The Meanderthals

Who’s the Celebrity now?

I guess everyone has their idea of a celebrity and of who /what needs to be pampered and taken care of.

And after spending three days in Los Angeles, it’s easy to get swept up in the glitz and glamour and to see the world through the tinted lens of the movie-maker in search of a new starlet.

I have to say, I’m somewhat haunted by the image I saw while driving out of a parking garage in Westwood when a shiny blue Rolls Royce pulled out onto the ramp, driven by an elderly woman with a very high-strung facelift.

While I was reminded by Emme that this is NOT your typical LA scene, I know that Skip and I feel much more at home somewhat north of this region, where the celebrities are now the sea otter and the elephant seal.

Although, today did start with an interesting visit to a very interesting place. The Madonna Inn. I’d heard of this place for years when I lived in California and was dying to see what it looked like so we dropped in for a visit to see the hotel with 110 theme rooms and the kitschiest, most over-the-top accommodation you’ve ever seen. No, it wasn’t named after the rock star or the Virgin Mary – it was created by a man named Alex Madonna who, back in the 50s, had a vision. And, oh, what a vision he had! You have to see it to believe it (and it’s certainly top of our list of places to stay when we’re next in the area).

Heading up the breathtakingly beautiful coastal road toward San Francisco, we made more than a few stops along the way to admire, take photographs or poke around the quaint seaside towns (Cambria has become our favorite so far). But the sign which most compelled us to stop was “Elephant Seal Viewing Area Ahead”.

We both looked at one another and smirked. A seal viewing area? How on earth could anyone predict all the seals would come to this one spot?

Nonetheless, we pulled over – and soon ate our words. At first glance we were amused to see a handful of seals frolicking in the surf. Then, 100 yards along, on a wide sandy beach, we saw not a handful, not a few dozen, but hundreds and hundreds of the bulbous shiny mammals rolling on the shore, back to back, pushed up against one another, barking, throwing sand and (per the season) starting to shed their skins.

I’ve never in my life seen so many in one place and learned from the ranger that this particular spot is home to so many creatures due to its sheltered location and wide beach which is safe for breeding and giving birth to the pups.

We also learned that seals can dive to a depth of 5,000 feet and that their natural predators are sharks and killer whales which linger far from the shore to catch the young as they swim out to sea. He told us that somewhere in the region of 450 pups are born on this beach and that about 10 percent of them were washed out to sea or died of insufficient access to food.

After being fascinated by these extraordinary beasts, we climbed back into the car and continued to be mesmerized. For those of you who’ve driven this road, you understand what I mean. Sheer cliffs plunging down to the Pacific on one side and soaring to an azure blue sky on the other. Splashes of vivid color on the side of the road when brilliant orange and purple flowers spill out from the rocks. Soft, rolling fog blurring the edges of the cliffs as you climb higher and higher over the ocean. Gnarled cypress trees stretching their arms across chasms of mossy fern. It’s truly a magnificent sight.

One of our stops along the way was for lunch in Big Sur and I was struck once again by the contrasts in this little town. It feels to me as though part of it is still holding onto time with its aging hippies, campsites, Henry Miller memories and meditation retreats, while the other side presents a showcase of chic resorts, sports cars and spa trips from the city.

Once again, however, we feel extremely fortunate to be in this area before the season begins. To be able to drive along the Pacific Coast highway on a Monday afternoon, drop in at the beautiful Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur and, much of the time, to be the only car on the road.

One comment

  • Francie

    Complete heaven. I remember so well driving along this stretch of coast and feeling miniaturized by it. I also remember stopping for the night in fog, hastily pitching a tent by the car for sleep, and waking to discover that we were literally 12 feet from the edge of a sheer drop to the ocean below. It is an incredible part of the world, once you leave LA!xo fbk

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