Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Disarming in Strangeness

According to my oldest and dearest friend, I am making her green with envy.

At least, that's what she wrote me when she heard I was in San Francisco, which she's long claimed as her favorite city. It's not like I was there long or anything.

Okay, long enough to eat seafood soup at Oolong Noodles one night, traipse over to see the Palace of Fine Arts near the Golden Gate bridge the next morning, slurp down a bowl of practically perfect cioppino at (where else?) Cioppino's on the waterfront, browse briefly at City Lights Books, sip a flight of bubblies and Rose at Francis Ford Coppola's triangular-shaped Zeotrope CafĂ©, eat for the second time in my life at Boulevard (to-die-for green pillows of lobster and wild prawn pea shoot ravioli) and, last but certainly not least, ogle Diego Rivera's WPA murals in the Post Office annex on the Embarcadero by clambering up on concrete vents under the building's windows, which probably looked a bit sketchy to passersby, but was really just the ultimate late night art geek indulgence.

Today's breakfast was served up in the reliably seedy Tenderloin at a joint (there is no other word for a place unchanged since 1978) called Moulin, the Breakfast Place, run by a sunny and elderly Asian couple as if it were their home (except, perhaps, for the industrial mop bucket and cleaning supplies in the loo) and you were a favorite guest.

When I wrote my friend that today's destination was Santa Cruz, her envy shifted to native Californian know-how.

My old stomping grounds! From there, she recommended a food and architecture walking tour, Natural Bridges State Park (her Mom's favorite), an art and history museum, a couple of wineries and the boardwalk.

If you like sea lions, and really, who doesn't, visit the Santa Cruz wharf. Well, that should be enough of a selection. Have a great time. Santa Cruz is awesome.

Awesome may be an overused word, but it's a fitting one when you're talking about a drive along the California coast that alternates fields of tiny yellow flowers (some form of ranunculus, maybe?) with fearsome cliffs and impressive Pacific surf and enough state parks along the way to walk off a hearty breakfast.

I saw my first fields of Brussels sprouts and artichokes along the way, tucked in between all the pick-your-own organic fruit farms and shuttered fruit and vegetable stands.

My favorite was Pescadero State Beach (as opposed to Pescadero Nature Preserve or Pescadero State Park or even the non-seaside town of Pescadero), which offered up a sandy beach long enough for walking - and barefoot at that - and enough driftwood to keep an old hippie in art projects until death or senility, whichever came first.

My lighthouse obsession was only partially fed at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which was scenic if a bit short (although built on a good-sized bluff) and boasted the additional charm of the keeper's house being turned into a hostel, but is in such poor condition that it's closed to the public.

As a lighthouse junkie who prefers to walk up every flight of lighthouse steps she encounters, it was a mild bummer, but the good news was that they're fundraising to make the improvements to re-open it, Maybe someday I'll climb to the top of Pigeon Point.

Further south in Davenport was an enclave of eateries, Air BnBs and a tasting room, making it a fine place to lunch overlooking the sparkling afternoon light on the ocean at Arro's Store, where a sign hung under the store's name reading "Tourist Bus Stop."

What that meant was a market selling microbrews, California wine and assorted foodstuffs, along with a postcard selection that I could spend hours describing. Sufficeth to say that my favorite showed the banana slug (why this would be postcard-worthy escapes me), but there were postcards from virtually every small town along today's route from Half Moon Bay to Pigeon Point to Davenport in the amber light of sunset.

Just for the record, some of the less impressive postcards had a 1/4-inch crust of dust on them, but I prefer to think that that's because they were passed over for more scenic views rather than that no one buys postcards at Arro's.

Lunch of mahi mahi tacos and grilled artichoke hearts was served by a scattered yet charming young woman who looked completely overwhelmed with her job (clearly she was new) given the number of tables covered in dirty dishes and broken hot sauce bottles, but maintained a sunny countenance nonetheless.

More than once, she told customers and the cook that she'd only made one mistake today, albeit one that involved multiple customers when she served someone's food to the wrong table and they ate it before the intended realized his food had never arrived.

A stop at the Bonny Doon tasting room was a given because it, too, was located in downtown Davenport, barely two doors down from Arro's and where else can you pose in a cigar-shaped UFO in front of a green screen to commemorate your visit for posterity (no photographs, please)?

What I did like was the verbiage on their Syrah, which was described on the label as "disarming in its strangeness." Come to think of it, I would be perfectly happy with those words being used to describe me.

Because if you like strangeness - and, really, who doesn't? - I'm your girl.

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