CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM: January 30, 2014
With two weeks until Valentines Day, it’s time to scout out some sea salt and chocolate. The sea salt is the fun part.
Twenty minutes south of San Francisco is the fishing village of Princeton by the Sea. You may know it as the home of the Mavericks Invitational — one of the most extreme big wave surf contests in the world.
A week ago, the ocean near here had massive swells, triggering the 48-hour call for surfers to gather for competition. The San Mateo Coast swelled in population, too, as thousands came out to watch Mavericks on TVs set up at local bars. (The wave break is too far out in the ocean to view from the beach.)
Now that the surf contest is over, it’s your turn to enjoy the raw forces of nature under the steel blue skies of winter. It’s a romantic time for a seaside vacation in the moist, salty air. Allen Allgood is the innkeeper at The Inn at Mavericks, a small, waterfront hotel in Princeton by the Sea. Stay here and you can tidepool or beachcomb, go kayaking, paddleboarding and even surfing if you’ve got the nerve to tackle the icy winter swells. Nearby Pillar Point Harbor is the stepping off point for most of these activities and has actually been a tourist destination since the early 1900s.
Each guest room at The Inn at Mavericks has a veranda where you can take in the vista of fishing boats and clam diggers harvesting the sea. Van Gogh-inspired sunsets air brush the sky at dusk and dawn and a foghorn moans in the distance. For many, the sound is soulful, but earplugs are provided to aid the slumber of light sleepers.
The village has a shopping and a couple of pubs and a great restaurant — all within walking distance. The most noted is Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, an award-winning producer of artisan beers. Chef Gaston Alfaro also makes a hearty Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew that is legendary on the coast — brimming with shellfish and sausage and served in a savory saffron and garlic broth. In the next room, a wine bar and fireplace provide a cozy venue for lovers.
In fact, the San Mateo Coast is perfect for lovers — whether it be lovers of nature, adventure, solitude or simply each other. The rugged swath of land is often called the place that time forgot. It’s a land frozen in time, thanks to a spine of mountains that separates the populous eastern half of the county from the sparsely settled coast.
So if it’s chocolate and sea salt you’re looking for this Valentine’s Day — pick up the chocolate ahead of time. The sea salt you can get with a short drive down the coast.