Harbor seals bark under the wharf, a dog sits patiently under a picnic table, I’m standing at the rail watching a rubber-suited fisherman crank the winch and lower a crate of fresh rock cod on the dock. This is Lucas Wharf, a high ceilinged, window-walled restaurant in Bodega Bay, where I just lunched, inside, on a mini crab cake dish. (As always, where there’s a culinary specialty that I like, including Dungeness Crabs, I order it in every restaurant.)
After four nights in Santa Rosa, I was exploring the town before an overnight at Bodega Bay Lodge. From the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, most of the 25-mile route heads west on Route 12 (a.k.a Bodega Highway) through Sebastapol, a small town best known for its highly respected Gravenstein apples. According to botanist Luther Burbank — who rode his bike the seven miles between his Santa Rosa home and his Sebastapol farm, daily — “if the Gravenstein could be had throughout the year, no other apple need be grown.”
The road turns decidedly rural past his former farm (and the only gas station en route). The verdant hillsides were amazingly lush from recent rains and formed the backdrop for a nursery, a dairy farm, a fishing pond and orchards. (Though I noticed none as I was driving, some orchards are now planted with vines; in fact, the Sonoma Coast AVA encompasses 500,000 coastal acres.)
The first sign of activity was at a teeny intersection with an antique store, boutique and café in a town named Bodega where I asked directions to a gas station (they rented me a car with a quarter of a tank!) and was told, “A right at the stop sign, five miles along the shore in Bodega Bay.”
It was less than an hour’s drive from Santa Rosa, yet the bay-front fishing village was another world, an authentic, teeny, coastal destination, with a yacht club, a golf club, a marina, a couple of little fishing wharves, a wine tasting studio, some B&Bs and house rentals, but no high-rises. (The California Coastal Commission is strict about building permits.)
After a tasting at Sonoma Coast Winery, which views the marshlands, bay and ocean, I checked into Bodega Bay Lodge. The 83-room, mostly two-story, redwood-shingled complex was discretely built in 1965, hidden behind tall, Monterey cypress trees.
From the balcony, my newly decorated Pacific Coast Upper room overlooked more than the marshlands, bay and ocean — it viewed the pool complex and hot tub below. (Five, ground-level Ocean Club Suites have vaulted ceilings, whirlpool tubs and private patios closer to the bird sanctuary.) Once parked and settled (a staff member carried my luggage up the stairs, taught me how to open the balcony door, start the wood-burning fire and use the TV and coffee pot), I skipped the complimentary wine and cheese hour for a pre-dinner soak. The pool house incorporates a spa lounge and two treatment rooms, each with sauna and shower. (The menu, with a Cabernet Grape Seed scrub, a Warm Shell Massage and a Mom-To-Be Massage, was appealing.)
Chef Brendalee Vialpando reigns over a serious, but not at all formal, locally sourced, farm-to-table menu, where kids are comfortable. I entered Drakes Sonoma Coast Restaurant with its vaulted ceiling and high windows through a terrace with fire pits to Drakes Fireside Lounge, instead of through the front door. Inside, I was served warm focaccia with olive oil and butter. Here, the crab cake was sophisticated; it arrived atop a pepper aioli, was topped with microgreens and served with a tomato-ginger chutney. The duck breast was pink, with multicolored roasted carrots and a homemade jam. And I sipped a Dutton Estates chardonnay.
Families will also appreciate the more casual, grab-and-go (to a picnic table), eateries in town: Fishetarian, The Tides Inn and Spud Point Crab Company, a bit north on Shore Road, near whale watching at Bodega Head. The lodge is ideally located 1,000 feet from a 10-plus minute walk along a trail down to the two-mile beach at Doran Regional Park. This is a protected, safe, kid-and dog-friendly beach. (Surfers head north to Salmon Creek, on the ocean.) Reception provides complimentary parking passes for those who take a car and complimentary bikes for those willing to push them back up the hill.
Bodega Bay Lodge is a find, well worth an add from Napa, Sonoma and San Francisco.
While large areas of Colorado are experiencing exponential growth with far too many trees being clear-cut (it’s one of the fastest-growing states in the country), it’s still the home for great businesses striving to make the world a little greener. Those businesses include Sherpani, creators of women’s day bags, backpacks and travel bags, including a line of sophisticated, beautifully crafted items made from recycled plastic.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
It’s been almost three years since Category 5 Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, wreaking havoc on the island and leaving most residents without electricity and clean water. Tourism, which accounts for 6.5 percent of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product, took a beating, with hotels closed for year-long repairs, airlines cutting service and cruise lines shifting itineraries to other Caribbean destinations. Timing for the hurricane couldn’t have been worse, coming on the heels of the government’s announcement in May 2017 that it was unable to pay more than $70 billion in public debt and thus forced to file for bankruptcy. Large protests and a change of government would follow. Then, in January 2020, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the south side of the island, forcing San Juan restaurants to close while power was restored. And as we write this story, coronavirus runs rampant across the globe with severe economic implications for all destinations, including Puerto Rico.
My youngest daughter and I arrived from Barcelona on the high-speed AVE train (in less than three hours) and entered Westin Palace Madrid in time for the Sunday Opera Brunch — which takes place under the stained-glass cupola of La Rotonda, where daily breakfast and cocktails are served. I’d heard about this event on several occasions when I toured the hotel in 2015, and when my granddaughter and I stayed there in 2017.