A Coastal Anniversary - Part One, Fort Bragg

We took a five day trip recently to celebrate the nine year anniversary of our wedding day. Every year we take a trip, used to be just us, and now it's our whole family. This trip is a little different than many of our other trips because we step it up just a little notch, usually (not last year) staying in rooms or cabins rather than camping to treat ourselves. This year was our longest anniversary trip yet: four nights in cottagey-motels, five days along the coast!

Anderson Valley Brewery was our first stop after way too many hours in our van (whose air conditioning unit is not functioning, and it was over a hundred degrees all through the valley). Lucy was dog tired but would never really let herself fall to sleep, too concerned about where we were, when we'd arrive, and how many more minutes we'd be in the car. Polly had napped, but was ready for some food and some action! We hit the ground running. Thankfully this place is family and picnic-friendly. We stopped at the tiny little market deli in Boonville for some french bread and got cheeses, hummus, and fruit from our cooler for a little picnic.

I love this brewery because it feels about a hundred miles from anything (because it is) and it is totally down to earth. Most of all I love the big garden outdoor area with cornhole and horseshoes and hay bales, shade and a fountain. Beyond the garden area are horse pastures, a wide view of green open land. It was the perfect spot for the girls to run around and Darin and I to kick back for a little while. I can't remember the names of our brews, but we each had a saison; mine was hoppy and his was sour, and we were happy.

After a pleasant drive through the forest, that exciting first view of the ocean (Polly was thrilled) and a cool and breezy drive up Hwy 1, we found Shoreline Cottages easily and checked in to our little room. We just had a standard room but that included two queen beds and a tiny kitchen, so we were completely set. The place has lovely grounds and flowers, an oudoor firepit with chairs set up around it, a bbq, picnic tables, and a hot tub. 

It was cool enough here that the hot tub always sounded inviting. We tried it right away and let out that big collective sigh of perfect bliss we'd been hoping for. The whole place was pretty quiet and no one else was ever using the hot tub when we wanted to, which was nice since the girls wanted to practice their swimming kicks and back floats! So. Fun. Take me back already!

That night we went to pizza at Piaci's, which we remembered from our last Fort Bragg trip when I was pregnant with Lucy.  (oddly, in three posts, this place didn't make it in the blog, although we loved it then and we loved it this time too). 

It's way tiny and crowded, set up around a wonderfully busy bar, but the girls were antsy. I took about one sip of my wine before leaving with them on a walk on the old train tracks while Darin waited for our pizza. 

Lucy loved the Star Wars windows. She makes Darin tell her Star Wars stories all the time. (I'm sadly so Star Wars illiterate that I can't remember who is whose dad or sister, or which letters and numbers formulate each droid's name...so I opt out.)

I wore an old favorite which I hardly ever wear because it tears so easily. Anyone have recommendations for caring for vintage Indian cotton?

Next morning, we had coffee at Headlands, which felt cozy and familiar since we spent so much time there before. I always used to get my classic "Darin and coffee mug" photo on trips at coffee shops. Now it's Darin trying to pause for half a second while two little girls bounce off the walls. 

We bring reinforcements.

The girls have a constant refrain, breathlessly spoken: "Hi my name is Lucy and I'm three," and almost at the same time, 'And I'm Polly and I'm two." Or Lucy will be saying, "This is my sister Polly and she's two." while Polly is trying to pipe in. It's so fun to see how different people react to them. Many just ignore them, nod, or look away, continuing on. (I don't blame them, and the girls don't seem to mind much.) Others stop and introduce themselves right back, "Hi, my name is Ron and I'm 56" much to the girls' delight. These parents introduced their two little girl twins, since my girls were staring anyway. ;) 

After coffee we explored downtown a little bit. Mostly we hung out at The Bookstore, picking up a few treasures of course. To Polly's delight, there was a baby hanging out whose mama was the owner I believe. Polly couldn't stop talking about her after the grandma showed up to take the children to the park. Even days later when going to a park, Polly wondered if "the baby" would be there.

Instead of the park that day, we headed down to the beach. But first, the bridge. One of the best things about hanging out with two and three year olds is that a bridge is just as exciting as the huge vast Pacific Ocean. The day is full of wonders.

Seaweed jumprope.

"A globe!" 

I just had to take the cliche "barefoot at the beach" photo. I was looking down at these pups and saying thank you. Thank you for feeling better in time for this trip. Thank you for walking me across a bridge and onto the sand and across the beach and rocks with my little girls. I don't think I've mentioned it here but in early June I got a foot injury stemming from running that started as metatarsalgia (balls of feet were sore under the middle three toes) and turned into a stress fracture in my left foot that basically disabled me. My dad had to pick up crutches for me at the thrift store just about a week and a half before this. Luckily it was only that bad for a couple days and staying off it seemed to help. I studied a lot about how the bones in one's feet can mend themselves and grow stronger with some use, but at first I carefully stayed off it and then I transitioned into supportive shoes. (Blech!) On the trip I still had to wear my Keens most of the time (not my most ladylike look) but my bones healed nicely and I really think this trip did them some good. 

This feels good after the beach.

We had stopped at Windsong, Fort Bragg's other bookstore, and picked up a few more books. Here was our bounty so far:

We walked through the grounds behind the motel to get to the hot tub. There's this cool little "surf shack," (I'm not sure of it's purpose)  surrounded by flowers, and Lucy was wearing her Bourbon Street hat, so naturally a photo was in order.

It was so nice to be in the coastal climate, especially coming from a heat wave through the valley. What a dream to throw on a light sweater, or to relax in a hot tub on a cool afternoon, and yet somehow the beach also didn't feel too cold for swimsuits and a bit of wading, and a gentle sun kept our skin perfectly warm next to the water. It was all just right. I don't think I sweated once until we headed back east again.

Post-soak happy-dance.

Since this was our actual anniversary, June 30, I put on my white eyelet "anniversary dress," which you may remember from previous posts. My mom made it for me and I wore it for the dancing part of our backyard wedding nine years ago, and I've worn it every year since, even through two pregnancies. This dress contains a lot of happy memories. Tootie stood on the picnic table to take our photo.

After our little photo shoot, we headed to another old favorite, North Coast Brewery. They have a lot of brews that we both really like, plus we remembered loving their nachos. Unfortunately, that's about it for vegetarians, (plus no kids' menu)  but luckily the girls enjoy nachos these days too, so we just shared two plates of them as a family and all was well. 

For my kids, restaurant patience can only last so long. I'm pretty jealous of people who have kids that do really well in restaurants. 

We wrapped up the night back in our cozy room lazily not-really-watching Oz the Great and Powerful on cable tv which we don't have at home, eating Ben and Jerry's straight out of the carton and looking at our new books. 

The next morning we headed south from Fort Bragg and stopped off at Point Cabrillo Light Station. I took this exact same photo when we were here before and I was six months pregnant
Now we have our two romping merry little girls practicing their skipping down the same path. 

This is also where Polly made up her newest hit, "Everybody Holding Hands," as we walked along. (Find me on Instagram if you'd like a sample.)

They were so excited when they could see the lighthouse in the distance.

It was so fun to take my girls back to the lightkeeper's house that I was so charmed by before, and show them the kitchen utensils and the antique kids' toys and try to imagine a life like this long ago.
Not so fun to keep my girls behind the velvet rope though! Polly tried to ride the old rocking horse and they both kept trying to go up the stairs.

But even better was the little aquarium shack, where we found answers to the whale questions that lined the walk on the way down, and the girls got to touch abalone shells and starfish and peek inside a large fish tank. 

And then, the lighthouse itself. Some Coast Guard workers were doing maintenance on the light; it's so cool to know that it's still a functional lighthouse.

The girls each got to choose a small stuffed animal from the lighthouse gift shop, and these critters became their prized babies for the rest of the trip and beyond. Lucy got the cougar kitten, (she named her Popoki) and Polly chose an opossum (she named her Pickle.)  We roamed and sat and enjoyed the view awhile and listened to barking seals. 

By the way, this place is so wonderful and there are two other turn of the century keepers' houses that have been remodeled and are available for rent! It seems like such a dream vacation to me, and they're big enough for a group: anybody care to join us? 

We stopped in at the most charming town on earth, Mendocino, for coffee and a visit to the toy store. 
It's probably my favorite toy shop in all the world, with every perfect thing that speaks to my heart: dragons and puppets and wooden dollhouses and trains. My girls went nuts. I particularly loved the back corner full of art supplies; Lucy got a puzzle to do while we had coffee next door, and Polly got a ball that I was told is indestructible. 

(We were fending off some mega cranky time by this point.) 

Making the new friends kiss.

Just a short sweet little ramble through Mendocino and we were on the road again, heading south along the most enchanting highway in the world, heading for our next two nights in Bodega Bay.


Anonymous said…
Oh Heather, this trip tugs at my heart! So beautiful, and it seems like the kind of thing your girls will remember and treasure little details from even after the strange amnesia of post 4 year old life sets in wiping away most that comes before it. Two things: looking at that photo of you and the girls on the beach, it's like being transported into the future, there's a time-space wormhole in that photo. I can so picture them and others looking at it in the future as a "vintage photo," peering at the image of their beautiful mama. It's one of those iconic ones--hard to describe, but it gave me an almost eerie feeling of the passage of time and what is and will be--the way that we look at family photos from the 40s found by chance in a thrift shop or the like, a lovely most precious moment made visible.
Also, I had A House is a House for Me as a kid and loved it! It's so perfectly 70s in its proud multiracial illustrations and freewheeling inventiveness. I just grabbed it from my parents' house a few months ago for my own toddler to enjoy.
Loved this post! Thank you for sharing all this tender, bittersweet (because of ephemeral and achingly lovely) joy.

Popular posts from this blog

Twin Lakes Tradition

pretty baby

Anniversary Paradise - part 1