South Korean All-American: The 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited

Front 3/4 view from above of 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited
The 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited.
Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote that the 2014 Hyundai Azera was one of the two best large family sedans you could buy (the other being the Toyota Avalon). Summertime and large family sedans naturally suggest a vacation, so Navigator and I packed the trunk of the all-new 2015 Azera the day after it arrived at TireKicker World Headquarters and hit the road.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited
2015 Hyundai Azera Limited.
The Azera Limited endeared itself to us in the first few miles.  It's hot in Sacramento in the summertime, with temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s pretty much a given and stop-and-go traffic, even in the middle of the day on a Saturday, not uncommon on Interstate 80 between California's capitol and the Bay Area. We hit three complete stops of varying lengths, but kept our cool thanks in part to frosty-cold air from the dual-zone climate control system and the quickest-acting, coldest seat chillers I've experienced in any car.  All that with the sunshade of the panoramic sunroof open so we could bask in the sunshine.  In lesser cars, sunroofs like that make the interior unbearable in the summer.  No sweat (literally or figuratively) in the Hyundai.

Saying yes to the Limited makes buying a 2015 Hyundai Azera very simple. Apart from optional carpeted floor mats ($125), there are no options (click here for a complete list of standard equipment).  Your $38,200 (plus $895 inland freight and handling) buys a car with everything, including a 293 horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 that is quick, responsive and returns great gas mileage on the road.  The EPA estimate is 19 city/28 highway, and we saw 27.2 for our 450-mile-plus trip.

Map of July 2015 trip from Folsom to Carmel and back
Folsom to Carmel and back (source: Google Maps).

We spent the night with friends in San Carlos (25 miles south of San Francisco) and the next day, took the long way (out California 92 to Half Moon Bay and then down Highway 1) to Carmel, where we were the guests of a unique inn.

Hofsas House Entrance
The Hofsas House, Carmel.

The 38-room Hofsas House has been standing on San Carlos Street between Third and Fourth Avenues since 1947, and perhaps more remarkably, has stayed in the same family's ownership all that time. Carrie Theis, who runs the hotel now, is the granddaughter of founder Donna Hofsas.

Hofsas House Coat of Arms
Hofsas House Coat of Arms.
Carrie's grandfather designed the coat of arms that you'll find in two places on the front of the hotel.  It reads "Otium Cum Dignitate"..."Leisure With Dignity".

Hofsas House driveway
Hofsas House driveway.
The mural in the driveway of the main building was painted in 1957 by Donna Hofsas' friend Maxine Albro, who painted a 10 by 42 foot mural inside San Francisco's Coit Tower in 1934.

Hofsas House Deluxe Two-Room Suite
Deluxe Two-Room Suite (photo courtesy Hofsas House).
Old World charm abounds, with each of the rooms decorated differently. The picture above is of the room we stayed in, a two-room suite with a balcony and an ocean view.

All rooms have free wi-fi, coffee makers, hair dryers, cable TV and phones with voicemail. Deluxe rooms have microwaves and refrigerators. There are some (including a beautiful cottage that was originally Donna and Fred Hofsas' home) that have complete kitchens. There's also a heated pool and men's and women's saunas.

Hospitality is seemingly endless, with friendly staff, a continental breakfast in the lobby each morning and a wide variety of special packages for golfers, wine lovers, beachgoers, family reunions and pet people (the Hofsas House is dog-friendly).

We were treated to a lovely bottle of Monterey's Ventana Chardonnay on ice in our room, as well as a box of crackers and two kinds of cheese from The Cheese Shop (in the same location at Ocean and Junipero for 40 years and counting) in Carmel. The next day, lunch was also on the house, thanks to a gift certificate to the fabulous 5th Avenue Deli, just two blocks' walk from Hofsas House.  We took the food and Carrie's advice and headed for a picnic lunch at Point Lobos State Park.

Picnic area at Point Lobos State Park
Picnic area at Point Lobos State Park.
Point Lobos is where Carmel ends and Big Sur, Central California's fabulously rugged coastline, begins. If you think the view from the picnic area is amazing, walk off lunch on the nearby trails.

Point Lobos State Park
Point Lobos State Park.
Point Lobos State Park
Point Lobos State Park.
The vistas are nothing short of breathtaking.  And wildlife is everywhere...cormorants, pelicans, and newly hatched baby seagulls along with newly birthed harbor seal pups.  Best of all, Point Lobos is relatively uncrowded.  The throngs head for Ocean Avenue's shopping or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Go there, too...but leave time for Point Lobos.

That night, another treat from the folks at Hofsas House...reservations and a complimentary dinner at Tarpy's Roadhouse in Monterey.

Tarpy's Roadhouse
Tarpy's Roadhouse.
Regular TireKicker readers know Navigator and I love California and a good story. Tarpy's has a good California story. Irish immigrant Matt Tarpy and his family moved to the area in 1851. 22 years later, in a land dispute, a woman was shot and died and Tarpy turned himself in. A lynch mob went to the jail, overpowered the guards, took Matt out to the country and hanged him from a tree.

20 more years pass and the area becomes home to a pear orchard and ranch...Rancho Saucito.  In 1917, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ryan buy Rancho Saucito and build their dream home...by hand...using only local materials.  When the Ryans sold in 1943, it became a restaurant, and for the next 50 years, several restaurants.  The one with the greatest staying power is the one named after Matt Tarpy...Tarpy's Roadhouse, now in business for 23 years and counting.

There are a lot of ways you could go at Tarpy's on food and drink and you wouldn't regret any of them.  Navigator and I went for variety, ordering a series of small plates.  Do not...whatever else you do...do not pass up the bacon-wrapped brussel sprouts with tomato basil jam.  So good we ordered a second round. The crispy calamari is the most substantial, meaty calamari I have had in my life. I've had skinnier chicken fingers. Seriously. And these come with lime-thai dipping sauce and "Srirachannaise". The bruschetta is tremendous...with herb goat cheese, roasted garlic, blistered tomatoes and basil. And the roasted beet and baby arugula salad with whipped goat cheese, candied walnuts and an orange-hibiscus vinaigrette is the best I've ever had.

Dessert? Like Oscar Wilde, we can resist anything but temptation. Navigator chose the beyond decadent chocolate-espresso bread pudding (so rich she ended up taking half of it back to Hofsas House) and I went for the three berry pie from nearby Watsonville's Gizdich Ranch.

Chamber of Commerce map of Carmel
Map of Carmel (courtesy Carmel Chamber of Commerce)

The next day, a last walk along the streets of the village....

Beach at the end of Ocean Avenue
Beach at the end of Ocean Avenue.
And one along the beach where Ocean Avenue ends....a last attempt to absorb as much of 66-degree Carmel as possible before returning to 96-degree Folsom.

Interior view of 2015 Hyundai Azera
2015 Hyundai Azera Limited interior.
Fortunately, the Azera Limited was every bit as hospitable a place for the four-hour drive home as it was on the trip over, keeping us cool, comfortable and entertained the entire trip. The 2015 simply improves on the 2014 and remains one of the two best large family sedans on the market today.

Two nights' lodging, wine, cheese, crackers, two continental breakfasts and meal gift certificates and comps were provided by Hofsas House, The Cheese Shop, Ventana Vineyards, 5th Avenue Deli and Tarpy's Roadhouse in return for promotional consideration.