By NJ NAKAMURA
Mendocino is a charming, charming, quaint and charming village. It was like going back in time to the mid 1800’s because the entire village is a historical, preserved place. Old buildings can’t be torn down and any new ones must follow the same architectural design of the village, which is New England style Victorian. There were white picket fences and blooming flowers everywhere. The ocean roared and crashed on three sides of the village, because Mendocino is located on a tiny peninsula along California’s Highway 1.
After driving three hours from San Francisco, we cruised through the village, straight to the Kelley Museum. We arrived just in time to join the museum’s walking tour, which was led by a friendly and talkative fellow. He was dressed like a gentleman from the 1840s and he could describe the life and times of the village people as if he had actually experienced it all. Yes, we walked and paused for two hours, but that’s the only way to really see everything on a personal and detailed level.
Since history is my favorite subject, it was more than interesting to learn of the logging days and the special saws that were used to cut down those majestic, giant redwood trees. Then there were hundreds of hard working Chinese laborers, who transported those redwood logs to the lumber mill. We learned of the fire that destroyed the lumber mill as well as many buildings in the village. However, the most attention grabbing information was the value of water.
There are water towers everywhere because the town’s only source of water, other than bottled drinking water, is ground water. Instead of the original windmills from the old days, electrical pumps now suck up water from the underground springs; which is then filtered by osmosis and finally, enters the building’ s plumbing system. There is only a limited supply of ground water for a maximum number of people. Therefore, the water that is available for each dwelling limits the expansion of residential or commercial buildings.
So, I was horrified to find out that our bathroom faucet had a leaky drip, even after I had firmly shut off the hot water knob. How many gallons of water were trickling down the drain? What a waste of such a valuable life giving resource. This needed to be fixed!
Other than a leaky bathroom faucet, our stay at the Headland’s Inn was wonderful. This bed and breakfast dwelling was built in 1868 and has six guest rooms plus a romantic cottage. It offers the historic charm of teatime and sherry from 4 to 7 p.m. and the modern conveniences of free high-speed Wi-Fi for Internet computer access and free unlimited telephone calls within the U.S. It is also located in the most ideal part of the village. It is two blocks to the cliff’s edge where stairs lead down to the rocky shore and is just a short block to a café, which opens at dawn.
Our room on the second floor had it’s own ocean view deck with two Adirondack chairs, and a round table with an additional two chairs. The deck was probably 27 feet long and 9 feet wide; according to my guesstimations, using a heel to toe step by step measurement. No, my feet are not 12 inches long, but I can guess that length. Our room was spacious with a pot-belly wood burning stove which was filled with logs and kindling, a four poster featherbed with a down duvet, a vase of fresh flowers on a dining table where we ate our breakfasts, a stuffed arm chair and a private bath.
Also, the breakfasts were a picture perfect experience. A knock on the door at 8:45 indicated that breakfast had arrived. What a beautiful sight it was! The large breakfast tray that had been left outside our door was overflowing with carefully prepared gourmet delights on vintage English China. There were warm muffins, fresh fruit and juices, a carafe of coffee, and a main entrée of peach stuffed French toast one morning and then a fluffy egg soufflé with salsa the next morning.
Midway through my breakfast, I noticed a tiny blue flower on my peach-stuffed French toast. I turned to my husband and said, “Look at this pretty, little flower that was added for decoration.” Then, we both looked at his dishware and couldn’t find his flower, meaning…oh-oh, he ate it already. Well, so much for decorations.
The fire alarm went off Sunday morning at 6:50 a.m. It sounded like the air raid alarm I used to hear every Friday morning while growing up in the San Fernando Valley. My first selfish thought was, “Oh no, now I have to go outside in my night clothes!” Thank goodness, the fire station blasted only one scream of the fire alarm horn, which meant it was just a test. So, that was my wake up call to get out of bed and start my morning. A stroll through the village at dawn was a sure way to work up an appetite for another scrumptious breakfast.
Since we had already taken the village walking tour, we felt pretty confident exploring the quaint little streets bordered with moss, ferns and flowers. There was Frankie’s ice cream & pizza parlor, the fancy Café Beaujolais for upscale French cuisine, several bakeries nestled within garden walkways and many, many gift shops.
We were very fortunate to have the luxury of a clear blue sky, light breeze and 80 degrees, “perfect weather.” This meant, it was not the usual foggy, windy or stormy weather for September. During our evening stroll, the fog did roll in and I could feel the dampness on my face. My hair started to become frizzy too. Yet, I didn’t care because a peaceful walk with a head of frizzy hair was worth it.
Many movies and television shows have been filmed in Mendocino. Remember the movies “Summer of ‘42” with Jennifer O’Neill, “Overboard” with Goldie Hawn, and “Dying Young” with Julia Roberts? We even saw the house used by Angela Lansbury to represent her home in Cabot Cove, New England in the show, “Murder She Wrote.” I think the movie studios seek out Mendocino for it’s beautiful, old-fashioned scenery of New England.
This visit to small town America was a treat. Hearing the church bells ring on Sunday morning and being able to walk to nearby eateries, shops and the beach was a smiling experience. The people were friendly and a shopkeeper even went out of her way to direct me to my next, desired destination.
As a picturesque, coastal village, Mendocino offers fresh air and stress reducing beauty. Yes, it’s a long drive from Los Angeles, but it’s a magical place that is waiting for my next visit.