Carmel by the Sea: a Foodie Paradise #LLBlogNotAConf

By Erin

*I traveled with a group of talented writers to Central California. We spent a few days in Carmel by the Sea, the Carmel Valley and Monterey for #LLBlogNotaConf.*

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Taking a vacation up the Central Coast in California is one of my all time favorite destinations. Enjoying family vacations in this part of California has always been a favorite. So much so I have been there countless times again and again on my own with friends as an adult. When I heard that there was a trip being planned to head up this way with some of my favorite writers and fellow foodie friends for LLBlogNotAConf, I could not pass the opportunity up.

Carmel by the Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a beautiful little European-styled village, sitting above a picturesque white-sand beach that has inspired artists, sparked romances, and attracted celebrities for decades with its charm. One of the top-10 destinations in the U.S. year after year, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a place you will want to vacation at too. Everything is within walking distance from your adorable hotel or inn. Activities range from the performing arts and cultural activities to hundreds of Carmel shops, restaurants, wine tasting, art galleries, and so much more, with tons of other options nearby as well. Food is a huge part of traveling for me, so I will share some of my favorite spots with you here and in the surrounding areas nearby.

Right now the city is in the midst of their Centennial Celebration, with lots of events all year-long culminating in a special parade on October 29th. You can find a list of upcoming events here.

Now, on to the FOOD right? Here are some of my top picks for places to stop along your drive up to Carmel from Southern California and while you are in and around Carmel.

The Apple Farm

A childhood favorite of mine, I always have to stop at The Apple Farm in San Luis Obispo for breakfast on my way through the Central Coast cities. Not only is the food amazing, but so is the atmosphere. There are so many things to see, you will want to make sure to leave a little time to wander around a bit before or after your meal here.

Apple Farm Breakfast LLBlogNotAConf

Jocko’s Steak House

If you LOVE steak as much as I do, then you MUST stop here on either your way to or from Carmel (or both if possible!) Located in Nipomo, CA they serve some of the most delicious steak around for a very unbelievable price; $24 for the Small Spencer (ribeye) pictured below, which was more than I could eat by myself. There was so much food with dinner.  The steak was perfectly done, the pinquito beans were amazing, and the garlic bread was super garlicky.  It also comes with a baked potato, salad, a relish tray that has a bunch of pepperoncini and sweet cherry peppers, dessert and coffee.  Some of my favorite stuff, all included in one price. Such a crazy good deal right?

You don’t eat here for the ambience – that leaves much to be desired. It’s pretty plain and simple. You walk in to see a variety of animal heads plastered all over the walls and then walk into a very non-descript dining room. You come here for the food. It gets insanely busy here (since it’s that good) so it is best to make a reservation in advance if you know you will be coming up this way.

Jocko's Steak House

Wine Tasting

If you’re  looking for a little wine-tasting before your meal, or you want to spend a relaxing afternoon strolling around town while sipping on some wine, make sure to get yourself a Wine Tasting Passport (The passport costs $65 and is a $90 value)! Sip and savor some wine in one of the many super friendly and pet-friendly tasting rooms. With your Passport you get 9 tasting tickets, so you will get to sample a wide variety of wine from many different tasting rooms.

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Carmel Belle

Once you have made it to Carmel and you’re ready to have an amazingly delicious lunch (or breakfast or dinner) then make your way over here! We joined our group here for lunch after doing a little bit of wine tasting, and it really hit the spot. From salads, soups, to sandwiches and comfort foods, you are sure to find something that will make your taste buds happy. I tried the Mozzarella and Prosciutto La Quercia Sandwich with Tomato Bisque soup, both were delicious and very satisfying. Their soups are made by scratch daily. And dessert?  Carmel Belle has plenty of options to make your sweet tooth happy too. 🙂

Carmel-Belle-Mozzarella-Prosciutto-La-Quercia

Mozzarella and Prosciutto La Quercia Sandwich with vegetables on country toast.

Carmel-Belle-Tomato-Bisque-Soup

Scrumptious made from scratch Tomato Bisque Soup.

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An assortment of delectable desserts to choose from. I’m in heaven! 🙂

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Finding Dory at the Monterey Bay Aquarium! #FindingDoryEvent

Finding Dory at the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

By Erin

*I was invited by Disney on a press trip for Finding Dory. All thoughts and opinions remain my own.*

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Last month myself and 24 other amazing writers went on an adventure of a lifetime with the quest of Finding Dory. This trip landed us in Monterey Bay, California at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We were free to wander around as we wished to try to find her. Have you seen her? Finding Dory will be swimming into theaters everywhere on June 17th.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Finding Dory

The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean. For over 30 years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has worked to protect ocean life for future generations by inspiring young and old with the beauty and wonder of the ocean. So come along with us and let’s take a tour of the aquarium and see if we can find Dory!

Sea Otters

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The first thing that caught our eye after entering the aquarium were these adorable otters! These playful California sea otters make their home in a two-story exhibit that they share with coastal marine life. These gals are super fun to watch. Very playful, they were given toys to play with and chunks of ice that they would find creative ways to break apart to find some yummy treats to eat inside. I could have very easily stayed here all day watching these amazing animals, but we needed to find Dory!

Before moving on though, we had to check out the special delivery that had arrived just two days before. Outside, in front of the aquarium a wild sea otter had given birth to an adorable little pup on the rocks. Guests were all standing out on the overlook watching the mother and her baby. If you look closely, you can see her below on the left side, on the second rock sticking out. Yep, that little brown blob is her. Then you can also see a closer up shot I was able to get of her. She swam off into the ocean with her pup the same day we had to leave.  🙂

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Touch Pools

Rocky Shore Touch Pool

Next we made our way over to the Touch Pools! Here you can get up close and personal to Mr. Ray’s cousins, the bat rays, sea stars (like Peach!), and other friends of Nemo and Dory at this interactive exhibit. There is also a very cool Wave Crash gallery nearby here that pumps about 600 gallons of water and “crashes” every 30 seconds! The walk-through tunnel in the wave crash exhibit is one of the most popular family photo spots in the Aquarium.

Kelp Forest

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Our next stop on our journey to find Dory, was to the magical kelp forest! This three-story exhibit is the first and largest living kelp forest community created at any aquarium. Pixar animators studied the water movement and play of light here at this very exhibit! How cool is that?

Kelp-Forest-Fish

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Swim Along With Me to the Finding Dory Event in Monterey Bay! | #FindingDoryEvent

Swim Along With Me to Monterey Bay!

By Erin

*I have been invited by Disney to cover this media event. All expenses and materials for this event have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios, but all opinions remain my own.*

(Pictured) DORY. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

DORY. ©2013 Disney•Pixar

Have you seen her? Come take a deep dive with Dory and I as we swim along with 24 other swimmingly amazing bloggers to the #FindingDoryEvent! It all starts bright and early Monday morning, as I’ll be flying into San Jose. Throughout the event, we will be meeting a ton of amazing filmmakers, including 2-time Oscar-winning Director Andrew Stanton, and animators, and I am so excited! One of the other major highlights of the trip that I cannot wait for, is that we will be spending some time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium! I have had a lifelong love of sea life, at one time wanting to be a marine biologist, and even earned a special medal for Marine Biology and the Life Sciences my senior year in high school. I also have logged in hundreds of volunteer hours at our local aquarium, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, so you can say I am just a little excited to get to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium again! 🙂

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean. Having the opportunity to learn so much about the follow-up to Disney’s 2003 Finding Nemo at the Monterey Bay Aquarium makes for the perfect setting, going behind the scenes to learn of all the research that went into the making of Finding Dory.

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Photo @Monterey Bay Aquarium

 The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a showcase for the habitats and sea life of one of the world’s richest marine regions. Housing more than 35,000 creatures and representing over 550 species fill 34 major galleries. With nearly 200 exhibits in all, the Aquarium is a window to the wonders of the ocean.

Dory returns to the big screen in Disney•Pixar’s “Finding Dory”—in theaters Nov. 25, 2015. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Dory returns to the big screen in Disney•Pixar’s “Finding Dory”

Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory reunites everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang, Dory, with her friends Nemo and Marlin on a search for answers about her past. What can she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak Whale? Directed by Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “WALL•E”) and produced by Lindsey Collins (co-producer “WALL•E”), the film features the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton. Finding Dory swims into theaters June 17, 2016.

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Have you seen the new trailer yet? You will fall in love with Dory and Nemo all over again! Follow this famous fish with a big heart and a bad memory in her journey to find her family. Just keep on swimming and watch the adventure unfold!

For all the action, make sure to check out all of the Finding Dory  links below to follow along! Finding Dory swims into theaters June 17th!

Also be sure to follow the fun of the #FindingDoryEvent hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for some amazing photos and for the latest information about the movie and some cool facts about the sea life in the film!