It was one of the first sunny days we'd had in a long, long time. That morning, we packed our bags and crossed the sun-kissed Golden Gate into the city, headeding south on the 1, atop curving cliffs with the ocean crashing below. It was a beautiful drive. The dunes on our right were splashed with thick patches of color—bright orange, red, electric green, and a vibrant rust color blended between it all. The brilliant tapestry was composed of a million blades of succulents, indiscernible from a distance, yet extraordinary close-up, like a painting done in pointillism.
Our destination was Moss Landing—named for the little inlet of water on which it stood, parallel to the sea. The little town was just twenty minutes north of Monterey and seemed to have only two restaurants, both with "Enchilada" in their names—one of them serving Peruvian cuisine—and a burger place, called "Burgers."
There were no houses or neighborhoods, and the Captain's Inn seemed to be one of the only lodgings in the town. It was constructed in a colonial style but painted a blue that fell somewhere between cobalt and turquoise. Neighboring the inn were fields of yellow flowers, with tall, hardy stalks that leaned left to right with the breeze—it suited the house to be bordered by such neighbors and gave me the impression that the inn too, could only thrive in soil by the sea.
Through the front door, was an inviting room with oversized leather furniture. An antique rowboat was tipped on its end in the corner, secured by its anchor to the wall. The bricks in the fireplace hearth were salvaged from the great San Francisco earthquake, and one of the oldest safes I'd ever seen was built into the bottom of the staircase.
Besides the bedrooms upstairs, there were two separate guesthouses; we were staying in the Boathouse. Entering our room felt like stepping into a glass spyglass—the wall opposite the door was a glass window facing west. It overlooked a strip of calm water with a long ridge just behind that was covered with the same succulents we'd seen from the road. The ridge buffered Moss Landing from the ocean and tempered the sounds of the surf to a steady cadence, like the breathing of a child.
I dropped my bags and walked to the glass to see seals playing in the calm waters, and flocks of birds stalking through the shallows and skimming along the surface, with their numbers doubled in the water's mirror. The masting of a sail peaked above the dune and glided the length of the ridge, north into the marina, and distant purple-blue mountains shrugged at the far edge of the horizon.
The frame of the bed sat in the hull of a boat—called the San Pedro in another life—and above the bed was the glass frame of the Captain's lookout. Across was a fireplace, and beneath the far-side of the window was a deep, soaking tub, perfect for running with the window thrown open to the ocean breeze.
We had planned to go into Monterey that night, but after arriving, we were reluctant to leave, so we explored the tiny town instead, end to end. There was a trail we'd seen from our window, on the other side of the. The path followed the length of the ridge and crossed over the dunes to the sea. The way was bursting with wildlife and coral-colored succulents that were surreal against the blue sky. Cotton-tailed rabbits bounced through the underbrush, and birds of all sizes dove spiraled and spun on the updrafts. Just over the hill, was the ocean, with a secluded beach that stretched further in both directions than I could see, scattered with orange-striped shells and sand dollars.
We flipped a coin and went to the Haute Enchilada that night for appetizers and very potent cocktails, and then strolled the eight-minute walk to the other side of town for Thai food at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, called the Lemon Grass. It looked like a restaurant from the set of a David Lynch creation—I mean that in a good way—and the food was extraordinary.
It was cold and dark on the way back to the inn, but the stars were bright, so we didn't mind. We took our time as we walked back through the fields and found a large cemetery, with gravestones and plots lit by colored solar-lights that cast cheerful sheens on the handmade mosaics and beautiful epithets. It reminded me of the movie Coco and gave me some good ideas for after my own demise, which I shared when we were back in the room, warming by the fire.
The next morning, I woke an hour before the sunrise and watched from my warm bed as the waters turned from a pale amethyst to a lavender-blue, patterned with dark winged ripples pulled by ducks and bobbing seals. Wine-bottle birds looked on, unmoving from the water's edge, facing north towards the marina.
I dressed and pulled open the door. The light was soft; the world was still. Silky clouds wisped over the fields, like curtains, and my breath made clouds as I hurried over the sidewalk to the kitchen to find coffee. The innkeeper, a graceful African-American woman with stunning headwraps and a warm smile, greeted me. Her name was Meldalinna. We made small talk as she prepared the breakfast, and I stirred cream into my coffee. I went into the living room and sat at the window, writing and journaling in the quiet, while the sun crept above the blue ridge and made the wildflowers dance with light.
Our days fell into pleasant rhythms—daybreak coffee, delicious breakfasts with the other guests, then explorations of the coastal cities nearby. We went to Carmel By the Sea—a coastal city every bit as charming as its name—and drove daily to Monterey Bay to try new pubs and restaurants, and view Cannery Row from Steinbeck's novel. We got coffee at Tidal, and margaritas at El Torito, and watched kayaks dot the clear green water of the harbor, and sinewy black birds dive for fish.
Our last night, we wandered the shoreline of Monterey Harbor and watched otters swim on their backs through the cresting waves. A mesmerizing purple light painted the wet trail of the tide and spread with the waves that swept up the shore. A man on the corner pulled out a banjo and began to play hauntingly sad ballads, and we danced to his music on the cold sand.
When the song finished, we returned to the Captain's Inn, where the fire was warm, and the sounds of the ocean drifted like music through our open window—the gentle insistence of crickets, the push-and-pull of the waves, and the distant gong of bells as ships took to the sea.