Getaway: Mendocino, CA

“I have these pictures and I keep these photographs to remind me of a time…”
– Willie Nelson, Mendocino County Line

 

 
 
 

For the last few years we have been taking an annual westbound trip with my parents, always to visit old friends and family. Two years ago we went to Colorado and Utah; last year we went out to Oregon for my friend Grace’s wedding. This year we flew out to California, where we lived for a few years when I was young. 

 

Mendocino is a gorgeous Victorian village on the coast of northern California. It is so non-commercialized it feels like entering a foreign land. The quaint little town is known for being a backdrop for movies and a secluded vacation destination for celebrities and writers.

 

 
 
 

The thing about going to northern California in the spring is that it’s always a challenge to know what to pack. It gets hot during the day, but as the sun sets, the cool wind blows in off the Pacific and you find yourself wishing you had more layers. Add to that a toddler in diapers and a baggage weight limit and you have to be pretty well-prepared. One of my favorite Mommy tricks for traveling with Avery is using freezer bags to separate everything. Each bag gets a complete outfit including a diaper, socks, and PJs. I pack one for each day of the trip plus two extras. You can just open one bag to get the little one dressed and toss another in your day bag in case you have a major spill or soak through. I also pack all of our toiletries in one freezer bag to save space and prevent anything leaking out into the suitcase.

 

Type A Personality Packing 101

Since we had a 4am wake up time, I dressed Avery in her clothes the night before and laid out everything my husband would need to get dressed in the morning. My two loves aren’t exactly “morning people” so I try to make it easier on them.

Too bad Avery can’t have Starbucks yet!

 

We flew into San Francisco and rented a Jeep to drive up the coast through wine country and the Redwood forest. (Talk about a scenic drive!)When we arrived in Mendocino, we met my parents and my friend Grace and her parents at the historic McCallum House for dinner. I had pan seared scallops with steamed clams, green coconut curry sauce, and cilantro rice. Kevin had the grilled Niman Ranch steak with sautéed mushrooms, bacon & chive mashed potatoes, and sherry butter sauce. The food was incredible!

 

GORGEOUS McCallum House

 

The next morning Avery popped her sweet little head up at 6am (8am our time) and said “Hi Daddy! Hi Mommy!” So we headed down to a coffee shop and walked around the town to take pictures. Mendocino culture has a very “live and let live” laid back attitude and they are very environmentally friendly. (The coffee shop assumes you would like a ceramic mug rather than a to-go cup. The little market only has paper bags and they ask you if you would like one. All the diapers they sell are organic and dye-free. There are recycle bins on every corner, etc.) 

 

 

Don’t talk to these two until they have had their coffee and milk

 
 

My favorite picture from the trip!

 

Daddy/Daughter bonding time

 

We stopped at my school where I went to Kindergarten. Same girl, same school, but a lot has changed!

Mid-morning we went to the Little River Inn for brunch with a fun crew of people including my friends Grace and Claire and our parents. I met both of them in kindergarten, so we had a blast catching up. The views in the back of the main dining room are of the lush, tropical looking landscape and reminded me of Hawaii. The view from the front of the dining room is a full ocean view.

 

 

Beautiful view at Little River Inn

So I realize the quality of this next picture is terrible but I am a sucker for nostalgia and couldn’t resist digging out an old photo of the three of us for comparison. I had a blast shopping in downtown Mendocino with these girls, then heading over to the GoodLife Bakery for a late lunch/cookie break. I ordered a big, fat square slice of pizza and it was exactly like I remembered it from childhood!

Top: Me, Claire, Grace / Bottom: Claire, Me, Grace

Downtown Mendocino

 

That evening we headed over to Mike and Julie’s house in Fort Bragg for dinner. Mike has been friends with my dad for 40+ years and he and his wife Julie have lived in the same wonderful house for 30 years. They are practically like an Aunt and Uncle to me. Avery got to meet their chicken Henny Penny and even got a freshly laid egg. She also ate peas straight from the garden. Since it was Cinco De Mayo, Mike made some festive Brazilian Rum/Lime drinks for my Dad and Kevin and we had an amazing meal of homegrown salad with made-from-scratch vinaigrette, roasted potatoes, and grilled ginger/garlic salmon that Mike caught two days earlier. For dessert we had homemade cookies and hand-made ice cream from a local shop. These people do not skimp on the quality fixin’s, folks!

“Mikey and JuJu’s” house, as Avery referred to them

 

The next day we went to breakfast at the home of my mom’s friend Renee. She has an acre of land out in the country that she has cultivated into some gorgeous grounds with exotic trees and flowers everywhere. Everything is so beautiful and fragrant, it’s hard to imagine all the work she must have put into it! (Meanwhile I am trying desperately to keep two flower pots alive on my doorstep. It’s not looking good, people.) She even had homemade jam for our toast and we had fresh-squeezed orange juice. (Homemade jam and fresh squeezed juice are the pinnacle of good living, in my opinion.)

Kevin and Avery walking the meditation circle in the garden

My mommy

My baby

 

Next stop was the beach so Avery could dip her little toes in the ocean. We took her out to Mackerricher State Park, which is a special place for our family. Top left: Mom and me, Top right: Mom and Avery. The bottom left photo is me feeding the seagulls there as a child. Years ago, when Kevin called my mom to ask her permission to ask my Dad’s permission to propose to me (smart man), she was sitting on this beach. She drew our initials in the sand (bottom right) and had the picture framed for us as an engagement present. It now hangs in our home.

 

We went into Fort Bragg and made a stop at the North Coast Brewing Company

We had dinner at the Mendocino Cafe with Grace and her parents. Kevin ordered the Pasta Florentine with Chicken and I ordered the Thai Burrito. Then when the food came I decided I wanted the pasta so he gladly switched with me. (Pregnancy perks!)

We drove around to see the sunset after dinner

Tuesday morning we headed back down the coast and made a stop for breakfast. Della Fattoria is a cute little place in Downtown Petaluma that we found on TripAdvisor and we had the best food. They make all the toast and jams daily. We have never eaten so much bread in our lives as we did on this trip, but everything is fresh and made from scratch so it’s too tempting to pass up!

Flowers everywhere!

Once again, Avery proved to be an excellent traveler. We had a layover in Vegas (no plane change) so we walked up and down the aisle to stretch our legs and the awesome pilots invited Avery to come into the cockpit. She got to sit in the pilot seat and grab the steering wheel (or whatever you call it.) Buttons galore! It was major excitement for both of us! She even showed the co pilot how she “flies” by flapping her arms wildly like a crazed hummingbird. He got a kick out of it. I think I took about 37 pictures.

And the Husband of the Year Award goes to…KEVIN for snuggling this 35 lb. space heater for three hours in a tiny airplane seat while she slept peacefully. I think he may have permanent nerve damage in his right arm, but the sight of a sleeping toddler on an airplane is a rare and beautiful thing and not to be disturbed. Plus he got to sneak in a few smooches on that puckered little pout so I think he got the good out of the quality time.

No need for Benadryl when you have been carb-loading your child on homemade bread for three days straight

Another destination to scratch off our bucket list! I feel so blessed to have such a close family and I know we will cherish these adventures together forever. 

Travel.

 
 
 
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