It was a lovely evening out, for the best of reasons. C only had Thursday off before having to work this weekend, and it’s the fourth of July, and she’d always thought of us going there, and… yes, absolutely plenty of reasons, but none that can contend with the best reason of all. Just because. What other reason does there need to be? On Thursday afternoon, we set off on a relaxing trip along the coast, down California’s Highway 1, towards Big Sur to sample the Rocky Point Restaurant, offering a special price for locals; well, we have the right area code. We had called in a 6.30 reservation and had no intention of rushing ourselves; for some reason the GPS in the hovercraft had decided our destination was three hours away and we knew for certain it could be no more than half that, but nevertheless, we were going to take our time. A quick visit to the store in Seaside first; tempted by a gorgeous yellow silk shirt, my Californication continues. More artichokes. A stroll looking out onto Del Monte beach; a few photos taken for the folks; a bit of daydreaming about which beach house we’d like when we’re independently wealthy. A drive through the town some more; checking out Laguna Grande Park, where we’re planning to go see John Lee Hooker Jr play in three weeks from now for Sunday Blues. We had plenty of time to relax; the restaurant was not much further down the coast, only about fifteen minutes from Carmel.
It’s a surprising fifteen minutes, with some of the most striking scenery the Pacific Coast Highway
has to offer. You know you are in for something spectacular when a road sign tells you to expect hills and curves for the next 63 miles. To call what you’ll see “hills” is quite an understatement, as the road takes a tortuous path winding along an impressively contoured coastline. As with much of the scenery in this area, the scale is hard to comprehend or even communicate in a photograph. But first, things begin to get more hilly leaving Carmel, as the road winds its way through the more bohemian outskirts of the town which, believe it or not
, still forbids the wearing of heels greater than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than 1 square inch. the law almost appears to make sense on these winding, distorted pavements, which eventually leave the town behind us, but the road continues to wind, following the cliffside, sometimes cutting through them in sheer escarpments, bigger, deeper. The Pacific is on our right, and we snatch glances of it between the trees and rocks, and at scenic overlooks presenting spectacular vistas. “Do you want to stop here to take a picture?” C asks, and is amused as I wrestle with the new-fangled technology and attempt to send a copy of the photograph to my folks. “Keep an eye on the scenery, darling”. It’s growing in size, bigger, bigger, with each further mile we travel down the road. The Tickle Pink Inn
amuses us; we wonder about reservations and rates. The web site doesn’t tell you; if you have to ask, then well, you probably can’t afford it anyway.
And then, on our right – yes, our right – is the restaurant, seemingly dug into the cliff, but precariously balanced there, clinging to the rocks. As if to emphasize the predicament, a sign tells you that yes, right where you’re standing isn’t necessarily the safest place in the world to be. We wander around outside, trying to get photo opportunities which demonstrate the scale that we’re having to deal with here. Rocks jutting out of the ocean seem insignificant, the waves crash around them, but in reality they are huge, quite distant from where we stand. From the gazebo, looking out to the next promontory, there’s Bixby Bridge
, one of the most memorable images from any Travel Channel documentary that visits this area. It’s dwarfed by the scenery around it, yet is a monumental engineering feat, surely? How far away is it? It’s hard to tell, so we decide to drive down there after we eat; it’s surely a great place to see a sunset from, too. The wind is blowing; no, it’s beginning to howl a bit, and we’re both starting to shiver – on the first of July, will I ever get used to that? I return to the car and retrieve our overshirt; just one between the two of us. Here’s hoping I feel chivalrous.
We check in to the restaurant and look up our reservation, and are shown to our table; a tough choice awaits us, either the view down the coast towards Bixby Bridge and the lighthouse, or looking at the sun beginning to set behind us. We take our seats; another photo opportunity; I snicker as I realize the photo I’ve just taken is pretty much an exact match for the one on the restaurant’s web page, We swap seating, trying out each other’s views, grinning, pretending not to notice the $95 couple’s surf and turf special on the menu. We try to get the waiter’s attention, desperately needing to ask him about the local’s special; this is rich fare indeed, perhaps a little too rich. Begrudgingly, it seems, he returns with the other menu, and tries to be oblivious to our enjoying ourselves on our evening out. We pick our way through the options so we can sample each other’s selections. One of us will get the salad, one the chowder. One will get the strangely-named sour cream fries, one the rice pilaf. And the entrees? Catch of the day is Pacific rockfish. Rock Cod, delicately battered; meanwhile the ribs catch my eye. We place our orders and then onto more serious business, discussing whether we should bring my folks here when they visit, and how we’ll manage to make sure they don’t try to pick up the tab. It’s gorgeous. I take another picture; that’ll be Blackberry wallpaper later.
Our meals come, and we sample each others’, as intended. The chowder and the salad are good, very good, not the best we’ve ever had, perhaps, but great appetizers, served alongside the restaurant’s famous cheese bread, duly sampled and enjoyed. Our main courses come, and the obligatory nibble on the corner of each others’ tells us; more excellent food, delicately seasoned. At this point I’m beginning to let the ambience and atmosphere take a hold of me somewhat; it’s a highly-recommended place for romantic dining, and I don’t take much to get doe-eyed at the best of times. Fortunately, these ribs are done to perfection, falling off the bone. I won’t have to ruin the moment by making a mess of myself with finger food here. We enjoy our meals; a dessert seems an absolutely essential way to finish. We’re both drawn to the bread pudding; a favorite of both our families, recipes remembered from Mommas and Grandmas. Bring two spoons, and we’ll give it a try; it turns out to be decadently smooth and silky, a triumph, and we realize that we’ve just concluded an excellent meal in a beautiful location that has cost us no more than “ordinary” casual dining.
We would have hung around for the sunset, but we had other places to be, and the chill was definitely coming in. C puts on the overshirt; she looks better in it than I do, and we wander around outside the restaurant again; the delightful tables on the deck, ideal for whale-spotting, but not tonight, far too cold and windy. The promised drive down to cross the Bixby Bridge – the furthest south I’ve been in California to date. It’s smaller than it looks. Everything
here is small in comparison to the scenery. We turn around and begin the drive back, contented, after a great meal, after an all-too-rare date together which has to fit around our everyday-life schedules as opposed to our fairytale vacations. Back home, we take a late night stroll. The sound of motorcycles seems to be getting a little louder in the evenings; it sounds like the annual revelers are approaching
for their good-natured celebrations. A beautiful clear evening, and stars abound, as we walk around the neighborhood and hear strains of mariachi music coming from a neighbor’s house. We dance in the middle of the road for a while.