Over the weekend Larry and I went on a little 2-day “honeymoon” to celebrate 31 years of being together.
I’ve been getting questions about travel lately, so I thought I’d give you a real life “case study” of how we put our vacation together and what happened.
When I want to go somewhere I’m always looking for a room that is as nontoxic as possible at an affordable price. For me, I expect to pay around $150/night. I’ll go a little higher for something special and I’m always happy when I can get a room for less, but I would rather pay more and be more comfortable than save money and be less comfortable.
When we were younger we would just get in the car and drive and stop wherever we wanted to stop and find a room. We had some great experiences doing that. One night—it was a Saturday night—we were in Monterey, California, where there are just no rooms on Saturday nights. We were standing in a hotel lobby, calling on a pay phone. I hung up the phone from “No Vacancy” #3 and the women at the next pay phone around poked her head around the divider and said, “Excuse me, are you looking for a room? I just had a cancellation.” We got a $500 room for $250. How could we not stay there. The room was beautiful and right on Montery Bay. We could open the window and look down at the water.
But now, with smart phones and online booking, we either book in advance, or I use hotel.com as we get close to an area. If you book last minute, you can get really good prices, but you run the risk of no rooms. One night, again, years ago, we had to drive half way across Nevada before we could get a room.
I generally start by looking for a bed and breakfast instead of a conventional hotel. They are just too toxic. Except in Fort Bragg and along Hwy 1 up the coast there, there are many, many small places to stay where the rooms are right on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. So in that case, I would stay in a commercial hotel to get that view and that air.
We decided to spend the night in Fort Bragg on our trip. We had driven up Hwy 1 from Point Reyes, California to Victoria BC Canada on an earlier honeymoon, so this was a re-enactment of a trip we had taken before together. After living in Florida for fifteen years, I just wanted to reconnect with this land and the redwood trees and the ocean.
It took me about five minutes to find the Living Light Inn. It’s “Eco-Friendly Lodging.” That’s a photo of our room above. It’s an attic room on the third floor (no elevator). All wood paneled, with a view of the organic vegetable garden out the window. The ocean is only about four blocks away, so the air is magnificent. It’s just your average bed and carpet on the floor, but everything is so old that there are no toxic chemicals. No fragrance on the sheets from detergent, no fragrance in the bathroom from soap. We were totally comfortable.
This place has many many many glowing reviews. Most of the rooms have white walls and wood floors and are very bright an airy.
The only down side for me was that it was just a bit more funky than I like. The bathroom had a plastic shower enclosure and shelves that looked like exposed wood framing. But these were small things in comparison to the overall experience. This is not a luxury hotel. It’s good, clean rooms with clean air.
This is a vegan establishment. They have a kitchen that guests can use to prepare their own food, with a refrigerator and blenders and all the tools you might want to prepare vegan food.
They serve a vegan breakfast, which was interesting to me. I drink organic coffee with organic cream in the morning. They weren’t sure if the coffee was organic and the cream was rice milk. I was expecting plates of beautiful organic fruit. That’s vegan. But it was pretty much all packaged industrial food. But vegan.
The thing I really learned from this experience is that different people have different priorities. This establishment was “eco” and “vegan” and it expressed their understanding of those viewpoints. But they don’t have a “toxic-free” viewpoint and few places do. I need to do more work on this, to bring more awareness to lodgings about how they could really be toxic-free in addition to whatever else they are doing.
We started our trip with breakfast at the Cape Fear Cafe in Duncans Mills. I had overheard someone recommending it to a friend and wanted to try it. Very good.Since it was about 10:30 by the time we got there, Larry and I split a breakfast of veggie scrambled eggs with potatoes and toast and then we split a lunch of green salad with tandoori chicken and mango chutney on top.
Food choices is a big subject. Over the years I’ve come to having a line that I will not cross. I can’t say “I will only eat organic food” because often there isn’t any to choose. But I can usually find restaurants that serve dishes made from fresh ingredients, no additives, no cans, just real food. These places often use white refined flour and sugar and salt, but otherwise the ingredients are pretty good. That’s my line. My minimum. I won’t eat fast food or most packaged or canned food. I’ll just wait for the next meal if there is nothing else, or find some raw fruits or vegetables.
Cape Fear Cafe isn’t organic, but it could easily be as there is plenty of organic food in the area. Still, it was a very good meal.
Driving Hwy 1 the roadside services are few and far between. So when we got hungry again we stopped at the Black Point Grill in the Sea Ranch Lodge. Sea Ranch is an interesting place, worth a stop and a look around. I remember when Sea Ranch was built, starting in 1963. It was quite innovative then. The idea was to have people live in an ecosystem and preserve the natural beauty of the area. And they have accomplished and maintained that for almost fifty years now. There is no landscaping around the houses. Every house has weathered wood siding. Each house is unique. There are vacation rentals or you can stay at the Lodge. Lodge rooms start at $279/night, but it is well worth the cost. Staying here is an iconic California experience.
The food at the Black Point Grill was delicious and we were happy to see that they are vegetarian-friendly. I’m not a vegetarian but my diet is mostly plant-based, so I was happy to be able to order corn chowder and a chickpea veggie burger that was really delicious. Again not organic but they use “the freshest local ingredients.”Oh, I take that back. Some organic. The baby greens in the salad were organic.
When we reached Fort Bragg we asked the innkeeper for recommendations and she steered us to Mayan Fusion. This was a GREAT restaurant for us. It’s Mexican with a Mayan twist so the flavors were a bit different. They had a lot of nice entrees but we were able to stay on our diet by ordering salads and sides of rice and beans. Lest you think that sounds boring, we were delighted with how inventive and tasty they were. Homemade corn tortillas. And for dessert we had a Mayan chocolate ice cream with chilis, which is one of my favorite flavor combinations so we had to splurge. Larry and I rarely order dessert, but if we see something super-special, we always split it.
One of the things I love about the food in Fort Bragg is that they are very local-oriented. They really get what it meats to eat local. There are a number of local purveyors, so, for example, the Mayan chocolate ice cream was made especially for Mayan Fusion by the local ice cream maker Cowlicks. And the coffee ice cream at Cowlicks is made with a special blend from the local coffee roaster, and is unique to the ice cream. Cowlicks also has an ice cream made with a local mushroom called Candy Cap that tastes just like maple. Of course I had to try that and it really does taste like maple. Really really delicious. And the most popular breakfast spot, Eggheads, uses Canadian bacon smoked at the smokehouse down the street. You get the idea.
On Saturday morning I woke up looking for organic coffee. Since the innkeeper couldn’t guarantee their coffee was organic, he sent me down to Headland’s Coffee, his personal favorite coffee house. I walked in, wondering if it was organic. I looked at the list of “hot drinks” on the wall. It said “coffee” but not organic. And then I saw it. There was a whole rack of coffee bean dispensers and every single one said “organic.” I paid for my coffee and took my paper cup over to the double row of thermoses and every single one was organic. A dozen varieties of organic coffee! All brewed and waiting for me to try. If I lived in Fort Bragg, I would try a different one every morning.
After coffee, we tried to go to Eggheads,
but the wait was an hour. So we went down the street to the dedicated organic restaurant Cafe One. It wasn’t crowded, but the food was great. We had a Mexican breakfast of scrambled eggs on a corn tortilla with beans and rice and salsa. And a beautiful plate of assorted organic fruits, each cut carefully and arranged beautifully on the plate. The decor was unremarkable, but the food was delicious and I really appreciated their commitment to being organic through and through.
For lunch we went to Rhody’s Cafe at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. We actually had planned to walk around the
Botanical Gardens, but it’s about a 2 hour walk and we didn’t have time. But the lunch was great. Lots of organic and local food. I had lentil soup and hummus with pita chips and dipping vegetables. Plates were decorated with edible flowers and herbs. We ate in an outdoor patio with a view o
f the gardens. Just lovely.
On the way home we stopped at a roadside stand and got the most fragrant strawberries! We at the whole basket.
The main purpose of this honeymoon was simply to be together, enjoy each other’s company and have an adventure. We love to just go someplace and see what there is to see.
So driving up the coast we stopped at a secluded beach Larry had found and wanted to show me. It’s a public beach but it has kind of a secret entrance through a grove of redwood trees that you could easily miss if you didn’t know it was there.
We stopped at Sea Ranch and looked around.
We stopped in the town of Mendocino,
which used to be one of my favorite places of all time. Charming street of Victorian buildings on a bluff overlooking the ocean. There used to be wonderful shops there but no more. It’s all tourist shops now. I remember when Mendocino first became popular. A single restaurant opened, Cafe Beujoulais, became so outstanding that it became a destination. I remember their ads in local newspapers said simply, “Cafe Beaujolais. Mendocino. Worth the trip.” And it was. They had astonishing food for
1977. I went. And so did many others. And shops opened. And Mendocino became Mendocino. But that’s gone now.
As I get older—I’m 63 now—I’m noticing with some sadness parts of my life that used to be there and I expect to still be there are now gone. Like Mendocino. Like Thomas Bros road maps. They are no longer sold in bookstores because maps are in your phone. But last week we were out in the rural part of Sonoma county and lost reception. We needed a paper map. And I couldn’t buy one at my local bookstore. I could go to AAA and get a folding map, but Thomas Bros maps are books of maps of individual areas so you can really see them. A smart phone may be smart, but only if you have reception. A paper book you can take anywhere.
On Saturday morning we walked around the downtown area of Fort Bragg. It’s both sides of the street around one square block. It’s not for tourists. These are shops that carry the everyday items people need living far far far from the nearest mall or Walmart. And it reflects their viewpoint. Clothing is pretty much all natural fiber. There’s a cooking store with real cooking tools for the kind of cooking you do when your food comes from the farmer’s market or the forest or the ocean. A bookstore is all about connecting with nature. It’s just REAL.
And we loved it.
There’s a lot to see and do on the north coast of California. Lots of clean air. Lots of organic food. Lot’s of inns to stay in, in all price ranges. You can even bring your RV and park it in one of the RV parks that are almost right on the beach.
There’s still some summer left. Get out and explore!