One of the decisions we made as we planned this trip was to stay almost exclusively in properties listed on AirBnB (airbnb.com). This site allows individuals to rent out extra rooms to entire apartments or homes for travelers.
Properties get rated by the people who stay there, and we, as renters, get rated by the property owners. This check-and-balance helps deter dishonest listings and vandalism of the accommodations. You generally request a lodging and get a confirmation from the owner, presumably after they have checked your online reputation.
We have used it frequently over the past few years and have found the lodgings to be economical (usually cheaper than a hotel, particularly in metropolitan areas), well maintained and having much greater personality than your typical hotel room.
The Secret Garden in Carmel, California was one of the best experiences we've had using AirBnB. In addition to being positively reviewed, the owners, Jill and Michael, were on site and welcomed us when we arrived at their home.
Their house sits just off California Highway 1 - the scenic Pacific Coast Highway we traveled part way from Santa Monica to Carmel. It's one of those places that's easy to find - once you've been there. It took a cell phone call to Michael to confirm the location. After that, we found our way easily.
The gate shown above is the entrance to their courtyard. Inside, a brick path winds around the house, through a beautiful small garden, to their extra room. It had an outside entrance, ensuring privacy for guests.
A small sitting area is nestled in the corner of the garden, just outside the room.
Inside, we found a room that had been recently remodeled by Michael and Jill, with wooden plank walls stained a light gray. We were tickled to see the bird motif bedspread (we have an identical spread in one of our guest rooms.) Jill had continued the bird theme in the decorative plates hanging on the wall and others in the cupboard for our use.
In addition to creating a warm and inviting guest room, Jill and Michael also provided a variety of amenities for their guests. These included freshly ground organic coffee, maps and guidebooks, and passes to local parks and the Monterrey Aquarium.
We stayed two nights in The Secret Garden while we explored Carmel and Monterrey. The small table in the corner was a perfect place to eat take out food (which we did the first night after a long day on the road), and to plan our activities for the day.
This was exactly the kind of place we wanted to stay in on this trip. If we have reason to go back to Carmel in the future, our first choice for lodging will be the Secret Garden.