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Trip Report "Little" trip report (day trip down the CA coast part-way)

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I thought about adding this to the Monterey-big Sur thread, but it turned out its more trip-report-ish than I intended, so I decided to make it into one in case it might help someone. Yesterday was broiling hot in NoCal, we decided to take a trip (have convertible, will travel). We got in the Z and left home (a suburb just south of SFO) about 10:15, and returned home around 8:30 p.m.

Fist stop - Capitola - cute little beach town. I think I 've only been here once before, despite living in NoCal for 36 years. The water itself didn't look so great (kelp beds?), but the beach is nice, the atmosphere pleasant, the town "adorable". We didn't end up eating at any of the beach restaurants because we decided to head out of town after a little more than an hour. Unless you're actually spending time on the beach, which we were not, I wouldn't really plan for more than an hour or two. We ate at Gayle's Bakery (on the way into/out of Capitola). Very confusing service - take a number, order, pay, sit (sounds right, but it wasn't that easy!) - but good food. My DH had a tri-tip sandwich, I had 3 salads (sold by weight) - fruit, green beans and chicken/potato - that were tasty.

Next up - coastal drive. We just kept driving, and knowing about how far Nepenthe is, we decided that would be the "terminus" of our trip (after all, we weren't planning on staying over, and home is about 1-3/4 hours north of Carmel). It was a spectacular day, the coast was gorgeous. For those concerned about this drive, I can only speak for (to?) the part from Capitola to Nepenthe. Yes, it's very curvy, but it's not particularly narrow (the lanes are "full-size") and there was not a single hairpin turn in that stretch (maybe there are farther south, although I can't fathom why, but there definitely were not on this stretch). There are tons of turn-outs if you want to stop and admire the view.

Nepenthe - We haven't been here in a million (at least!) years. Oh my god, the views are phenomenal. We had a snack at the Kevah cafe, then went upstairs to the restaurant to see the views from there (even better), took a spin through the gift shop (which has some local items, and some non-local, which honestly annoys me -- if you're going to sell jam in Big Sur, does it really have to come from Washington State?), and headed north, in search of Pfeiffer Beach.

Pfeiffer Beach - wow, this was as hard to find as everyone said, even with the very specific (.6 miles south of the Ranger Station) directions we had. Contrary to what Stu said, there is not a single sign in either direction indicating the beach is there (maybe there used to be signs). I guess you just have to be a Fodors' member to know. So, heading south, the turn-off is .6 miles south of the Ranger Station (which is on your left, the turn-off, of course, is on your right). It's a downhill road and the only sign say something like "Steep Slopin Road". Heading north, it's just north of the Loma Vista "rest stop" (restaurants and shops) and immediately past a yellow sign that indicates there's an intersection coming up. The road down to the beach is 2 miles long, all downhill but fairly gradual, but not in great condition, and very narrow (about 1-1/2 lanes wide, so you do have to be aware of oncoming vehicles). It's $5.00 to enter, and American the Beautiful passes are not accepted. It was so worth the $5.00. OMG, this place is magnificent. The beach (which does shimmer purple -- it's not like the beach is all purple sand, but there's a definitely "tint") , the rock formations are stunning, the water is dramatic and the waves awesome. This is NOT (at least yesterday it wasn't) a place to swim. It's a place to sit on the beach, admire, but not swim (anyway, we were walking along the beach and got hit with the water, and it was beyond freezing!).

Decided to drive into Pacific Grove, having never been there. We got there a little too late (oh no, we have to go back) as most of the shops were closed. But we were hungry, and remembered that there were restaurant recommendations on here a few days ago. Thank goodness for portable internet. We found Passionfish, but didn't think we were appropriately dressed (shorts and tank top) so we went in (it was 5:10 and I asked -- they said yes we are serving dinner, and you are dressed just fine), so we sat down. We were so surprised - by the time we left at 6:30, the place was practically full (everyone was casually dressed, by the way, many in shorts). We loved this restaurant. The attitude is just so friendly, it was very appealing. Very nice owner (the woman who told us we "were fine"), excellent server, even nice co-diners. Most of all, the food is outstanding. My DH said he thought the salmon was the best he'd ever had. He had the summer squash soup and I had the heirloom tomato salad. Then we shared the two dinner specials - wild coho salmon (isn't that really trout ?) and some local specialty called sea spot shrimp I think -- never had them before. Messy like eating a whole lobster, but worth it! Dessert was raspberries with vanilla ice cream in a cabernet sauce -- the sauce was scrumptious. Even the butter was delicious (honey infused). The ONLY negative was that the vanilla ice cream was too hard to eat at first. Really really enjoyed this place. We didn't have any alcohol, and the bill (with sparkling water, coffee and tea) was $91.00.

Listened to the Giants all the way home - perfect end to a great day!!

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