Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. (Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.)
-Antoine de Saint Exupéry (The Little Prince)

I love coming back from a trip, looking over my photos and rediscovering everything that, just a few days before, I had seen with my very own eyes. It’s both exciting and strange–exciting because you remember how much you delighted in everything you saw, and strange because, back in your “natural habitat”, you already feel the distance between yourself and that Other world that you only just left behind.

When the place you’ve just departed from happens to be the redwoods of California’s lost coast, where I spent three lovely and relaxing days last week, this feeling can’t help but be slightly amplified. It’s such a beautiful, larger-than-life kind of place that it takes a little bit of time to readjust.

I can’t tell you the last time I was in a place where the air was so fresh and crisp. It was truly like inhaling good health–a vacation for the lungs as well as for the soul. And the scenery is like a living landscape; wherever you look, there’s something worth marveling at, from banana slugs
to the old Carson Mansion. As you can see in the photograph below, the Carson Mansion is one of those buildings that stands out; in fact, it practically glows in the dark, which adds to any reasonable individual’s suspicion that ghosts could be lurking within…

One of the best parts about the trip, besides the redwoods and exploring Eureka, was the food. The Greek and I, through a fabulous deal on LivingSocial, got not only a discount on two nights at a lovely Victorian-style inn, but also gift certificates for Restaurant 301, the hotel restaurant. While very small, this place is truly worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighborhood. The food is, quite simply, remarkable. The presentation was beautiful; who would have thought that setting muffins on a bed of dill could look so appealing? The combination of scallops and strawberries? Yes, please! Especially when they melt in your mouth. Pea soup garnished with sauteed shallots and creme fraiche? I would be happy eating this for the rest of my life. It’s nice to go to a place and to be inspired to try new things in your own kitchen; besides the Proustian joy of the memories themselves, it’s a way to bring the vacation experience home.

Thanks to 301, I now have my heart set on making a chocolate souffle…and also to do more pickling and experimenting with jam. And maybe to poach chicken. Or to cook rabbit and spaetzle for myself. Eggs benedict, too. After all, why not?

In addition to the food, I got to feast, figuratively that is, on the coastline, where everything, from the sand to the wood, looked a bit muted.

There was also the Venlo Chocolate Shop, where I was overjoyed (and slightly grossed out) to discover that they capitalize on the wild life of the surrounding redwoods by selling Banana Slug Chocolates, aka “the only slug you’ll ever be tempted to eat.” Somehow, I restrained myself (it wasn’t hard) from buying one, although I did ask how popular they were and, according to the woman who worked there, they’re a bestseller!

There was also the Eureka boardwalk in the Old Town….

And then Victorian Ferndale, where it’s like you’ve stepped into an old Western town, complete with gunslingers and an old-fashioned penny candy store. The buildings don’t even have public restrooms because they’re too old and lack the proper plumbing! Surprisingly, in the midst of this little gem of a tourist spot, we stumbled on the Lost Coast Cafe, a haven of vegetarian cuisine and freshly baked and delicious pastries. We enjoyed the sunshine, as well as the food. I myself had a Vegetarian Muffaletta Sandwich and Coconut Curry soup; pastries were bought for the road….

All in all, it was a lovely trip–the ideal way to reward myself for having finished the first chapter. I have yet to get feedback on said chapter, but I like to think that the rainbow (double rainbow!) that auspiciously marked the beginning of our rainy drive up the coast might also apply to the things that have yet to come….

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