13 July 2006

We had a grand time in Gualala

After wending our way up the Coastal Highway 1, we arrived at our destination in under two hours. Our room at the Whale Watch Inn was called Reflection. It was nicely appointed with a large round mirror at the entrance, a large Jacuzzi tub, a fireplace, nice seating area and Queen bed. But the crowning feature was the spectacular view we had from the private balcony, overlooking a peaceful cove of the Pacific. A gentle breeze wafted in as we decompressed from our ride.

Friday evening we dined at a restaurant called Top of the Cliff. It touted itself as a fine dining experience, but I can assure you it was far from that. I should have known better when I saw it was situated atop a strip mall of souvenir shops. But we took a chance. The soup and salad was adequate but it preceded downhill from there. My Love’s main course was to have been a Hot Pot of Seafood consisting of Prince Edward Island Mussels, clams, snapper, salmon, scallops and prawns in a mussel broth topped with puff pastry. The pastry was over cooked and charred in places and the shellfish ended up being much work for less results. For my entrĂ©e I chose the Flame Broiled Swordfish with spicy mango salsa. I usually love swordfish and when I hear steak I expect something substantial but this “steak” was a mere half-inch thick (if that), the “salsa” was simply cut up tart mango, and bell peppers. The side dishes were a rice and nut dish, that lack any keenness and about four green beans laid atop a teaspoon of wilted spinach. The food was not the only disappointment. A solo acoustic guitarist provided the evening’s “entertainment”. I usually give a lot breadth to performers who eke out a living playing music but this guy left as much to be desired as the food. His first number was either a medley of Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant and Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice or just a badly played Alice’s Restaurant. Then he took a break and made a trip to the bar. The second song was Stairway to Heaven (yes he did) and another trip to the bar. Finally he played Hotel California. It was like a bad flashback to the seventies, man.

Ultimately, adding insult to injury, when the bill arrived we observed that the waitress had miscalculated and attempted to over-charge us by $10. My advise to anyone considering a trip to this area, try the Oceansong instead. Better yet for just a little bit more have a truly memorable fine dining experience and go to the St. Orres as we did the following night.

We returned to our lovely room and consoled ourselves with a luxurious bath, crackling fire and watched the moonlight dance on the water.

Saturday we awoke to a glorious morn with sunlight streaming into our room. Our breakfast was brought to our door and consisted of delectable eggs benedict, and strawberries and cream, coffee, English tea and juice. Absolutely delicious it was.

We then set out to do some exploring in Gualala, stopping into a couple of galleries and back to those souvenir shops that were closed the night before. We acquired a few gifts and things and then heeded south to the Enchanted Chapel in Sea Ranch. What a beautiful and fabulous little building tucked just off the road. We spent a quiet respite there before heading back north and into Point Arena.

Point Arena is a trippy little town that deserved much more exploring than we were able to give it this trip; a real throw back it is. We found the light house and took some photos from a distance, barked at some lazy seals lounging on the rocks below us and then decided to head back to our hotel where we descended the 136 steps to the beach below. The weather was magnificent, toasty warm with a hint of breeze and waves gently lapping at the shore. We discovered a lovely waterfall from Ferguson Creek. But all too soon we needed to ascend the steps and get ready for our evening meal.

The St. Orres is a masterpiece of architecture and culinary artistry. I highly recommend. After the previous night’s disappointment, we chose to go all out. For the soup course My Love chose the warm Fennel soup and I chose the cold watermelon soup. This was my first experience with a cold soup and it was delicious, top with a spot of whipped cream and a blackberry, it easily could have passed for a dessert. Next we had appetizers of chilled oysters on the half shell and baby abalone. This was my first try with abalone and it was delicious. The salad course was a fresh tomato and basil vinaigrette and goat cheese. Not being a huge fan of fresh tomatoes I might have opted for something else had it been offered but this was a tasty and visually lovely dish. For the main course I had the prawns on a bed of garlic fettuccini and my dining companion had the pheasant stuffed with Andouille sausage and Wild Mushroom Risotto Cakes. Everything was exquisite. And though we should not have, we ordered dessert. For me something called Chocolate Decadence, a sweet chocolate treat that was almost a dense as chocolate fudge with a brownie cake like texture, topped with whipped cream. Decadent indeed! My Love had the light and fluffy cheesecake. We almost needed a wheelbarrow to lug our butts back to the car.

Then another luxurious bath in the Jacuzzi tub, toasty fire and gazing out over the balcony in our birthday suits, watching a million dazzling diamonds dancing on the water in the silvery moonlight reflection. To feel so very posh, makes one truly grateful.

I slept so peacefully being lulled by the rhythm of the waves gently caressing the shore. In the morning we had another delicious breakfast, French toast with jammy cream cheese middle, a fruit salad of melon, blueberries and strawberries and blueberry muffin. Excllent!

After a quick jaunt down to the cove for a brief farewell to the playfull sea otters gathered there, we said our goodbyes to our charming innkeeper Kazuko Popplewell and promised to return as soon as we could.

To be continued…

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