TAKING A CLOSER PEEK: Sometimes, depending on your neighborhood or city or suburb or hometown, you have to dig just a bit to get a visitor to pay a compliment. You might inquire if the newcomer likes the style of the homes, or the shade trees common to the boulevards, or the unusual design of the library or town hall, but you're going for reassuring pay dirt: You want to hear all about your town's pluses. We've all been there, rooting about and hinting for kind words, and it matters not where our first or last or forever address happens to be; we possess local pride. But the residents of Carmel-by-the-Sea don't have to drop any hints in the "do you like our houses?" department, as in ever. Why? Because people strolling down the street or sitting at restaurants or just pulling into the charmed city for the first time are positively rhapsodic over the place. They're enchanted by the cottages, the storybook chimneys, the glorious, ocean-facing windows, the way the buildings of the pocket-pretty destination knit together so seamlessly, like a picture. Visitors dream of living in a little witch's house not far from Carmel's white sand one day -- as well as a few locals who'd love to try a new casa out -- but even if such a thing isn't possible, visiting some famous homes can be, if you buy a ticket to the annual Carmel Heritage Society House and Garden Tour.
SATURDAY, JUNE 20... is this year's date, and, once again, that exquisite 1948 stone-bedecked Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece is on the roster. Styles will vary greatly, though, as one would hope in this stylish spot, and the iconic Carmel cottage will have its day in the sun. Look for sweet Belle's Cottage to make a cameo, as well as Stonehaven, which puts forward a very fairy tale-like face. The stony stalwart called The Ship is a must-visit of the day, and the oh-so-historic Golf House. Tickets for the afternoon-long look-around are thirty dollars for non-members ahead of time, and thirty five dollars there. Will you depart Carmel-by-the-Sea feeling as though you got to live there, at least in spirit and daydreams, for a few hours? Perhaps. But the real benefit is getting to get an up-close peek at the famous casas people coo over, from the street, each and every day in one of California's most coo-worthy, abode-adorable towns.