Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Tale of Three Beaches

My family seems to have taken a hiatus from sightseeing-style vacations. Instead, our last several trips have been more relaxed. The fact that we now have three teenaged daughters, each with her own strong opinion about what she would like and not like to do, seems to be a contributing factor. I have to admit I'm enjoying this stage.

A year ago we vacationed on St. Simons Island, off the coast of Georgia. We spent our days trying to eat our weight in peaches and BBQ, boogie boarding in the warm coastal waters just outside our back door, watching the spectacular rainstorms, hunting for sea turtle nests, and biking into town for ice cream.

This being the southeastern US in July, we had to physically work at breathing. That's how thick the air was. It was like Hawaii without the floral fragrance. Gradually we got used to it but never the humidity. We were always hot and sticky, and slightly uncomfortable. Still, I loved it.

The beach home was easily the nicest home we have ever rented. It was tastefully ongepotchket -- if there is such a thing as tasteful ongepotchket. Our time there felt like were were staying in a friend's home, a friend with an enormous house on three levels with just a pool and a lawn between us and the ocean. It had all those details you'd put in your vacation home if money were no object -- a separate guest house above the garage, four HVAC systems, washers and dryers on each floor that had bedrooms, a poolside cabana, a bucket on a pulley system to move cold drinks from the second floor kitchen to the ground floor pool, iPad controlled music, and on and on. I loved that house so much that I came home and sketched the layout so that if I get the chance to build an ocean or lakefront home, I can replicate it.

Fast forward to last week, where we visited Capitola-by-the-Sea, an easy 90 minute drive south of Danville. Capitola is near Santa Cruz and there we stayed walking distance from both Capitola Beach and New Brighton Beach. The village reminded me of St. Simons Island with its requisite ice cream, t-shirt and home decor shops. But the water was much colder and the beach more crowded. We went to Santa Cruz one evening and took a short bike ride with friends to the lighthouse and Natural Bridges Beach.

This weekend we're in Bolinas, 15 miles north of San Francisco as the crow flies. Marin County has some of the country's most expensive real estate. Location, location, location and all. The majority of the cars were of two types: new Audis or old Subarus, both sporting surfboard racks.

Bolinas is a hidden gem and the hippie dippie locals like it that way. In fact, there are no signs leading from Highway 1 to Bolinas. You're either in the know or using GPS. There's one restaurant, one bar, the post office, three art galleries, a general store, and two surf shops. In the surf shops are the tiniest wetsuits I have ever seen, wetsuits suitable for toddlers. I kid you not. (Bad pun.) We're staying in a cottage next to one of the art galleries. It's 500 steps from our front door to the beach. While Capitola was cute in a stereotypical way, this area is mindblowing for its natural beauty. The unmarked road here is lined with redwood and cypress trees, and the Bolinas Lagoon sits on one side of the town while the ocean is on the other. The colors shift from beige to grey to blue to the reds and oranges associated with sunset. Shoes are optional. Bras are optional. Haircuts and hair color are optional, for both sexes. Clothing is optional for kids on the beach. Wet suits appear to be de rigueur, though, as that water is cold!

Three beach towns on two coasts. Three very different experiences. The next beaches on our list are Meeks Bay, Kaanapali, and Manzanita.