If you've resolved to bring the fire back to your relationship, try a trip to wine- and seafood-soaked Monterey, Calif.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to bring the romance back to your relationship, kick off your efforts with a weekend trip to Monterey, Calif., where you can unwind and reconnect without ever losing sight of the sea.
Step 1: Kick the stress
Take a shuttle into town from the San Jose airport and you can easily go car-free for the weekend. Most of Monterey’s action takes place in the Cannery Row district that sits — literally, in some cases — atop Monterey Bay. The compact area is easy to walk, taking away the stress of navigating a new city and arguing over parking spots.
Tensions start to melt instantly as you stroll along a public pathway overlooking the ocean, listening to the lapping of the waves below.
Wade through a few touristy shops to Taste of Monterey, a serene wine bar overlooking the bay. Nibble on small plates and do a Reverse tasting, where you’ll learn about the region’s unusual terroir, which allows local winemakers to grow a huge array of varietals. Grab a couple bottles to take back to the room — the region is known for both its chardonnay and pinot noir so there’s no need to argue over red or white.
Check into the InterContinental The Clement Monterey, next door, which has big, chic rooms with fireplaces and balconettes that look out over the water. Curl up together in front of the flames and try to spot the bay’s abundant sea life, including endangered sea otters, harbor seals and, if you’re lucky, whales and dolphins.
Step 2: Add aphrodisiacs
Splurge on dinner at The Sardine Factory, famous for its 32,000-bottle wine list and glass-enclosed atrium. After ordering a glass of bubbly, ask for a tour of the basement wine cellar, where the restaurant hosts private dinners for visiting golf stars and other muckety-mucks.
Start with freshly shucked oysters and artichoke bisque, fresh from the farms of neighboring Castroville.
If you’re ready to propose, there’s no better opportunity than during the palette-cleansing sorbet course that is presented in oversized ice swans, glowing from within via tiny lights. The story of finding a sparkling diamond ring sitting in a lit ice sculpture will be an engagement tale worth telling over and over.
The restaurant’s menu is long, but stick to local seafood or the perfectly cooked steaks for a meal to remember, engagement ring or not.
Start day two with a couple’s massage at The Spa at InterContinental. Choose from three themes that include blissful enhancements such as heated river stones and sugar scrubs. Soak in the hotel’s outdoor hot tub until lunch to keep the relaxation going.
Step 3: Have a new adventure
Studies have found that novelty and new experiences are a way to rekindle romance in long-term couples. So spend the afternoon of day two on a kayak tour of the bay. The guides at Adventures by the Sea will fill you in on the city’s sardine-fishing boom and bust, John Steinbeck’s time in town, and the revitalization of the bay from a polluted hub of industry to a pristine wildlife sanctuary.
If you don’t want take to the water, rent bikes from the same outfitter and cruise the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail past Fisherman’s Wharf to the expansive stretch of public beaches beyond. Or take the trail the other direction, past the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium to Lover’s Point Park.
Drop your bikes back at the shop and hit happy hour at the InterContinental’s C restaurant + bar, which has drink and small-plate specials from 4–7 p.m. Make sure to split one of the epic The Clement Sundaes, made of three flavors of gelato, caramelized banana, Chantilly cream, biscotti and blueberry compote.
When you wake up the next day, throw open your balcony door for a last look at Monterey Bay. Let its revitalization be a metaphor for the rekindled romance in your relationship. Or just enjoy the view.
More in Monterey
• The Monterey Plaza Hotel is another excellent lodging choice, with classic dark-wood décor and rooms perched over the ocean. Its award-winning Vista Blue Spa is known for its Four Hands Massage, performed by two massage therapists working at once.
• Have lunch or tropical cocktails at the The Fish Hopper. Ask for a table on the pier and look down right into the water, providing the feeling of being on a cruise ship without the pesky sea-sickness.
• If time allows, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, famous for its enormous tank of California marine life, including turtles, tuna, small sharks and stingrays. Go early or late to avoid the worst of the crowds.