Monday, March 12, 2012

I don't expect you to agree with me

shudder
I spent the last three days in Big Sur for a story and I'll tell you here what I almost surely won't say in the article which is that I find this place dreadful in the most primal sense of the word. It's incredibly beautiful. That (borrowed) picture doesn't begin to capture the Caribbean blue inlets, the waterfalls, the soaring raptors, the enormous sky. Wow! Beautiful. But Snow White's stepmother is also very beautiful, at least in the Disney movie.

The Pacific Ocean makes me deeply uneasy. Always has. I think it's beautiful, but I also think it's a terrible and annihilating body of water, loud and angry and powerful and it never, ever shuts up. It crashes and roars and smashes itself against rocks and occasionally out of this tumult comes a sleeper wave. The Pacific Ocean is also icy cold. If you get the crazy idea of taking a swim in the freezing water, look around for the sign warning you of dangerous undertow, perhaps featuring a drowning stick figure. The sign is always there. It should be heeded, unless you are a surfer in which case, I am in awe of you. Go with God. My mother's friend Nicole drowned in the Pacific.

Worst of all, the Pacific is full of great white sharks.

Anyway, the Pacific is pretty integral to the Big Sur experience. The other thing about Big Sur: cliffs. Big Sur is essentially one very high, very long cliff overlooking the frigid home of the great white sharks. I can't drive in Big Sur without thinking how easy it would be to accidentally steer off of a cliff. Just one little slip of the hand while replacing the disc in the CD player. . .

It's very beautiful. Really! It's beautiful and scary, at least if you're me. You should come here some day.

Also, there's wonderful food.

my favorite Big Sur landscape
I don't usually drink chai, but the chai at the Big Sur Bakery is incredible, like a nectar in a fairy story. I dipped the donut (homemade) in the chai and spent a very happy three minutes over breakfast on Saturday morning. I went back in the afternoon for another chai, and then went back for dinner and ordered the roast chicken -- brined and cooked in the wood-fired oven -- which was pricey, but great, great, great. I've come around on the Big Sur Bakery since I first visited a couple of years ago. The young husband-wife owners used to work at Campanile and I read their book over the weekend. It charmed me. Yesterday, on the way to hike to a waterfall, I stopped in and bought a really terrific oatmeal-raisin cookie. When I'm done with banana bread, I'm going after oatmeal cookies.

More banana bread claptrap coming your way soon. I drive home today. Actually, right now.

15 comments:

  1. Was their oatmeal cookie great?

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  2. I completely agree with you about big sur, and the pacific occean, though i never could have articulated it so well.

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  3. This is exactly how I felt about the Grand Canyon this fall (sans body of water), especially with a 5 and 7 year old in tow. Terrifying. It's all coming back to me. Beyond terrifying.

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  4. Totally get the cliff-fear. We're moving to Naples this summer, and I'm already stressing out about driving to the Amalfi Coast (poor me, I know.) For about three seconds I thought how great it would be to hike the Walkway of the Gods as a family. Then I had a vision of my now 2 year old running full-speed for the horizon, because that's what he does. He's a pinball, and I don't think he'll ever be old enough for me to trust him on a cliff. I don't trust the ocean, either. Nature, in general, I guess. lol

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  5. I agree that Big Sur is beautiful. My issue is more with the chilly climate. Oh, and don't try driving on that stretch of PCH at night, unless you're familiar with the terrain. I don't think I've ever been so tense driving.

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  6. @Kristin -- emphatically YES. There were only 2 cookies left in the whole display case. That is my one concern about the bakery, that the two afternoons I stopped in they were basically cleaned out.
    @anonymous -- thank you!
    @Marisa -- I agree.
    @Ei -- Amalfi Coast! That would be big incentive to overcome acrophobia. I've only seen it in movies.

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  7. @anonymous 3:12 -- I had to drive it the other night and it was miserable and nerve-wracking. I agree about the chilly weather, but it was so sunny all weekend I couldn't really complain. Then I drove home this afternoon and talk about chilly, overcast weather.

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  8. Thank you for your very correct summation of cliffs and ocean. I can't go into the ocean with any kind of emotional peace, and then never above my waist. Lousy sharks.

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  9. there is something about being on an edge of a cliff that makes me want to lie down....and the only time I was ever carsick was on PCH. The Pacific in Hawaii is doable, less sharky too. I admire your self restraint as evidenced by your one doughnut breakfast.

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  10. Actually, I feel basically the same way about the Pacific. It is one terrifyingly huge field of energy that could destroy me at any second. Some people love to be lulled to sleep by the sound of it. Not me. When I have vacation in Hawaii I lie awake all night thinking about how easily that ocean could swallow me.

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  11. I knew someone who died driving the PCH late at night. And I went to a party once at the house of a woman whose toddler daughter was swept out to sea in the Pacific. She refused to make eye contact with my little girls. And the thought of the ocean always makes me feel cold. I think about whales and I pity them having to live in the cold ocean. But I don't have a fear of heights. Just cold.

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  12. I live just 45 minutes south, so we are frequently in the Big Sur area. It is a principal reason we moved to California.

    The Big Blue is an awesome power and force but it churns up so much fresh air. It empowers with oxygen and even more subtly on the molecular level, or so I have come to believe.

    The Redwood forests of Big Sur have offer their own peaceful and healing power. Yes, Yes for the food at the establishments along the coast. But do come a little south, into San Luis Obispo County and drive over toward Paso Robles in the state's most productive wine region. No sea to frighten or unnerve you, but you will see a sea of undulating highlands and coastal mountains giving way to waves of vineyards. Wonderful wine and many, many wonderful places to discover new dining ecstasy.

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  13. "When I'm done with banana bread, I'm going after oatmeal cookies."

    When you go after oatmeal cookies, I hope you wil find some good oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Thanks

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  14. Oh, Big Sur -- we spent our honeymoon there, so it's extra-special to me. PLEASE tell me you got to eat at Nepenthe? Lovely view, lovelier food.

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  15. Many, many years ago my husband and I were in San Francisco and driving south on our way to Arizona. We live in Chicago, it was just after Christmas and it was rather warm in California we thought the sun would be out way longer than it was. Being a real tourist we had to see SF and finally set out south around 4pm down PCH. He never drove it before and as it was too late to turn around, (where?)he drove the whole thing at nite. We knew there was an ocean somewhere, we could hear it, thank God we couldn't see just how high up we were! Guess God does protect drunks and dummies, as I am here 30 years later to tell about it. Thanks for jogging the memory. Rosalie

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