Let me emphasize that Carmel Valley is NOT Carmel. They’re adjacent towns, but separate and completely different in character. Carmel is overrun with tourists. It’s the kind of place that has a ton of galleries selling shitty, exorbitantly-priced artwork. I had never been to Carmel Valley, but I used to go to Carmel often.
Carmel Valley is more laidback. There aren’t tons of people on the street. It’s kinda like being in wine country without the crowds. Also, the people are very warm, not suffocatingly so–the way the tourism industry can be. We got turned upside down (yup, even with GPS because our GPS can get lost when it’s surrounded by hills), popped into the small public library, and every single local in there came over to give directions, draw a map, point me on the right path. Even Dean commented that, in all our travels, the people in Carmel Valley seemed to be the most genuine. Maybe because it’s still just a bunch of locals. It’s farm country, vineyard territory. The kind of place where there’s a monthly barn dance. Yeeehah! We’re planning to go back on the third Thursday of the month.