Is it time to make your workouts even better, beloved baby boomers? Then get your insider insights right here. Step right up. Literally.
Who likes to be out in front? And I’m not talking cleavage or bellies here. If you’re ready to take advantage of the latest findings in the fitness world, then hang onto your stretchy legging waistbands. Let’s zip together through some of the key highlights, workout tips, and quotes from the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention.
Take on some of these takeaways to enter the next year even more prepared to redefine active aging for our generation and the generations to come.
Alexandra and I just returned from this primary industry event for fitness professionals from around the world. In her capacity as a roving editor for IDEA, Alexandra attended a range of sessions. (See her reports here: 5 Trends from the IDEA Fitness Convention and Diversity and Collaboration Mark Key Themes). I had the honor to be both a presenter and attendee, with my keen eyes focused on sessions specifically for the over fifty crowd. (Add these other key midlife workout themes to your life and really soar).
Let’s jump to the head of class with a romp through some trends from the industry’s leaders.
From “Functional Power Training for Older Adults” led by Cody Sipe, PhD
Cody’s opening statement motivated me (as an over 50 personage myself): “Exercise has the ability to change older adults’ aging trajectory.” Knew it, but can always use the kick in the formerly tight, toned tushie of mine. Raise your hand if you want to disrupt your aging trajectory.
What do we need to add to our workouts? First, Cody asked us if we knew the two main conditions experienced by older adults? Turns out the top two are hypertension and osteoarthritis. Oh yeah, I hear you Cody My Man. (Say I with the knee arthritis and sister who just had total knee replacement). Ok, so we have to account for these conditions while working to prevent them from limiting our lives.
Next he posed the question: “Without training specifically to prevent it, which function do we lose with age more than muscular strength and muscle mass?” The answer surprised me as I know the (not so happy) stats on muscles loss in our aging population. You ready for it? Power, defined as the ability to move a load quickly. In addition to training for strength, we midlifers also need to focus on velocity and force of movement. In other words, it’s time to increase speed of motion while reducing the load when we consider a total resistance training right for our bodies. According to Cody, we’re past time if we pass our prime without power (Uh, I made up that exact wording as I kinda like how it encapsulates Cody’s point).
Let’s put this into practical application and context of our daily activities:
What’s the workout takeaway here? You finally get the official clearance to lift light weights — as long as you add speed to those moves! Therefore, it’s time to do some lifts, jumps, and throws my midlife buddies if you want to retain power and change your aging trajectory!
Using Function to Avoid Dysfunction, presented by Mark Kelly, PhD, CSCS
Mark is the living example of how lean, fit, funny, energetic, and functional an over 50 year old can be. I was so busy taking notes that I took no picture of him. However, take my word for it that he turned his aging trajectory around big time!
Not only was his session loaded with great moves to improve function, but also he had some great quotes relative to movement that you may also enjoy.
If you want to try out some of the clever, fun, brain and body smart moves Mark introduced, then join my group fitness classes in Santa Barbara. Come on Fridays when I try out the good stuff on my fit-tastic and amazing class participants. They’re the ones saying “warn us next time you go to the IDEA Convention.”
Let’s leave Mark’s session with the question he opened with:
“Are we living longer or simply dying slower?”
In a separate post, you’ll get the the direct pipeline to more happiness, less stress, and a more self-loving you, courtesy of award-winning presenter, Petra Kolber. Her session “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated” had a lot of quick, easy, powerful meditations I am eager to share with you. Meditation is a HUGE option and one of the biggest fitness trends for boomers as more research comes out about its benefits. For now, let’s take our leave with a reminder from Petra that I hope will have you adding power to your active life:
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How many times have you thought, “I want to improve my fitness program, but NOT the hard core one I did when I was younger?” As a baby boomer or older adult are you looking for intelligent, effective, yet comfortable exercise options? Do you worry about losing cognitive skills, getting hurt, gaining weight, losing strength, and not being able to do activities you love? At the same time, do you like to know that your workout and exercise choices are smart ones? Perhaps even cutting edge and trending?
Then the themes and trends I experienced (and contributed to) at the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention will help you meet your goals. (For my sister’s take on overall fitness trends, take a peek at “5 Trends from the Annual IDEA Convention.”)
My focus was first on doing well in my own session as a presenter. I shared 7 principles for creating outstanding group programs for baby boomers. You get 3 of them here! Then I attended every other session devoted to the over 50 exerciser, especially the more active movers and groovers (as opposed to sessions devoted to the frail and elderly).
The biggest trend I saw was the very fact that fitness pros from around the world are FINALLY interested in serving the over 50 exerciser – specifically, in a targeted way. My session, “Fitness Over 50: Getting ReStarted” was filled to capacity. Yay! And the other presentations devoted to our age group were also packed. Heck, this year IDEA offered the most sessions ever devoted to the midlifer and older adult. That’s related to trend #2 – IDEA and the various presenters for this age group finally separated the “older exerciser” into two distinct groups: the baby boomers (ages 52-70) and the seniors or “matures” who are 70+. Prior to this year anyone 50-100 was lumped into one category.
If you are curious about other trends for our age group, read my take on the Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2016
Trend #1 - fitness focus on the over 50 exerciser is finally cool and Hawt! #activeaging Click To Tweet
What were some key fitness themes and workout design principles for older adults as evidenced at the IDEA Convention? How can you incorporate them into your workouts? The following 3 themes, or guiding principles will help you create the best workouts for your midlife body. These principles are adapted from my session, which must have been trendy as all the other “older adult” presenters alluded to them as well.
If you weave in even one or two of these themes, you will be able to:
Why not get a two-fer benefit with each exercise choice? Look for opportunities to cross the midline of your body with an arm, leg or both at once.
Move to music that has polyrhythms or beats that are more complex than straight count.
Attend workout classes where the instructor cues patterns. The brain work involved in interpreting verbal commands and following choreography literally increases your dendrites, ganglia, and axons.
Ask yourself whether the moves you are choosing relate to activities of daily living (ADL). For instance, incorporate dynamic balance moves, not solely static ones since we normally need to balance while moving, not holding still. Recognize walking as the ultimate and primary balance and functional move. So take walks. And when you do, test your balance by intermittently slowing your stride. Super slow. Then speed up. Super fast.
Let’s say you have a plan to travel. Keep in mind that especially in foreign countries you’ll be climbing stairs; walking on uneven terrain; navigating unfamiliar environments; carrying loads, dealing with fatigue and time changes. Plan to be your active best when traveling by making stepping up and down part of your workout program. Or lifting your legs up and over things so you’ll be ready for those low walls abroad.Practice twisting and turning while carrying weights (luggage, souvenirs, small grandchildren).
Do you include posture work in your routine? If not, it’s tiiiiime. Which do you think will have a bigger impact on your ability to age actively — having popping fresh biceps (single joint strength training isolation move) or having a strong core and back that keep you lifted and long? (Yeah, the opposite of stooped with rounded shoulders).
Use balance work as a move itself or as a stance option for any standing move. Not only could you incorporate balance moves into your workout, but also you can improve your balance while working your upper body or doing standing stretches. How? But narrowing your stance. Don’t always set your feet shoulder width apart and parallel. Instead, place one foot directly in front of the other in what’s called “tandem” position. Now try those tricep kickbacks or upper body stretch. Trickier right? Whenever possible choose a narrow vs wide base of support.
Are you already rethinking your program? Less working one muscle at a time and more enhancing your overall ability to move and continue doing the activities you enjoy?
QUESTION: Would you be interested in a digital product that offered moves and workout programs that follow the themes listed here? If we created videos and support text that allowed you to mix and match effective programs with balance, posture, and functional exercises, would you value that?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
IDEA Fitness Journal has contracted with me for the past few years to cover the convention, with a specific eye toward food and group fitness. Who would say no to that? Not I. One of the benefits of attending is that I get a first look at the upcoming trends in the industry. I also get to write about those trends. One of my articles is already posted over at IDEA, so I hope you’ll read it: Diversity and Collaboration Mark an Outstanding Event.5 trends from the IDEA Fitness & Nutrition Convention that may affect U. #FitFluential… Click To Tweet
Five trends I thought might interest you are as follows:
Dance, dance, dance – More styles were present than I recall in the past 35 years of this convention: Stomp (stepping), Bollywood, Dancing with the Stars-inspired ballroom, military and martial arts dance fusion, South African, and even a combo dance and Step workout. People our age are rediscovering the joys of dance and I expect to see clubs and studios offering more depth to their dance programming.
Celebrity-based workouts – Probably due to social media breaking down barriers, it’s now possible to work out and even chat with some of your favorite celebrities. Louis van Amstel of DWTS, Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser, Cassy Ho of Pop Pilates – all were there sharing info on their latest workout programs and leading classes. Look for more celebrities crossing the barrier from on-screen to in-person.
Link between nutrition and behavior – This year had a summit track inside the wider convention – the first-ever IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit. For a full day, experts from places such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale and University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus came to speak about the link between food and behavior change. Though it may seem obvious in hindsight, it’s groundbreaking to see researchers, medical doctors and health coaches/ psychologists come speak to thousands of fitness professionals. I expect to see further strengthening of the ties between these groups.
Link between food and fitness – Again, this may seem obvious, but for many years the healthy food people had their conventions and made no mention at all about the link between eating and exercise. So the fitness world went to the food people and invited them to speak and exhibit at the fitness convention. Not only are the healthy food vendors now coming to where the fitness pros are, the fitness pros themselves are now getting additional certifications in nutrition. Your instructors and trainers have more knowledge than ever about eating healthfully.
Boomers are different from older adults – At past conventions, people over 50 were sort of lumped together at lectures and workshops. Of course, the needs and goals of an active 50-year-old tend to be different than those of a frail 85-year-old. And this year, more sessions than ever delineated between the groups. My sister was one of the presenters on Boomer Fitness. We are the first generation to intentionally embrace (to a degree) exercise as a way to to stay healthy post-college. I believe that more clubs will be offering demographic-based programming, especially for the Boomer market.
Look for an upcoming post from my sis about the trends she spotted at the convention.
Alexandra Williams, MA
“You little bitch troll from Hell.”
“If you want things, you have to pay for them.” “Since when?”
“No, you do NOT want to meet my mum.”
“I can’t believe you’re still … alive.”
“Cheers, You don’t get that on British Airways.”
“Oh, hello dear.”
“Inside of me there’s a thin person screaming to get out.” “Just the one, dear?”
“Ooh, bear with me, see, I’m hopeless with names, faces and people.”
“Blah blah blah blah blah.”
And in case none of these worked, the coup de grâce: “Sweetie darling.”
Yes, yes, yes, you guessed it – Ab Fab, aka Absolutely Fabulous. And I got to go to an advance screening of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie in Hollywood the other night. I even did my best to dress just like Patsy, though I may have ended up more like Eddy, simply because I don’t have long legs, a blonde beehive or modeling experience. Yes, I’m sure that was it.
To explain the depths of my devotion, let me just say that I own the complete 1990’s TV series… on VHS. And I entered a recent contest to win an Ab Fab makeover in New York. I didn’t win. Except in the end, I did, because I was invited to the screening. And they gave us champers, darling. Bubbly. Which is not the same as Bubble, if you know what I mean. I was holding out for a few sips of Chanel No. 5, but maybe next time.
As my guest, I brought a male friend who knew nothing of the show or its stars. Nothing. What a troglodyte. But I rescued him from cultural obscurity by picking out his clothes and letting him drive me to the ArcLight Cinerama Dome on Sunset and Vine.
He actually laughed harder than I did, and I laughed throughout the entire film. He was also a good sport about the fact that I kept whispering in his ear the names of the people in the cameos. And it is a very long list. I think he only knew Jon Hamm. And Lulu. His favorite thing about the movie? Joanna Lumley’s facial expressions as Patsy Stone. My favorite thing? The entire movie. And being happily surprised to see Jane Horrocks back as Bubble. And being amazed that none of the stars seemed to have aged a whit. And recognizing the comedic genius that is Jennifer Saunders – her writing is spot on.
You don’t need to know anything about the Ab Fab TV show to “get” the movie. My friend had tears in his eyes from laughing so hard, and he was the ultimate newbie. I don’t even think he knew it would have been okay to mock my outfit until after he’d seen the movie. Anyway, the last I saw him, he was riding off on his Ducati to find Joanna Lumley. Maybe I should have told him he’d have to ride over water.
Anyway, go see Ab Fab. Watch this trailer for it. Dress accordingly and bring some bubbly. Bring me too. I was a guest at the screening as part of a campaign for the movie, but I’m going to pay to go see it again and again, just to find ALL the cameo players.
This post is made possible by support from Fox Searchlight Pictures. All guffaws, snorts, chuckles, giggles and opinions are my own, sweetie darling.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Just as we were either trying to A: train the dogs to run alongside us as we rode the bike paths (hahahahahahaha. Just kidding. They’d run off at the first hint of a squirrel, rabbit, lizard, piece of fuzz); B: convince them of the benefits of sitting around all day, looking at pictures of the outdoors (and kitties); or C: teach them to sit in our bicycle baskets, along came SolvIt Products with the offer of a few free bicycle trailers.
As we’d like to think we are smarter than our dogs (which may or may not be true, once you figure out who’s doing the work on the bike rides), we said yes to their offer and promptly ordered the aluminum medium size for Alexandra and the large size for Kymberly (okay, technically, for our dogs – not to imply that Kymberly is large), as Kymberly has two dogs.
As soon as mine arrived in the mail, I got so excited, I immediately… called my 22-year-old so he could come assemble it, Which he did. In about 20 minutes. Then he had to give me instructions on how to latch and unlatch it from my bike. So when you order your trailer, be sure to also order a smart young person (and a bike hitch).
Our beloved rescue dog Liberty came to us on July 4th a few years ago (hence her name). She loves to get outside. So do I. One of her all-time favorite spots is Hendry’s Beach in Santa Barbara. Normally I drive her there, then we walk. Seems counterintuitive, though, doesn’t it? Now I can just put her in the bike trailer, and we can ride together along the bike path over to the beach for our walks.
The one minor glitch? “Just put her in the bike trailer.” Turns out you can’t just show her the new toy and expect her to hop in. I used up a lot of her preferred Zuke’s treats enticing her into the trailer. She probably thought she was training ME to give her more treats. In any case, we both love exercise and our beach walks. And it’s the perfect time of year for bike rides. With a helmet, water for Liberty and a few treats. For her, not for me.
It’s that time of year again when we track down workout, exercise, and fitness trends and fill you in. Why? So you can be your best, most actively aging, up-to-date you. Is that too much to ask?Who loves spotting fitness trends? Especially for active women over 50 and baby boomers? Top 10… Click To Tweet
In prepping for a presentation on fitness trends for the North Atlantic Club Athletic Director Association’s conference held in Seattle at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC), I discovered a slew of predictions. The following promise to be of particular interest to actively aging midlife women:
Besides the fad that may become a trend of me trying to hold my abs engaged, you get five more fitness trends for 2016:
If you did your brain boosting exercises, which you monitored on your wearable technology outdoors at a resort after a healthy meal, then you’d see that the above 5 + 5 trends get us to the promised 10. Ta dum! Over and out — to move and look for more trends.
If you wonder which prior years’ trend predictions came true or fizzled, go here: Want to Know Top Insider Fitness Trends and Quotes?
and here: 5 Healthy Food Trends
and also here: Exercise Trends for the Over 50 Crowd
Heck, why not be the most informed trendtracker EVAH and also go here: I’m Spa-tacus and Other Spa Industry Trends
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Back when California was still part of Mexico, the ranch lands were bestowed to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmel. By 1928 it had changed hands several times, and a hacienda was constructed. Nicknamed “Hidden House,” it was a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities. You can see many pictures of them on the walls of the still-standing building.
In the 1940’s it was expanded to include guest rooms and one of the first swimming pools in Carmel Valley. Fast forward to 2006, and the current owners brought it back to its original splendor, while adding vineyards, olive groves and wine caves.
Wine and Food
On our tour we got to taste a number of their estate wines, which have been rightly listed by National Geographic as one of the “world’s 10 best wines.” What appealed to me was their organic, high end Jarman varietals because they were created to honor co-owner Hunter Lowder’s mother, with a portion of proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
My dad, a former wine connoisseur, would love their estate wine club. Besides getting exclusive access to some of their limited-production wines (which I found out means you cannot buy them elsewhere), club membership is also one of the ways to gain access to the ranch grounds, events and guest cottages. My dad also would have loved the offsite Will’s Fargo restaurant (which is owned by the same family) where we got to have dinner as their special guests. I had a favorite waiter. He noticed I was a bit cold on the outdoor patio and brought me a folded up tablecloth to put around my shoulders. I think he liked me best!
Even if you care nothing for wine, you’ll still want to stay on the property. Weddings, retreats, special events, (we were a group of 14 bloggers, though the property can accommodate 38 overnight guests), or corporate dinners are all options for staying overnight in one of the 10 “cabins.” I have it in quotation marks because my so-called cabin had a kitchen, living room, and two separate bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. It was divine, actually.
After touring the wine caves, we got a thorough tour of the – are you ready for this – game room, carriage house, great room, conference room, chapel, lawn and veranda, garden courtyard, rose patio, and stone terrace. We were also given complete access to the swimming pool.
We had spent the previous night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which was a few miles away, yet completely different. I was trying to decide which place I preferred, and came to the conclusion that they were tied for first because both places were amazing in their own right. The main thing they had in common was superior hospitality.
If you want scenery, take Highway 1 along the California coast instead of the inland freeway choices. After leaving Holman Ranch, I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, so I took this route for the first time in quite a few years. Even though it was foggy for much of the drive, I managed to get some great photos, and go on a few hikes. One warning – your nose will let you know when you’re at the elephant seal rookery just north of Hearst Castle.
Text and photos: Alexandra Williams, MA
These are the activities we had planned for our final two days in Redding last month. To learn about our adventures for the first two days, please read our recent post about Redding.
Whiskey Creek Lake
When we woke up Sunday morning, the sky was drizzly, but not too bad, so the SUP yoga class with Audrey was still on. Swimsuits on and towels packed in the car, we drove out to Whiskey Creek Boat Launch to find a few hardy souls ready to brave what had now become a very strong, cold rain. A quick vote was taken and it was decided to cancel class, a rare occurrence. We hope you’ll give it a try when you go to Redding, and say hi to Audrey.
Of course, as soon as we drove away, the weather turned sunny. Isn’t that how it always works? So we gathered up our good attitudes and hiked to the top of Crystal Creek Waterfall. By the time we came back down to the main pool, kids were swimming in it, and splashing under the falls. We imagine it’s a perfect spot to cool off when it gets over 100 degrees in the summer. On the way back to town we stopped at the Tower House Historic District to check out the former hotel, gold mine and cemetery.
In the afternoon, we went to the Aqua Golf Driving Range, where you get to hit golf balls into the Sacramento River. Or, in our case, in the general direction of the river. The area is enclosed by a net, and the golf balls float, so it’s a recyling-friendly event.
We laughed so hard, and had a really fun time. We also discovered (my 19-year-old beat the pants off us) that being athletic has no relationship to golf swing skill. Face it, we were awful. Even the geese were impertinently walking right in front of us, daring us to hit a ball near them.
Turtle Bay and Sundial Bridge
Most people who have heard of Redding know about Turtle Bay and the Sundial Bridge, and for good reason. We were at Turtle Bay at the right time to see the lorikeets and butterflies start their day, before the crowds arrived. We even saw ducklings drop from the sky onto the ground just in front of us. Or at least that’s what it seemed like. Later we learned from Ranger Jim (see below) that they were probably wood ducks dropping from their tree nest. Want to know a secret about the Sundial Bridge? If you go during nesting time (we were there in May), look down through the glass partitions where the bridge supports attach to try and spot the swallow nests. We saw all kinds of nest-building going on, with the sparrows going in and out with their building materials. Super cool.
Whiskeytown Lake has 36 miles of shoreline and 3,200 surface acres for recreation, and I think we had that entire space to ourselves. Park Superintendent Jim Milestone was our private guide, and he even spotted a bald eagle with two chicks waaaaaaay up in a tree. (Note to self: Get a really good zoom lens for future kayaking adventures). The kayaking (they also have SUP) is free, though they do have a donation box, so be a good citizen and put in a few Tubmans. Besides showing us the lake’s treasures, Ranger Jim also shared stories about the history of the lake and President Kennedy’s visit in 1963.
The National Parks Service is celebrating its centennial this year, so we encourage you to hie thee hence to the area, using Redding as your base. And if you spot Ranger Jim (or bald eagle chicks), you’ll know it’s your lucky day.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
photo credits: Alexandra
Always on the lookout for affordable destinations that appeal to active Boomer women and their families, we were the sponsored guests of Visit Redding this past weekend. And boy, did we pack a lot into a few days, though we never felt rushed. Probably due to the proximity of everything. Really, it’s only a 20-minute drive from the Fairfield Inn & Suites to Whiskeytown Lake.On the lookout for affordable destinations that appeal to active Boomer women and their families? Click To Tweet
In this post we’ll share our adventures from the first day two days, then share the last two days in an upcoming post (stay tuned for kayaking and lorikeets). If you like travel adventures that combine nature, new activities, free and low-cost sightseeing and sight-doing, then tour with us through this post. Then book your own active adventure to the Redding area.
Whiskeytown Waterfalls in Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area
Park rangers first knew of these falls in 1967, but kept quiet, as they didn’t have the resources to protect them, even though President Kennedy had proclaimed the 42,000 acre park a national recreation area in 1963. In 2004, a park biologist was examining aerial photos and rediscovered the falls.
The trail to Whiskeytown Falls is 3.4 miles round trip. Steep in parts, it’s worth the hike. Be sure to take the stone trail to the left of the falls to get some extra special views. Pack water and a snack too, as you’ll get thirsty watching all that water. Fair warning that this hike will give you a serious glute and anaerobic workout.Whiskeytown Falls hike will give you a serious glute & anaerobic workout #VisitRedding Click To Tweet
Shasta State Historic Park & Museum
Shasta Dam and Powerplant
Want to be impressed by the former generation and your fellow humans? Take the tour of Shasta Dam. It’s free. Regardless of your views on dams, you have to marvel at the human ingenuity and vision that engineered and created this structure. One of us (Kymberly) almost skipped the tour, professing a desire to bike ride along the Sacramento river trails instead. Given that we southern Californians seem to have brought the mist and rain on our last journeys, off we all went instead to Shasta Dam. And was it ever a highlight. Hot tip: When the brochures and guides tell you to leave everything but your cell phone and keys in the car, they mean it. Security is tighter than our lips about what happened when someone in our family (not Kymberly) tried to bring “security contraband” past the security checkpoint and guard.
Lake Shasta Caverns: Three Adventures in One
We promised ourselves on frequent drives between Santa Barbara and Oregon that someday we’d stop and visit the caves. This trip was that someday. Like Whiskeytown National Park and Shasta Dam, the caverns are easily accessible — about 20 minutes north of Redding. You take a 10-minute boat ride across the lake (bring your camera for spectacular views), then a 10-minute shuttle ride up, up, up, then you are in the cave. As for coming out of the cave, well … that’s on you and those several hundred stairsteps. You want out? Keep climbing. That’s the beauty of living an active life. You’re able to see and do more when you travel.
Alexandra: This got a strong thumbs-up from my 19-year-old son, so off we went to our first-ever rodeo. It was actually quite exciting, with guys getting thrown off broncs that buck, and calves getting roped and tied (trussed?) in under 10 seconds.
My son wanted to stay for the entire event, but I was hungry, so talked him into leaving early. We looked on Yelp and found Cafe Paradisio, a classy, comfortable place that’s run by a husband and wife who just happened to have two of their children about to graduate from UCSB. Eat here for sure – excellent service and intentionally underpriced for items such as Honey Stung Shrimp, Baked Salmon and French Press Coffee.
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photo credits – Alexandra, using a Canon. Kymberly where noted.
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Carmel was incorporated in 1916; Hermosa in 1907. Both attract surfers, though the water is definitely colder in Carmel. And both have small cottages that were built generations ago sitting next to award winning, “to the lot’s edge” architectural wonders on every street. Don’t ask the prices unless you aren’t daunted by California real estate.
As part of a bloggers’ weekend, I drove up to Carmel with the simple expectation that I would have a good time. Since so many of you are similar to me in that we like history and the personal touch, I’ll share some of the things I did and discovered that I think YOU might also enjoy.
A gutsy, go-getter woman founded the hotel where we stayed – Donna Hofsas. In 1947 she lived in the cottage where I stayed while adding more rooms over the years. In a town that only allows two-story buildings, she talked the city planners into letting her build a 4-story hotel. How’s that for moxie? Then she commissioned the same female painter who did the fresco at Coit Tower, Maxine Albro, to paint several murals and other works at the hotel.
Donna’s granddaughter now runs the bright pink Hofsas House (as well as being on the city council), so ask her for the hotel’s secrets when you stay there. Hofsas House is on San Carlos Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue (see below to discover why I’m not giving you a numbered address).
On the details side, Carmel is more affordable than I expected. Even in high season, room rates range from about $150 – $275, with no stupid ***@** resort fee snuck in. Wifi, breakfast and parking are free.
Did you know it’s illegal to wear heels higher than 2 inches in Carmel? You won’t get a ticket: the law was created in the 1920s to protect the city from lawsuits from people who tripped on the sidewalks. Great excuse to put on sensible shoes, eh?
The town has no street light or addresses. Walk around and you’ll notice that homes all have names. Keep in mind that the town was founded by creative types. They wanted a forested, European feel to the town, so bourgeois things such as number plates were verboten. Everyone has to go to the post office to collect mail. Certainly means all 3,700 inhabitants get to know each other.
For now, you can still have fires in certain locales on the beach too. This was exciting for me to hear, as we used to dig sand pits and have fires on the beach in Hermosa in the 60s. They were banned by the time I hit middle school.
No big box inns or stores are in Carmel either. It’s mom and pop all the way. Actually, the town is so friendly, even your dogs are welcome. Even in the inns, restaurants, wine-tasting rooms and shops, where you’ll spot water dishes and treats everywhere. Annnnnd, free parking.
Shopping, Hiking and Dining
Compliments of the Hofsas House, I received four Wine Walk Tasting tickets, each good for a wine flight at any of the 14 wine tasting rooms in town. Yup, I left Santa Barbara County’s wine country and landed in Monterey County’s. I also discovered two designer consignment shops, an Alice in Wonderland shop, a chocolate shop, and enough bakeries to keep my bread-baking, carb-loving self happy.
For dinner, a friend and I went to Beach House Restaurant at Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove (an 8-minute drive). It’s right on the beach, and our service and food were excellent. Plenty of options for vegetarians, too. FYI, the portions are huge, huger, hugest, so come hungry.
Hiking is my meditation, so I walked along the beach, around town on the residential streets, Point Lobos, Big Sur, and about 20 different pull-out stops along Highway 1 as I drove south. On my next visit I might take one of the History Walks, though I could also be persuaded to do the art walks or food tours. I also want to hike along the Mission Trail Preserve. For those of you into birds, one of the secrets I learned from Carrie (co-owner of Hofsas House) is that the Carmel River is the place to be.
Final piece of good news that you will never think about in advance, but makes a big difference – Carmel-by-the-Sea is a safe place for women to walk alone, day and night. I went walking early in the morning, and felt at ease and quite peaceful. Even though I had my iPhone and Canon out (major tourist alerts), the locals out running and dog-walking all said hello. I truly had to resist the urge to say, “I grew up in a town that used to be just like this. Can we please chat about the good ol’ days?”
I want to go back soon. Preferably on a romantic getaway, but another girls’ getaway would work too.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Photo credits: Alexandra Williams – Canon and iPhone