Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Wind, baaaby animals, wind, beer

Cafe la Press is nearer Chinatown than Union Square and it's a spot of Europe in the city, with dark wood and magazines and bowls of coffee. Spinach feta omelette is very Californian though. Got to play with the new portable Slacker Internet radio; prrof of concept rather than desirable finished device, but as I;ve been preferring the serendipity of radio to the tyranny of iPod choice this trip, and I used to love Echo Bay, this could be big. Plus the Devicescape integration gives it the most seamless Internet connection ever (beating out every hotel I've ever stayed in).

Out along Van Ness, admiring the Moorish theatre and the carved designs in a store I never remember to stop at and the murals on the WaMu and the flag sale and the Bill Bragg plumber's van (insert working man music joke here); over the Golden Gate in the fog and instead of turning into wine country we picked up the 1 (with a slight diversion because the junction is much too simple if you just do it right...). We wanted to photograph the pink plant creeping over the hills to see if it was heater; turning to find a good place we found Muir Beach overlook instead, where you can look down to the waves or back to San Francisco and feel sorry for the guys in the lookouts triangulating ships for the big guns. Masses of flowers on the hillside and what at the time we thought was a stiff wind. Hah!

I still had work to do so we stopped at Stinson Beach and I sat in the beach hut that's the Surfer's Grill on holidays and weekend to finish writing; very pleasant to do it with a view of the Pacific through sand dunes, though the warning that you can be eaten by a Great White in six feet of water kept my at the keyboard. For the rest of the afternoon, you can picture my laptop and mobile phone attempting to talk to that thar Interwebs to submit copy... Meanwhile, we were driving up highway 1 to Point Reyes. It's a lovely drive past ranches M through A, full of cows and fine-feathered chickens and lazy cats, with the sea hoving into view at the side. As you go through Inverness the houses are on the end of piers, and one is an arabian fantasy in wood with six cupolas. The lighthouse itself was shut and as we nearly got blown right off the cliff while taking photos of a white deer, I'm not sure I'd want to be any further off the ground. The wind is as loud as city traffic and the sea is whipped white in long rolling surf. Back along the peninsula and along the edge of a long mudflat estuary where seals and baby seals bask in the sun. Very green hills and woods compared to south of San Francisco, and then along the sea coast and finally into the hills.

Point Reyes town looks charming and expensive and where they hide the accommodation we do not know. Book ahead, I think. We didn't spot anywhere that looked worth stopping at short of Bodega Bay, where we passed several possibilities and picked the Inn at the Tides because we liked the sign for the Tides, the restaurant across the street. Turned out to be a mix of charming inn - lovely pool and spa pool, terraces on each room, cheese, wine and fruit in the rooms, Ggrich Hills winemakers dinner in the restaurant and some very friendly folks who joined us in the hot tub and shared a couple of bottles of wine with us (the Napa Cellers was delicious) - and high-class motel - beige tiled bathroom, particularly. The Tides - and Bodega Bay generally - is where The Birds was filmed so we eyed eyed all seagulls with suspicion. The Tides has its own dock for fishing boats and steams crabs in huge six-foot square cages in the season, but I went happy as a clam, following clam chowder with linguine alla vongole and stealing a taste of Simon's halibut. It's less authentic but a lot easier when most of the clams have been wrenched from the shell in advance, leaving me only three shells for show.

This morning we stopped for pictures at the Arch Rock and Shell Beach and for coffee at the Roadhouse and had our hats blown off, so we admired the rest of the coast and the breakers from the road until we got to Blind Beach, just short of Goat Rock. Even the seagulls were being blown sideways and we sheltered behind rocks to get photos. As you come down the steep slope into the car park there's some beautiful green exposed rock that could be a jade or turquoise. As you go back up the steep slope and cross the Russian River into Jenner, there's a restaurant called River's End ( perched by the lagoon where you can eat rock shrinp with penne and feta and mushroom and concentrated tomato, and pick fried leeks off Simon's burger and watch the seals and the kayakers being towed out to look at the seals - and go outside and get blown away again.

We swooped around the curves of the road and bought smoked salmon and stopped to look out at the sea and get blown away half-way up the Jenner Grade. And then we walked off lunch by walking around Fort Ross, where the Russians did their best to claim California by oppressing the Aleuts and building 7 and 8-sided redwood blockhouses overlooking beautiful coves and selling metalwork to the Californians for grain. The stockade blocks a lot of the wind and the plants are swarming over the millstones. We felt a little like polite time travellers because a group of Russians in historical costumes were baking bread over an open fire and telling stories in the armoury and ringing the bell outside the chapel and straightening their waistcoats in front of the mirrors and taking kasha out of Whole Foods bags... 

At this point I nearly fell asleep in the car, despite lovely curving and swooping roads and lovely scenery and flowers by the side of the road and rather less wind so I don't remember much before Mendocino. This is rather like Carmel on a slope without the big-name shopping, or Capitola without the suburbs and it looked very charming but we didn't spot anywhere to stay apart from Blair House (which was Jessica's house in Murder She Wrote) so we pushed on to Fort Bragg, then realised the redwood elk meadow we're looking for is back in Van Damm state park. How Belgian!

Fort Bragg is not a fort, it's a mid-sized town that mixes tourism and a real town life, so it has a bowling alley as well as a Best Western and a brewery and a train trestle. We had dinner at the brewery, North Coast Brewing, sharing fish and tiger shrimp in Scrimshaw beer batter and a ten-beer tasting for $4. Red Seal and Brother Thelonius and Blue Star and Old Rasputin and ACME IPA were the standouts. Hic. Yawwwwn...

We have seen wild turkeys (wait till Thanksgiving, they'll be livid), llamas, baaaby seals, birds of prey being mobbed by red-winged blackbirds. We saw baby pigeons nestling in a wharf in San Francisco. No whales yet!

Tomorrow we'll look for the glass beach and drive the avenue of the giants and try not to get blown away...

Tags: food, travel, wine

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