My girlfriend and I had a vacation planned for June 2020 to Oklahoma. We had to cancel due to the coronavirus. So we looked locally, in our home state of California, for a trip. There were questions: What would be open? How would restrictions compromise our experience? How many people would be out and about in an ordinarily-touristy spot? We ended up going on three separate trips to the coast over the course of the year: Half Moon Bay, Pacifica, and Carmel.
The Hotel, Downtown, and the Beach
Half Moon Bay is a seaside town nestled along Highway 1 south of San Francisco. We stay at the Aristocrat Hotel, a British-themed inn with plenty of charm. The lobby features a life-sized beefeater figure, nautical-themed decor, soft furniture, and a calming palette of blues and tan. Next door, there’s the colorful Cameron’s pub, with a vintage double-decker bus, faux bus station, a fence for love locks, and an array of humorous and character-filled signage. We wonder what other delights are inside, because conditions have shut it down. As the sign outside says, “LOVE YOU ALL. BE SAFE. CLOSED.”
Downtown consists primarily of a single road lined with some boutiques and eateries. It’s easy to imagine it bustling with tourists. On this mild and sunny Tuesday, it is very quiet, with the majority of businesses in temporary closure. With no shops to peruse, we settle for a sandwich from Garden Deli and a dole whip from Nano’s Ohana Cafe.
Then we walk along the cliffs that border the beaches, soaking in the views and the glorious sounds of the ocean surf, the swaying of eucalyptus trees, and the seagulls.
In the evening we get a takeout meal from Pasta Moon Restaurant, and while waiting for it wish for a day we could come back and eat there. Instead we have it across the street at a gazebo, which makes for the next-best romantic setting.
In the morning, I drive out to the Purissima Cemetery, which is essentially all that remains of the town of Purissima. In the 1860s and 1870s, it experienced its heyday as it had a post office, lumber mill, schoolhouse, hotel, saloon, dance hall, livery stable, and several stores. A variety of misfortunes and broken dreams befell the town – a flood, crop failures, and an oil discovery that failed to lead to a boom amongst them. Purissima’s somewhat remote location, and competition from more favorably-located coastal towns, didn’t help. By World War II it was largely just a memory. The cemetery, a natural burial ground, consists of graves scattered around cedar and pine trees on slightly hilly terrain. The majority of the graves are of the German pioneers who settled there.
Fabbri Statuary and Departure
Later, my girlfriend and I visit Fabbri Statuary, a home and garden store that beckons visitors with dinosaur statues out front. The Statuary, located in a cluster of studios and shops (though many are vacated) called Spanish Town, is a feast for the senses, with fountains, garden statues, colorful plants, works of art, windchimes, and the like.
As we leave Half Moon Bay, we already ache to come back when the pandemic is over. Things will be fully open, and we can go to Cameron’s Pub for a meal. We think that might be in weeks, maybe months, but certainly by the same time next year. Little did we know how wrong we were.
A few more pictures…
Purissima Cemetery – Destination Destiny (destinationdestinymemorials.com)
Purissima Cemetery – Steelmantown Cemetery Company
Purissima, California – Wikipedia