Carmel Cruiser: The 2015 Volkswagen CC R-Line

Front 3/4 view of the 2015 Volkswagen CC
The 2015 Volkswagen CC.
You know how good it feels to get dressed up when you're going someplace special?  It holds true for cars, too.  So it was sheer good fortune to have an invitation to write about a rather unique inn in Carmel-By-The-Sea and find that it coincided with a week in the 2015 Volkswagen CC.

Based on the Passat, the CC (which stands for Comfort Coupe) has bodywork that takes it out of the realm of pedestrian family sedans.  If you mistook it for an Audi just from glancing at the photo above, you're forgiven.

But beauty is as beauty does, so how'd the CC do?

Folsom-Carmel trip map
Folsom to Carmel, on to Big Sur, then home (source: Google Maps).

Time was short, distance was long.  The plan was to go to Carmel from Folsom (suburban Sacramento), stay, sightsee and be back in 36 hours.  As the map indicates, that's roughly 500 miles (we did a bit more with some cruising around Carmel and Monterey that's not shown on the map. For some people, that's too much distance and too little time.  But in Navigator, I have the best travel companion in the world, and she's as game as I am for adventure, even on a compressed time scale.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen CC
2015 Volkswagen CC.
The CC?  With its commodious trunk (we'd moved a lawn swing, in pieces, a few days before simply by folding down the rear seat), generous cabin space and 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder,comfortable, speedy and economical (EPA estimates 21 city/32 highway) travel was virtually assured.

Mission San Juan Bautista
Mission San Juan Bautista.
Both of us being native Californians and movie buffs, the opportunity to take a quick side trip on the way to Carmel and stop at Mission San Juan Bautista was too good to pass up.  This is the mission where Kim Novak meets her doom falling from the bell tower in Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo".  What bell tower, you ask?  It had one back in the 1940s, when Hitch first visited.  He arrived to begin filming in 1958 and found it had been torn down because of dry rot and replaced with the three-bell arrangement you see here...which doesn't accommodate people, falling or otherwise. So Hitch worked some movie magic:

Matte painting of Mission San Juan Bautista from the movie "Vertigo"
Matte painting of Mission San Juan Bautista from "Vertigo".
A quick establishing shot of the painting, a tight shot of a look-alike bell tower whipped up at the studio, and Voila'!

Completely apart from its movie connection, the mission is, of course, well worth a visit.  I hadn't been to a California mission in many, many years.  And adjacent to the mission are museums with tremendous insight into the history of Northern California from the 1500s onward.

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen CC
2015 Volkswagen CC. 
From there, it was on to Carmel.  Our home away from home was the Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites. Three years ago, it was a downtrodden 86-year-old motor lodge known as the Carmel Crystal Inn. Rooms were going for $40 a night and the clientele left a lot to be desired. A renovation would certainly help, but owners Johnathon and Brian Lee knew they'd need something more to make their 18 rooms and suites in a residential neighborhood stand out. Both being wine lovers, they partnered with Monterey County wineries to name and design the interiors of 15 of the rooms...each one a unique treatment.

Holman Ranch and Ross Place rooms at the Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites.

Blair room door
The "Blair" room.

Blair room bed.

Blair room interior.

We were treated to the Blair room and a couple of complimentary bottles of wine as well as tickets to local wine tastings. Given the short amount of time that could be spent away from the wheel, we passed on the tastings and brought the bottles home for later enjoyment.

Blair Estates wine glass and TV remote.

On the off chance you spend any waking time away from all Carmel has to offer, each room has 55-inch LCD flatscreen TVs with HD service.  I say "waking" time because the beds are supremely comfortable and we got a tremendous night's sleep.

Wine rack in the Blair room
Wine rack in the Blair room.
Each room has a selection of the wines from the vintner in question. These are not complimentary. What is, is a delightful breakfast each morning in the lobby from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. with quiche, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, bagels and breads, coffee, tea and juice.

Gardens at the Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites
The Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites' gardens.

Gardens at the Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites
More of the gardens at the Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites.
A stroll around the grounds reveals beautiful gardens literally everywhere, as well as cozy common areas, including a fire pit which they light each evening.

The Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites does not accept guests under 18.  The idea is to create a uniquely Californian romantic getaway and we think they've succeeded brilliantly.  More information, special offers and reservations are available at vendangecarmel.com.

Julia Pfeiffer State Beach, Big Sur, CA
Julia Pfeiffer State Beach, Big Sur, California.
After breakfast, Navigator and I headed south, rather than north, packing in a couple of hours worth of seeing the sights of Big Sur.  We apparently missed the sights behind that big rock.  My buddy Leo tells me that's where Julia Pfeiffer State Beach in Sycamore Canyon becomes a nude beach.

We also got in touch with our sixties selves with a visit to the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

2015 Volkswagen CC interior
2015 Volkswagen CC interior.
And then it was back behind the wheel for the return trip to Folsom.  The six-speed manual in our test car was buttery-smooth...the only drawback to it was that the car felt so effortless and quiet, it was easy to leave it in fourth, which I did a couple of times.

The CC still has an old-style iPod connector instead of a USB connection.  It's outdated and needs to go. The only other complaint would be the seats.  They're supportive, but maybe a bit too firm.  And the headrests are among the more agressively tilted ones I've experienced yet, forcing Navigator and myself to make the trip with our heads craned slightly forward.

Apart from that, though, the CC scores points all along the way.  The R-Line version adds a body kit for sleeker looks.  $34,275 gets a car with so much standard equipment (click here for the list) ours had no options whatsoever...and needed none.  With $865 destination charge, the bottom line came to $35,140.  Not bad for a car that most people will guess costs $60,000.

Lodging was provided by the Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites in return for promotional consideration.