The Big Smiles, No Miles sweepstakes had a number of brilliant entries, both online and via mail. Our judges, food writer Ray Napolitano, Mark Anderson from the Monterey County Weekly and Jamie Pearson from travel blog Travel Savvy Mom, pored long and hard over the itineraries before putting in their votes. The winning itinerary is from Sheryl Cornelisen. "I'm beside myself, really!" Cornelisen said when called with the news. "I put a lot of thought into the whole thing," she said, laughing that it was a challenge to pack all the great things she wanted to do into a 36-hour itinerary. When you read her itinerary, you'll see how she looked for clever ways to squeeze even more than 36 hours from it. Cornelisen wrote:
First of all, I would like to stress that 36 hours is not nearly enough time to appreciate all that Monterey County has to offer, so I put my focus on the beautiful coastline…from the dunes at Marina to the awe inspiring cliffs of Big Sur, the coastal regions of Monterey County are where I would want to be for my “Staycation”. My itinerary would be as follows: -9PM: My husband Mike and I check into our Ocean View corner balcony room at the Monterey Plaza Hotel. Our late night dinner awaits us provided by Phil’s Fishmarket in Moss Landing–some of their yummy salmon dip, a couple of Dungeness Crabs, Phil’s famous chowder, and of course the necessary loaf of crusty sourdough. We also find an array of Monterey County wines…perhaps a Joullian Zinfandel from Carmel Valley, a Pessagno Pinot Noir from Salinas, and a Hahn Estates Syrah from Soledad in order to taste not only different varietals, but also wines from different appellations. We choose one to crack open along with our crab, saving the others for later. As we feast in our room, we watch the DVD version of “Cannery Row” with Nick Nolte and Debra Winger, to really get us into the zone. For dessert, an assorted box of Monterey Bay Chocolates, hande-made in Seaside, from which we select the dark chocolate Rocky Road to finish us off for the evening. -Breakfast on our balcony, courtesy of room service from the Duck Club. We would like to request one of Monterey’s perfect crystal clear days so we can soak in the view for miles. -Take the 17-Mile-Drive through Pebble Beach and over to Carmel-by-the Sea. A nice 2 hour stroll on the white sand beach, smiling along with all the happy-go-lucky leash-free dogs. -11:30 AM lunch reservation at Casanova. We sit at a table on the front porch and watch all the comings and goings on the Carmel streets. We sip our wine, nibble on the breadsticks, and feel like we have been transported to a bistro in Paris. -Head back to the Monterey Plaza Hotel in time for our 1:30 PM appointment at Vista Blue Spa. We have a 50 minute couples massage, followed by a 45 minute hydrotherapy bath ritual for the 2 of us. We spend some time afterwards on the rooftop sundeck, lounging on chaises, soaking in the view and the tranquility surrounding us. -Around 4:30 or so, we head out on foot and go south towards Pacific Grove along the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail. On our stroll we marvel at the various (and precarious) napping positions of the harbor seals dotting the rocky coastline along the way. We eventually end up at Latitudes at Lover’s Point in time to take advantage of their Happy Hour and to watch the sunset across Monterey Bay. -We now turn ourselves over to a limo driver for the rest of the evening, who is waiting for us outside of Latitudes when we decide to depart. From here he takes us to Montrio Bistro in downtown Monterey. We share a multitude of small plates, including their signature crabcake and crispy corn fritter, accompanied by more fine Monterey County wine. -After dinner, we are taken the short distance to Monterey Live, where we have tickets to the night’s performance. We get great seats regardless of when we arrive as this is the most intimate live music venue in ANY county I know of. We order some after-dinner drinks in the cozy bar area and settle in for an evening of great entertainment in a great environment. -After the show, our dedicated driver returns us back to the Monterey Plaza Hotel safe and sound and sleepy. We discuss stopping at the Ol’ Factory Cafe in Sand City on our way home the next day to check out their funky vibe and “green-ness” with a cup of Morgan’s coffee and a scone. We slip into our big bed by the sea to dream sweet memories of our fun-filled day. -9AM…Rise and shine…our 36 hours have expired…but no time left for Big Sur?…no time left even for Marina?…the valet brings our car………… But look what’s on the dashboard!!! A gift certificate for lunch at Nepenthe!! A gift certificate for a night’s stay at the Sanctuary Beach Resort at the Dunes!! Oh happy day…another Monterey County “Staycation” (or two) awaits!!!Looking for your own staycation inspiration? Check out the many other fine entries to the Big Smiles, No Miles sweepstakes!