Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Day in Big Sur

Hi. I'm here! Well, mostly - here meaning, in California. Apologies to all as this has probably been the longest stretch I've had on The Hungry Roach without sharing my adventures with you. Summer is one of those bittersweet times in New York City. It's the time of year that the city simply clears out as most offices embrace some sort of summer hours policy or, if not, the heat is enough to drive you right out. So, here I sit - in cool, southern California, bracing for tonight's red-eye only to drop me off right in the middle of a typical, New York City summer heatwave. But, in all honesty, that's the fun of living in New York. The city keeps you on your toes, so much so that you just might be forced to get out and explore. And this summer, I have definitely taken advantage of escaping the heat.

One of my latest summer excursions landed me in Big Sur, California - en route from San Diego to San Francisco. I could have easily spent a week in this area, but we were only given one day to cover the grounds. But, let me tell you, we made the most of it. When Big Sur comes to mind, most people think of breathtaking views and amazing hikes. I would like to add "leading to food" at the end of the latter. One day in the Big Sur turned into taking in the landscape, sun, and delicious food. Our journey took us from the south in Morro Bay to an end destination of Carmel. Since there is only about 120 miles of road to cover in that stretch, the day actually never felt too rushed.

I'll let you find your own mini-hikes since those are certainly countless, and I am not going to begin to act as if they are my specialty. What you can start mapping out and basing them around, however, are the food destinations. If you only have one day in Big Sur, get ready to spread out your meals across several destinations. It will certainly be worth every stop as each one will make you gasp - and I mean from the views AND food. When heading north, Lucia Lodge is the perfect first stop after a short hike for lunch #1. The rustic lodge is on the west side of the highway with dining set up so that you are literally eating in the middle of a dramatic seaside cliff. The deck is a must as you can actually dine along the edge and face out as if you are sitting at a bar. I recommend sharing one order of the fish and chips served with malt vinegar and tartar sauce. The order is delicious and huge. And, if you order only one, it will be easier to convince yourself to head to lunch destination #2 in just a couple of hours.

After sneaking in another hike (I promise not to judge how far you go), you will be ready for another feeding in the northern end of Big Sur. And Nepenthe is the perfect next stop to truly take in the region's culture. This is the ultimate hippy destination that still draws crowds of all ages and all types. No matter what time of day you arrive, be prepared for a wait (which is never a bad thing when you have already eaten fish and chips and are staring into the ocean). Whether you are sitting on the exterior deck, the steps with cushions, or by the fire pits, your dining experience will be overlooking the Pacific in the middle of the mountains. The burgers are a must - and another great item to order just one of for two people. This will surely complete the lunch portion of your day.

But, feel free to linger, listening to music or checking out local artisans in order to digest, as just up the road, The Ventana Inn and Spa awaits. You can also pretend to take another mini-hike or just call it cocktail hour and head right up. While I will continue to dream of staying there, I did manage to make myself right at home on their back deck with a cheese plate and glass of wine. Even though the inn is located on the east side of the highway, the view makes you feel as if you are at sea. It is truly the ultimate escape. The full restaurant menu offers an excellent selection of California cuisine. Although, in all honesty, I recommend finding any way possible to claim one of their outside couches on the patio, grabbing a newspaper, and not moving for awhile. Before leaving, it took me a minute to remind myself I wasn't staying there. It was the perfect, relaxing end to what most should consider a packed, active day.

Hopefully, you still have some summer vacations lined up - taking you to cooler, dryer spots - allowing a nice balance of exploration and relaxation. And while the additional thirty-five degrees ahead of me sounds daunting, especially in my cozy fifth floor village apartment, I am trying to think of the good news ahead of me. As the city clears out, the chances of getting into some of the hottest spots gets easier. So, get ready for some NYC posts ahead. See you in the hot city!


Jessica said...

i LOVED Nepenthe! Thanks for bringing me back to that lovely meal with your post.

Kristin | The Pearl Onion said...

Holy cow those views are amazing! I had no idea Big Sur was that beautiful...all the more need of me making a trip out there. Thanks!

GTS said...

Ventana still looks like a magical place along with the other gorgeous spots!!!

Anonymous said...

meg, these photos are incredible! thanks for taking us along... loved this post.

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