I have been going to the Central Coast of California since I was a wee fetus. The trip there in the family station wagon was long for both kids and adults, but as soon as we rose out of the piping hot valley and smelled the cool salty air, we all perked up.
While living in NYC, visits to the sleepy beach towns that dot the central coast were few and far between. Now that Monkey and I live in Los Angeles, we plan on taking every opportunity to enjoy long weekends by the seaside. We have, in fact, spent the last two weekends there!
My favorite towns are Morro Bay and Cayucos. Morro Bay has a touristy strip of shops and seafood joints along the bay, but still maintains its fishing village charm. Cayucos is a quiet surfer town, with beach cottages (most available for vacation rental) that have yet to be torn down and mega-sized. The main street is about 1,000 feet long with no street lights, only one bar, and one gas station. I know a lot of people like Pismo Beach but to me it always seems a little rundown and weary.
Here are some pics from my last two visits – with more to come in the future.
P.S. I am leaving out the pictures of the dead fish head and the gross potato bug that was sunning itself on the rocks. You’re welcome.
This past weekend, Monkey and I took a Metro North train out to the north shore of Long Island to visit a friend. Normally, I spend part of the two-hour journey passing judgement on other passengers: loud cell phone “tawkers;” parents who let their offspring terrorize other travelers while simultaneously spreading animal cracker debris over a ten foot radius; a group of guys in their mid-twenties heading out to a friend’s wedding, each trying to outdo the other with tales of female conquests, gross out stories that involve liquor and vomiting, or debating whose boss is the bigger douche bag. Sadly, this train ride was rather dull. Monkey and I shared some apple slices, then she napped in her carrier whilst I dove into the new Veronica Mars novel on my iPad.
My friend decided to take me to Old Westbury Gardens, which is a stately old mansion sitting on a shitload of land. I wish I could tell you more about its history but, to be honest, I was not paying attention. Why, you ask? Because I was distracted by the weird mannequins they had set up in some of the rooms. This is the first historic home tour I’ve taken where they used fake people to set the scene along with the antique furniture and decorations. We giggled nervously when we first saw them because they were simultaneously wacky and spooky. We both immediately sensed that they came to life at night and threw creepy mannequin parties. See for yourself:
The grounds were lovely though and we spent a fair amount of time strolling around snapping photos of everything. And then we saw it – a small sign along a dirt path: Dog Cemetery. WHAT. Of course the first thing that came to mind was Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery, which scared the living daylights out of me when I was younger, but this pet cemetery turned out to be very sweet. There were seven or so small headstones, some with multiple dog names (not sure what that was about…a puppy flu, perhaps?).
And last, but not least, we saw a mustached monkey:
P.S. Do not eat at the Garden Cafe. Trust me.
Wait. Not literally.
In my younger days I avoided cemeteries, believing that if you walked through a graveyard you would be able to feel all the regrets and unfulfilled desires of those who passed, floating around you like gnats. Yeah, I’m weird. Nowadays I appreciate the peacefulness and serenity of cemeteries. I always wonder as I make my way between the large mausoleums and ornate headstones if the people lying in or beneath them were just wealthy and vain, or truly cherished and memorialized in grand style to reflect how much they were valued by loved ones.
My friend Jill, who also digs cemeteries, suggested we visit Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It is the largest and most beautiful graveyard I have ever seen. After entering through a gorgeous Gothic revival archway you are greeted by a park-like setting with rolling hills, shady trees, ponds and chapels. I actually thought for the first time that this is where I’d like to rest my cremated bones, right next to the koi pond. Jill and I ended up driving around a good portion of it (they offer maps, which you’ll need to navigate all the streets – yes, it is so large it has streets and avenues). There are many famous people buried here, like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein. If you don’t have a car and don’t feel like hoofing it, they have trolley tours on Wednesdays and Sundays. Believe it or not, on the day we visited, a wedding was taking place in one of the chapels.
Governors Island, situated between Manhattan and Brooklyn, within a stone’s throw of Lady Liberty, used to be a military base that was sold to the city for public use in 2003. Nowadays you can rent bikes and explore the different gardens, view dilapidated homes, art parks, a castle, a park filled with hammocks (which hundreds of kids have sat in whilst eating rapidly melting ice creams – you have been warned). My favorite part of Governors Island? The boat ride over. I love being on the water and observing the city from a different vantage point. I’m one of those people who enjoys taking the Staten Island Ferry just for the hell of it. It’s free y’all! And you get a 25 minute boat ride each way. The GI ferry, which docks next to the SI ferry, is about 6 minutes from port to port. Much too short. Also, the GI ferry runs only at the top of the hour and as I arrived at 11:02am, I had an hour to kill before boarding the next available ferry. Hence, the first photo you see is from the South Street Seaport (which used to be a crappy tourist destination but is currently undergoing much needed renovations including the most awesome urban dog park I’ve ever seen).
The GI ferry building is beautiful:
The SI ferry:
On Sunday I took a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. It doesn’t open until 10am which is a problem for a pasty white person, as in the summer months I prefer to go anywhere outside during early morning hours when the sun isn’t as strong so I don’t fry to a crisp. I took the D train there and Metro North back (the station is right in front of the gardens). People, believe me when I tell you, the park is HUGE. And poorly planned. Most garden trails don’t lead to other garden trails, which is odd. And while there is shade in some gardens, the main path is very wide and therefore shadeless. After two hours and what felt like six miles of walking yet only seeing half the park, my 80 SPF sunscreen failed and I ended up with the ever enchanting forehead burn. Yes, mom, I will buy a hat for next time.
There is a Bronx River (who knew?) that runs through the entire park, but I was not made aware of the wooded trail that runs the length of the park along the river until I reached the far end of the park (stupid map). Did I mention that it’s shaded? Phooey. I may go back just for that trail. Otherwise, I much preferred the Brooklyn Botanic Garden as it felt more organically designed. I also didn’t find the Bronx gardens as inspiring as the Brooklyn gardens.
However, here are some of the things I did like: