12 Aug 2012
Easter Island? No, this is in Mendocino, now a genteel little coastal resort on the Californian coast about 3 hours north of San Francisco (by the fast route). It seems to be a haven for folks with some ressources. But it has what must have been a tough and very different past in the logging days, and this is a post left over from the cable winching system used to carry those logs out to ships anchored in the bay beyond.
When you take a walk around today's neat, peaceful, and manicured village of Mendocino, it is quite hard to imagine that it must have been a rough old place back in the 19th century when its function was getting logs, cut from the redwood forests behind and up river, out to sea and ships that could take them to places where they were needed for building. Today, there is a well-stocked wine shop, at least two sophisticated restaurants, and, alongside, various bars and other places to cater to all tastes and pockets. But the place remains, mainly, genteel.
Houses like the one above, perched not far from the edge of steep cliffs, could equally be sited on the north-east coast of the US, around Cape Cod, and most of them have preserved, somewhat artfully, their nostalgic charm. Although the US had long since been a nation independant from the English parent, this architectural period that takes up all of the second half of the 19th century is strangely, and, it seems, proudly, referred to here as "Victorian" in brochures and other documents.
The hotel in which we stayed (photo above) looks to me like something out of a decor for a western, but inside it is indeed heavily "Victorian" and dark, almost to the point of caricature. When I walked in to ask for a room, there was even, in mid August, an artificial fire burning in a chimney that reminded me of the one I had in my student days in London! The bedrooms were truly out of a western, with small doors leading off a narrow corridor, shared bathrooms across the corridor (they didn't stretch it to metal tubs) and narrow beds with iron headers. Thought Clint Eastwood would be in there. And they call these rooms "European". In fact the place is very comfortable and I think I prefer it to the rather chintzy bed & breakfast establishments around Mendocino that may well cost about the same and don't give the same service. I'll take a traditional hotel anytime.
Many houses in Mendocino are remarkably sober in both design and materials, almost to the point of quaker-like austerity. I took the colour out of the above photograph, but the small bush you can see on the left in front of the house was actually a startlingly bue hyndrangea. Looked great in the morning mist as I came back from a run along the headpoint cliffs.
You have to accept mist and fog to live here, as it seems to be the order of things most mornings, at least until the land warms up sufficiently to disperse it, which may not be until midday. As the very helpful man in the hotel told me, "you have 50% chance of being in fog here".
It could well be that the beauty of the gardens in Mendocino (and indeed all along the North-West coast) owe something to the moisture-laden air, although I suppose you need to take care about the effect of the salt air on some plants.The Mendocino Post Office is a good example:
Nostalgia for past times seems to play a growing part in many people's lives in what is known as the Western World. One can see it it shops, in cloths, in buildings and in some of the vehicles around. Actually I would link it, in these cases, to aesthetics, as I find such vehicles as the one below so much more pleasing to the eye than those garish and bulky trucks that so many people drive over here. Do you really need a huge 4-wheel drive thingie a mile long unless you are a construction worker working in the country?
And there are places to go in Mendocino if you want something different from the refined and expensive and are not particularly into plant therapy, zen whatsit and holistic medicine! Such as Dick's Place, right next to the Mendocino Hotel and on the waterfront which is also Main Street. We all use our own forms of therapy I suppose.