A Morning in Sausalito
Heading back from Sonoma allowed me the opportunity to make a stop in another of my favorite locations along the coast: Sausalito, Spanish for "little willow grove". It has long been a favorite of mine for a number of reasons, but mostly because it seems to be so laid back and easy going. Some have described the venue as a struggle between the "rich on the hill" and the waterfront people. If that is the case, the struggle certainly does not openly show. To me, Sausalito is a perfect blend of ocean and shore with something for everyone, whether they be "day-tripping tourists", occasional visitors or locals who live there.
From the City of Sausalito website: "yacht harbors thick with white masts, restaurants and hotels built out over the water, unique shops, original art galleries, and grand promenades with San Francisco views." There are five hotels, a wide range of first-class restaurants and a long cement walk along the waterfront where one can listen to the barking sea lions or the sounds of the water of San Francisco Bay as it laps against the rocks along the shore. Or one can go inland and enjoy myriad opportunities for shopping. And there are the ever-present hikers and bikers, making their way to the hiking and biking trails. Sausalito also is very close to Muir Woods and Mt. Tam (Mt. Tamalpais) with its redwood groves and oak woodlands and spectacular views from the 2,571-foot peak there. On a clear day, visitors can even see -- among other things --the Farallon Islands 25 miles out to sea.
My last visit to Sausalito was many years ago when my sister brought my mother and me there one sunny day to enjoy an incredible breakfast followed by some shopping. Consisting of some indescribably delicious Eggs Benedict at a marvelous hotel called the Miramar, up on the hill and overlooking the bay, it was a scene almost right out of a movie... Speaking of which, numerous movies have been either partially filmed here or make reference to to it (for instance, the Cetacean Institute in Star Trek IV, the Voyage Home, was supposedly located in Sausalito... but I digress). In any case, I have never forgotten that day. Unfortunately the Miramar is no longer there... but the fine memories certainly are; infrequent as they may be, visits to Sausalito have always been enjoyable for me! Since we had some extra time on this particular morning, I was happy to bring my wife to Sausalito for a brief stop following our wine country trip, proud to show her several of my old and favorite "haunts" like the Spinnaker, the "No Name" bar and several other watering holes from my younger days as we strolled the waterfront and main streets. It was a Saturday and I expected that, even in the month of December, the sleepy town would soon be quite busy. I had necessarily planned for only a brief stop.
Walking along the shoreline, we noticed a small bistro-type cafe that was situated right next to the bay with some outside tables that faced the water. Although the air was quite chilly, there was a great table that took full advantage of the warm and rising sun. We stepped inside and ordered two glasses of Chardonnay. They were to serve a dual purpose: first, to toast a successful and very fun trip to Sonoma Wine Country and second, to toast the stop in Sausalito, where the smell of salt water and the sound of the waves against the shore were as calming and refreshing as I had remembered.
As we sipped the wine, discussed the trip and basked in the sunshine, the owner of Il Piccolo came out and presented us with some just-made bruschetta; the warm and toasted bread rounds were topped with a a piquant mix of garlic, fresh basil and tomatoes that did in fact make for an excellent snack. I thought it to be a mistake - we had not ordered the appetizer. The man just smiled and said: "No, it is for you... it goes well with the Chardonnay." And he was of course correct; it was an excellent pairing. This is the kind of friendly hospitality that I have come to know in the little town by the Bay; it was the perfect addition to the morning and the perfect salutation to our excursion. With fresh-baked breads, Italian pastries and even ice cream to accompany the appetizers and other items, I would recommend that you take a minute to enjoy both the food and the scenery at this waterfront venue.
Too quickly the time had come to head back across the Great Bridge and return our rental car to the airport. We eased away from our parking space with the reluctance of one who had abandoned his only meal of the week, skulking back to the road that led back up to Route 101 and the Golden Gate. Merging with the southbound traffic I smiled and promised that my next trip to Sausalito would not be so long in the making.