refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever life throws at you.
As much as I loved Pebble Beach, I’m still reeling from having to pay $10 to get to drive through the 17-mile drive! After all, this is a pretty affluent neighborhood. Begs the question, what exactly do they need my 10 bucks for? That doesn’t take away from the beauty that is this exclusive neighborhood. The homes are exquisite, the landscapes, breathtaking, and the Resort & Golf Club, worthy of a visit.
The buffet style brunch was absolutely delicious! The staff were welcoming and friendly, which made the experience even more special.
It’s sometimes tempting to give up on life when it throws us a curve ball. It’s even more so when these hiccups happen regularly. But time and time again, we’re reminded that these challenges make us more creative and resilient. My situation professionally and personally is still not where I want it to be but I’m now better equipped to handle it and fix it. We hope you come away from reading this blog post knowing that you too are persistent and capable of tackling and overcoming whatever life throws at you.
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