Foggy Day in Big Sur
Big Sur, California
May 30, 2016
Three hundred miles north of my place in Redondo Beach, in the middle of the Los Padres National Forest, is Big Sur. One of my favorite places. And, in the middle of Big Sur, is Nepenthes, a wonderful old restaurant on the edge of a cliff in a grove of old redwoods, that has been, for over twenty years, one of my regular stops during my trips to and from northern California. On this Sunday, a day before Memorial Day, the coast from Los Angeles north to San Francisco was covered by low, pearl grey clouds. I picked up Glorianne early in the morning; we had breakfast at The Redondo Beach Café and set out for a late afternoon dinner at Nepenthe.
We stopped at the sleepy town of Los Alamos at the intersection of Route 101 and California 135 for a quiet lunch at Plenty on Bell, a wonderful little eatery with great service and terrific food. According to our server, the restaurant is only four months old and before that it was a local biker bar. This must be a different breed of California bikers – No Harleys here; across the street, next to a sparsely stocked antique store, I saw a late 1960s blue and white 650cc Triumph Bonneville. Just like my own burgundy Bonneville I drove way, way, way back in 1967.
After stopping for gas at Cambria, we headed in earnest toward Nepenthe in Big Sur. Nepenthe was originally owned by Orson Welles and his wife Rita Hayworth. I still remember seeing the Sandpiper (1965), starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, at a drive-in in Glen Burnie, Maryland with a date who cried off and on during the entire last half of the movie (although that might have been because she was stuck with me in my barely working 1948 Plymouth). There was a party scene in the movie that I learned long afterwards had been filmed at Nepenthe. Heading up the coast, the mostly sunny skies gave way once more to low hanging clouds. A thick fog bank was rolling in over the cold Pacific’s off-shore jagged rocks and burgundy-colored kelp fields, drenching the towering redwoods as well as the scattered groves of lime and cottonwood trees.
A little before 4 o’clock in the afternoon we arrived at Nepenthe. The weather was still overcast and damp, but the vistas looking down the coast – the high cliffs and the thick redwoods all covered in fog under a stern grey sky – were beautiful. They are so rare, that I love cold overcast days. We ate raspberry duck and sushi-style Ahi Tuna on the back deck beneath crackling and sizzling electric heaters. Coastal jays with their deep blue feathers and black heads joined us now and then for part of our apparently communal meal (they were particularly fond of our sourdough rolls). I love eating with little avian theropods, the last surviving line of the dinosaurs. We watched the night fall, walked back to the car in a wet night fog, and started our five hour drive back to Redondo Beach.
Keywords: Big Sur, Blue Jays, Cambria, Cottonwoods, Dinoisaurs, Lime Trees, Los Alamos, Los Padres National Forest, Nepenthe, Northern California, Orson Welles, Plenty on Bell, Redwoods, Rota Hayworth, Sandpiper, Theropods, fog
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