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The Magic of Monterey, California: There is something about Monterey that is magical.  The way the Cypress trees look like they have been plucked from some mythological place, the often gray sky over an ocean that is somehow much more crystal blue than it should be.
Launch Monterey Slideshow While this is indeed a golfer's paradise and a premier destination for car enthusiasts when the world-renowned Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance rolls into town, it is also an amazing vacation spot for anyone that does not have even the slightest interest in either hobby.

Travelers that come to Monterey can count on a few things: fabulous dining, exclusive accommodations, high-end shopping and beautiful scenery. Luxury is abounding in this little corner of California. Pebble Beach is most definitely a golfer's dream, with three choice hotels just a few steps from an array of courses. The Pebble Beach Resorts are sister properties, offering a collection of activities, shopping and dining options. In fact, in total there are 13 restaurants and lounges, including the only Roy's in the contiguous United States that is still presided over by James Beard Award-winner Roy Yamaguchi. Noted for their superior level of class and exclusivity, the famed Pebble Beach resorts offer grand accommodations at each of the properties. No stranger to celebrity guests, The Lodge at Pebble Beach has played host to a variety of stars, from Justin Timberlake to Bill Murray. Every room at The The Inn at Spanish Bay boasts a cozy fireplace, balcony or patio, many have vaulted ceilings and offer a wet bar with complimentary snacks and beverages that are replenished daily. Over at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, many of the suites offer the charm of a historical hotel, with both expansive space and views of Carmel Bay.

The third and most exclusive property, Casa Palmero is ultra-private and ultra-pristine. With only 24 rooms and suites this Mediterranean-inspired mansion-turned-boutique hotel is an enchanting oasis of serenity. Softly bubbling fountains within beautifully-manicured courtyards complement the common areas and many rooms have private, gated front patios and hot tubs in the "backyard." An expansive luxury spa is also located within the walls of Casa Palmero. No matter what your level of expectation, The Pebble Beach Resorts do not disappoint.

I could have spent an entire vacation without ever leaving the Pebble Beach area. I am happy to say I did depart, because just a short drive transported me to the quaint town Carmel-by-the-Sea, and the next day to the wineries of Carmel Valley.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to row after row of shops, small hotels and restaurants. Cypress Inn, owned by Doris Day, is warm and inviting with a comfortable front "living room" and a pleasant lounge where live music is played and floats through the property. Dogs are more than just welcomed, they are catered to, and during my visit I found an old photo album containing pooch portraits from the many years of canine guests. For dinner that night I dined at hotel L'Auberge Carmel. The restaurant, Aubergine, is one of the most elegant I have ever encountered. True white glove service and incredible passion for food combines here to create a superior dining experience. Everything on the menu is delectable. My favorites of the five degustation dishes I ordered included local red abalone, Swiss chard with quail and the lamb. Scent, taste and atmosphere came together collectively during my short time in Carmel-by-the-Sea, I look forward to returning to experience it all again.

Touring the wineries of Carmel Valley was relaxing and pleasant. I had the privilege of visiting Bernardus, as well as Talbott's and Chateau Julien. Bernardus is comprised of two properties, a lodge and a winery. The lodge is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, and rightfully so; the grounds are lush with heather, the environment inviting and the rooms beautiful. Here, you feel very much removed from the rest of the world. Wines at all three of the vineyards were exceptionally pleasing to the palate. Talbott's tasting room is adorned with letters of appreciation from the White House. Chateau Julien is by far the most attractive of the vineyards, and it produces a variety of delicious wines. One of my favorites was a 2005 Chardonnay from the exceptionally small Ingrid's Vineyard on the Bernardus property.

Now one of my favorite destinations, Monterey, California is worth making time to visit. If you happen to be traveling out of Los Angeles, San Diego or Las Vegas, Allegiant Air has made it especially easy for you. Currently, Allegiant is offering deeply discounted flights, putting an affordable luxury vacation at your fingertips. Visit AllegiantAir to book your flight and learn more.

By Courtney Driver

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