The International Writers Magazine
: California Vacations

Lucia - A real cliffhanger!
Susan Fogwell

You could swear that you’ve seen the setting in a brooding film noir classic, maybe a 1950’s dark Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Lucia Lodge clings to cliffs and elegance. Twenty-five miles south of Big Sur and in the heart of the Big Sur coast, is the tiny south coast burg of Lucia. Going south on scenic Highway One, you’ll come upon a roadside cluster consisting of a general store, restaurant and gift shop on a steep cliff overlooking an eye-popping view of the Pacific.

Steps away are clinging little cliffside cabins standing dead at the western edge of America, commanding an incomparable high Pacific view. You would have to go a long way before you could come up with a place, where you could sleep in a more dramatic ambience.

Carmel Tree - © Sam North

Lucia Lodge Terrace with guests
Pulling off the road, I stepped into the gift shop. A woman wearing a bohemian flowing dress and large bangles in her ears greeted me warmly. She told me her name was Aurora. I thought to myself what an apropos name for someone who might have been in Haight-Ashbury during the summer of love. I was tempted to ask her if the Haight was her old stomping ground, but instead I asked her what the bright yellow wildflowers were all along Highway One. She said, "Its mustard, most of the wildfowers in this area peak in March."

She could have fooled me! After driving 100 miles along the famous California coastal road, I saw an abundance of shocking orange poppies, thistle, morning glory and Queen Anne’s lace. It was Memorial Day weekend and an ideal breezy 72 degrees with a cobalt sky and scantily scattered cotton-like clouds.

Aurora asked me if I would like to see one of the ten cabins. As she handed me the key to cabin number four, she said, "that it’s common to spot sea otters beneath the cabins playing in giant kelp beds, as well as migrating whales." I had been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, when I encountered young elephant seals earlier in the day molting on the beach back in San Simeon. About thirty - five miles south of Lucia is the Piedras Blanca’s beaches which the seals call home. At first glance it looks like a beach full of driftwood, when in fact its lifeless looking seals baking in the sun. Beginning in late May, they beach themselves for six to eight weeks and live off of their blubber while they molt. Other than flipping sand onto their backs with their flippers to cool themselves, they rarely move. The seals appear sad, partly due to it being extremely uncomfortable for them to be out of the water and in the sun.

I walked over to the rustic white clapboard cabins with sea green shutters. They are situated along a southwest facing cliff 300 feet above the ocean. A jaw dropping, unparalleled view of the jagged rocky coastline is spread out in front of the cabins. A white picket fence separates the cabins from an informal rock garden with a profusion of colorful flowers And a dirt path leads you down the cliff’s edge to a quiet inviting picnic area. I was the only one standing on the cliff other than the gardener watering the flowers.

Lucia Lodge

I grabbed a seat on one of the wooden benches that are perfectly placed for drinking in the views of the black sandy beach far below.

As I sat there looking down at the waves crashing against the craggy brown rock walls, a man with his wife approached, both with binoculars. As they looked off at the seascape, he spotted a bird with a large wingspan. He turned to me and told me that it was a California Condor. It was soaring gracefully in the gusts of wind above the opposite cliff. He went on to say that, he and his wife are avid birders and native Californians. He also informed me that in addition to the California Condor, it is not uncommon to see endangered American and Bald Eagles.

As I bid a farewell to the birders, sounds of bongo-like drums in the distance traveled to my ears. I asked the gardener where the sound was coming from, and he replied that someone had gotten married in the hills across the way. I thought what an ideal setting to be married, or better yet, spend your honeymoon, where the sea meets the sky.I climbed back up the slightly steep pathway to the cabin and opened the old wooden door to the cozy but simply furnished cabin. I was delighted to discover there wasn’t a television, telephone or internet access. Your cell phone will have to suffice during your stay. The vaulted ceiling with exposed wooden beams gave the room an airy feeling, and the wood floor creaking beneath my feet added character to this gem of a place. This is a hideaway that will spice up the romance in anyone’s life. I returned to the gift shop where I informed Aurora that I would be staying for a couple of nights. I then walked a few steps to the restaurant adjacent to the shop. A gathering of people were out on the open-air deck having lunch. I grabbed a table in the sun and ordered a Cappuccino while perusing the menu, a range of light-fare sandwiches and salads to specials of the day.

Due to the chilly summer nights, dinner is served fireside in the small historic dining room. Local fish entrees is their specialty, but they’re known for their fish-and-chips that have been rated one of the five best in the United States. With that in mind, I placed my order for their top rated dish, and I must admit the rating was right on the mark. I have had fish-and-chips from London to Sydney and places in between and Lucia Lodged topped almost all of them!

If kicking back, taking it easy and becoming one with nature is your idea of an ideal vacation, then Lucia Lodge fits the bill. Alternatively, you can combine relaxing with driving thirty eight miles south on the winding, curvy Highway One hugging the Pacific coastline to remote San Simeon where Hearst Castle sits atop a hill. There are four different tours offered, and I highly recommend making a reservation during the summer months. Droves of tourists flood the former castle-like home of William Randolph Hearst. All of the tours include the indoor and outdoor pools, and if it’s your first visit to the home, "The Experience Tour," is highly recommended.

If strolling along tree-lined streets with an abundance of art galleries is what you have in mind during your trip, than drive 50 miles north of Lucia to Carmel, where, not too long ago, Clint Eastwood reigned as mayor. Stop in the restaurant he owns, "Hog’s Breath Inn," for a drink on the brick patio where outdoor fireplaces keep you warm. Without a sweater, it was a little too chilly for me outside, so I had dinner inside next to the corner fireplace. The dark wood interior with a faux Tudor ceiling and wide plank oak floor gives it a warm, homey feel. In one corner of the restaurant, Clint’s memorabilia adorns the walls. Candid black and white photos of celebrity friends, a framed print of "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly," as well as an oil portrait of the actor.

The following day, I drove along scenic 17- Mile Drive in Pebble Beach where crooked cypress trees and brown pelicans are bountiful. The drive winds through much of the Monterey Peninsula where rock beaches are covered with sun bleached driftwood. Impressive homes are barricaded in with large gates, and golfers’ in their carts are seeking out the next green. I stopped at a vista point located next to a golf course, and I wondered how the golfers kept their golf balls in place with the strong balmy breeze, let alone the hats on their heads.

© Susan Fogwell July 2005
Lucia Lodge 62400 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
(866) 424-4787
High Season-6/15 to 10/31
From $175.00 to $225.00 plus tax
Honeymoon cottage- $ 250.00
Hearst Castle
Highway 1
San Simeon, CA
(800) 444-4445-reservations/rates
Pebble Beach Resorts


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