Taking to Bodega Bay’s beach just before sunset, we had to pinch ourselves that we were really strolling through the golden sand in winter. Between us both, Shawn and I had endured our fair share of brutal Midwestern, Canadian, even Continental-European winters, but this weather, we were told, was even exceptional by California standards. During the early-evening hours, the sunbeams beat down on our jacket-less forms, as we watched the Pacific’s waves reaching farther into the sand.
The happiest of dogs pulled their owners down the beach. Sandpipers ran in and out of the water with the tide, looking for morsels of goodies – dining, dashing, then repeating the cycle as the sky turned more intense tangerine hues. The salty-sea air gently kissed our cheeks.
We explored barnacle-adorned rocks, looking for a starfish or two. Instead, we found a coy crab. ‘Poor fellow,’ I thought as I remembered all the roadside restaurant and market signs hinting that they were appearing on seasonal menus.
A nearly-full moon shone in the brilliant blue sky, contrasting with the rugged, fiery-orange coastline.
This evening stroll along the Pacific would be one of the highlights of our weekend in stunning Bodega Bay, spent with Shawn’s parents, in their friends’ beautiful home. So too were those moments spent reading in their living room while overlooking the Pacific, and the moments devoted to admiring the February flowers: Rosemary, Rose Succulents, even perky Primrose of pink, buttercup-yellow, ivory and lavender hues. One morning, I surrounded myself with these flowers and did yoga among them.
Another afternoon, we drove over to Sonoma wine country, stopping at tried and true wineries and boutiques. Shawn and I were treated to a bottle of one of our favorite Viogniers, thanks to Shawn’s parents, bringing to mind our shared Napa and Sonoma wine-tasting adventures of 2012. One winery’s framed print made note of Zinfandel’s ancestral homeland, Croatia, where we’d spent the last two winters getting to know what’s known there as the Crljenak varietal.
Driving through Dry Creek Road at sunset, we admired the more abstract forms of the vines, made more beautiful by vibrant-yellow rapeseed sprouting up between them. Before nightfall, we arrived at Sbragia Winery, greeted by the family’s tiny dog (who lounges in a dog bed made out of a wine barrel!). That evening, under strings of white, twinkly lights, we were treated to a crab feast. The staff was kind enough to give me a gluten-free, selectarian version – a lovely cheese plate dressed with toasted almonds and sun-dried tomatoes.
The next day, we’d explore the trail of filming scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic movie, The Birds, which was shot in the nearby village of Bodega. Shawn acted as though he was one of the schoolchildren running away from the flock of frightening birds, with the film’s schoolhouse in the background. Across the street at the country store, a likeness of Alfred Hitchcock would lure us into the establishment. The Birds memorabilia inside, including autographed photographs from the movie’s actors, was fun, but it was the homemade, gluten-free food that would truly reel us in. We ordered a bowl of piping-hot New England Clam Chowder, and took it out to the store’s front porch where we savored it in the sunshine. A resident black Labrador Retriever gently begged, but we didn’t know if he had food allergies, or perhaps if he was on a diet, so we refrained from spoiling him. He quietly sauntered off, hoping that he’d have better luck with another couple that was feasting on a nearby bench.
The smell of lightly-sautéed Crab Cakes wafting from inside the country store tempted us too. I hope they’re in season when we next return to the Sonoma Coast and California wine country. Just don’t tell the little fellow on the Bodega Bay Beach that though.
Where in the World?
- The Birds Schoolhouse (also known as the Potter Schoolhouse) is located at 17110 Bodega Lane, in the village of Bodega.
- The Bodega Country Store, where we enjoyed that fantastic Clam Chowder, is just around the corner from the schoolhouse, on the Bodega Highway. (Be on the lookout for Alfred Hitchcock’s look-alike mannequin out front to guide you.) They had other homemade, gluten-free goodies on the menu too, but for the sake of our waistlines we abstained. :)
- For more information on the area, visit Sonoma County Tourism.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.