Sunday, 28 February we awoke in Mendocino after a 15+ hour drive with no idea what was in store for us because we could see nothing in the pitch black dark of our final stretch. It was John’s birthday (my most favorite day of the year!) and we quickly found out that Mendocino is awesome!!! The views around every corner are breathtaking and more than once we drove past a look-out and exclaimed in unison, “WHOA!” With every element I took in I felt my spirit lighten, from the brisk, salty sea-air to the curve of the horizon line where you can literally see the shape of our planet! Having come at the off-season we found few people and mild weather for the duration of our stay.
At only 2.25 square miles I would describe Mendocino as a place with fewer options of higher quality. The French-style home décor and gifts shop, the Village Toy Store, the solitary shoe shop, and the Good life Café! The coffee was okay (every time I leave Western WA I rediscover how good we have it, and how poor everyone else is at making coffee) but the food and atmosphere were exactly what I want in a local café. Mendocino gave off the impression of rich (both deep and wealthy) history but with just a touch of hippie.
Part English countryside (green fields and drizzly skies, older folks in stylish and practical clothing, simplicity, quiet confidence) + part Nantucket whaling community (the architecture! the cliffs that hung straight out over the open ocean! the evidence of salty, bitter storms on every tree! and the feeling that people who live here work hard for their comforts.) + part California cool (plenty of young people who looked homeless with beards, dogs, and organic everything. And a dispensary.) My three-word summary of Mendocino, CA is this: Quality of life.
Our time was limited and our purpose was rest so I tried not to have an agenda. The only box to check on this trip: [ x ] GLASS BEACH! In Fort Bragg (~10 miles from our Inn) is this place that, in all other respects, appears identical to the hundreds of beaches all along the Northern California coast. Except(!) the sand is made of sea glass which has been pulverized by the Pacific Ocean! It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I definitely felt conflicted scrambling up and down the visually beautiful, but practically dangerous/disgusting/poisonous shore. With tires and shoes and bottles and metal and rubber and tiles and ceramics and plastic embedded into the rocky beach it was a strange and self-conscious thing to admire the sea-glass-sand aware that it is really just pretty pollution.
In the evening we watched the sun set over the Mendocino shore before indulging in a French-ish meal at Café Beaujolais. The birthday boy ordered filet mignon and I enjoyed the duck two-ways. We split a local Merlot and a slice of coconut cream pie (which coincidentally is John’s favorite!). The entire experience was fulfilling. Between big, refreshing gulps of the Pacific Ocean’s natural majesty and a complete day of slow living we agree there is something special about this place, and promise to return.
As I get a little bit older every year I appreciate the value of getting away. Most of the time I tell myself that I can’t travel because my dreams are filled with long vacations in exotic and fascinating places. In reality I have access to an abundance of opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and re-set my perspective, which is what I think travel ought to be about. This trip was short, inexpensive, and I pulled it off with almost no planning. It was just what we desperately needed. Twenty-five is the year of discovering that I CAN, and in the case of Mendocino, I am so glad that I did.