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April 08, 2024

Santa Cruzin'

By Sand Pilarski

Part Three of a Three Part Series

Monterey Penninsula

On Sunday morning, we breakfasted at Gilda's on the municipal wharf again, shaking our heads once more over the drowning the day before. We picked up a newspaper, which listed the drowning in the Police Report as having happened four hours later than we observed, causing us to shake our heads over reporting inaccuracies as well.

The next adventure took us south of Santa Cruz, to have a look at Aptos and Capitola as possible alternatives for vacations. The beach at Capitola is miniscule, and covered with kelp, and the little downtown is...well, Stephen King and Peter Straub HAD to have been using the town of Capitola as a model for their creepy destination Point Venuti in The Talisman. Jampacked in a couple tiny blocks, garishly painted and decorated shops and unsavory motels are swarmed over by frantic tourists, the gaudy paint of the buildings dirty and peeling, giving the appearance of an Escher print colored by someone on acid painting in the figures with dirty toes holding the brush. Capitola is not an option for future vacations, no indeedy.

We drove on down the coast to check out the famous 17-Mile Drive that winds through the Del Monte Forest to the more famous Pebble Beach Golf Course.

Now I could describe in detail the various "landmarks" and "scenic vistas", but it turns out I'm not allowed to. 17-Mile Drive, its properties and roadways, are all privately owned, and the Pebble Beach Company expressly forbids the publication of ANY description of forest, mansions, golf courses, road conditions, scenery (including beaches and trees) or restaurants without prior approval. So I would never think of doing so.

Oh, yes, they also charge an $8.00 toll to drive the length of the 17-Mile Drive.

South of Santa Cruz but before Malibu

However, somewhere south of Santa Cruz, and before Malibu, there are some pretty stretches of beach that are representative of many central California coastlines. The water is clear and cold, shading from white-sanded rocky beaches to aqua to deepest blue, with seabirds nesting on offshore rocks, and the wind picking up the coolness to make one shiver with delight.

And by the way, should you ever get to the turnoff for 17-Mile Drive -- save your $8.00 and just head on down the coast a ways. Otherwise you'll wish you did.

Little Napoli's in Carmel-by-the-Sea

By the time we got to Carmel, we were starving, and although the town is a treasure trove of art galleries and craft (real craft) shops, finding a place to eat was our main concern. We followed our noses to Little Napoli, on Dolores Street in Carmel-By-The-Sea, as the town is properly known. (Did you know that Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor here?)

Tales are told of people walking into a casino in Las Vegas, pulling the lever on a slot machine just once, and hitting the jackpot. That's how I felt about the meal at this restaurant. I had a dish called "Salmone Andrea", a rigatoni in a creamy (but not overwhelming) white gorgonzola cheese/sage sauce, with delicate thin slivers of smoked salmon draped becomingly over it, and sprinkled about with fresh snipped basil. If it wasn't enough that the entree was exquisite, they also served a pinot grigio wine called Mezza Corona from Italy's Alto Adige wine region that perfectly complemented the pasta.

My husband chose a "Bolognese de Bari con Pappardelle", a homey dish with a meat and tomato sauce simmered with red wine and freshly made wide pasta noodles. With its accents of Parmesan cheese, it was another winner. He was also very pleased with the wine selection: a dark zinfandel from Villa Helena in California's own Napa Valley. He describes the wine thus: "An excellent bouquet [red wines should be entrancingly sniffable]. The taste of tannins is rich and smooth with a mild attack, a fruity middle, and a pleasant lingering finish." [The "attack" is how it tastes right off when you sip. The "finish" is how the taste lingers after you swallow.]

To add to the experience, the service was exemplary. We would absolutely make this restaurant a stop on future travels. We might make this restaurant a destination on future travels!

A colony of birds

Then home again, to welcome Valley heat after the cool coast, refreshed in mind and body, very pleased with cruisin' in and about Santa Cruz.

Postscript: On Monday, at home, I accessed the Santa Cruz Sentinel online and found that the poor drowning victim was one Billy Joe Madison, age 39. The article still did not have the time of death correct, had picked up on the nude-bathing rumor and reported it as fact, and stated that the "cause of death has not been determined"."

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2002-08-17
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