Visit Mendocino in the north of an unusual and – if possible – even more charming California.
And find oneself, as if by magic, in an ancient village of artists and fishermen of the “New England”, rich in stories to tell, places to discover and movie and TV locations to go over.
Try to think about indented coastlines straight on the ocean, rushing waves breaking on the rocks, grey whales migrating southwards, lighthouses, beaches, Victorian dwellings, historical Inns, delicious crab cakes and clam chowder to taste.
Unavoidably to think about the New England.
Over 200 years ago several fishermen families of Maine (and of many other near states) moved to the Northern California seeking fortune – following the mirage of the Golden Rush and the wood trade of the near Redwoods forests – taking with them traditions, culture and savors so originating a new and unusual community.
Visit Mendocino it means live and discover really a unique place – in a definitely unusual and very beautiful California – an authentic “piece” of the New England on the West Coast.
Try to have a tour through its nice downtown among the historic dwellings, the towers for the rain collecting (in Mendocino things are still done by a certain way), the pubs and the suggestive paths on the Ocean. Without mention then the fascinating county – the Mendocino County – neighboring and framing it with lighthouses, parks, vineyards, botanical gardens, farms, fertile plains, lakes and unexpected Redwoods forests.
It’s easy to understand why this area was the natural film set of over 50 movies and TV series.
I mean movies like “Rebel Without a Cause” or “East of Eden” with James Dean, or “Dying Young” with Julia Roberts, “The Karate Kid” or the very lucky and beloved series “Murder, she wrote” with Angela Lansbury as the mythic Jessica Fletcher.
A series set in New England and filmed – who would have ever told – right in Mendocino, become the Cabot Cove of the fictional TV.
The discovery of Mendocino must begin with a walk on the Main Street to enjoy the views of the suggestive Mendocino Bay cove, where it’s not rare to sight grey whales shoals staying during their journey towards the Southern Seas (from November to April) on one side and on the other one to enjoy picturesque wooden buildings dating back to the late 1800s.
The attention is immediately caught by the Mendocino Hotel – a wonderful vintage building working since 1878 – and the Dick’s Place, a downright town institution as regards historical places, the ideal place where to drink a beer and make you tell old stories about Mendocino.
But going into the internal streets you begin to lose literally the sense of place and you find yourself strolling through those nice coast villages of the New England.
Everywhere there are sloping roof and pastel colors wooden houses – the whole downtown is included in the Nationals Register of Historic Places – vintage little stores, little art galleries, cafés, some restaurants and a well precise number – 95 I am told – of authentic and working water towers.
Because in Mendocino each daily activity has the savor of things done like once (yeah, the water keeps being supplied like that), with a great attention for the local products and a total refusal for the big distribution brands. Forget “Sturbucks”, “McDonald’s” or any other American “chain”.
The Kelley House Museum – which organizes interesting walking tours through the downtown and acting as research center and local historic archive, too – and the Ford House Museum, two among the most ancient houses of the town, will help you to understand something more about the original and charming history of Mendocino.
From the tales related to the families who lived there to the events tied to the ships traffic along the coast and the Frolic vessel wreck, with its load of spices and fabrics from the Indies, to the Pomo local native tribe and the huge Chinese community created around the Golden Rush.
Founded by a Maine fishermen community in the middle of the 1800s and grew up following the increasing wood trade of the near Redwood Forests – thanks to which a good part of San Francisco was built – Mendocino became in the 1960s (and it is still today) the favourite home of artists and bohemians.
Time to relax at the shadow of a porch “with a view” lost in the beauty of the indented Pacific coastline.
Time to spend the days among art galleries, museums, excursions by sailboat and walks on the ocean.
Time to discover, admire and maybe even stay near the most beautiful lighthouses of the Route 1, like in the suggestive promontory few km to the north of Mendocino housing the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.
But visit Mendocino it means also going over some of the most suggestive and famous American movie and television locations from 1904 with the first silent movies as far as arriving to “Rebel Without a Cause” and “East of Eden” with James Dean, to “Dying Young” with Julia Roberts, “The Karate Kid” and “Forever Young” with Mel Gibson, et cetera.
Here you find the detailed list of all the movies filmed in the Mendocino County.
And then the TV series “Murder, she wrote” with Angela Lansbury who plays Jessica Fletcher, the enterprising detective stories female writer collaborating with the police to solve the most intricate and complicated murder cases.
Mendocino is the Cabot Cove of the fictional television: the small town, its buildings, the streets, the coast and the lighthouse in the neighborhoods, even the exterior of Jessica
Fletcher’s house –today turned into a nice B&B, the Blair House at 45110, Lake St. – are real and can be still seen, and they appear in some sequences of the famous initial theme song.
One of the experiences I tested personally and that I absolutely recommend during a stay in Mendocino is to choose staying overnight in a historical Inn to enjoy even better that magic of other times I mentioned before.
The Dennen’s Victorian Farmhouse – the Inn which housed me – is a Victorian dwelling dating back to 1877 with 10 selected rooms among rooms, cottages and suites.
Joe, the funny and very kind female owner, will dedicate completely to you: she’ll took to you the breakfast to your bedroom every morning, telling you about the Inn’s story as well the Dennen’s one who arrived as far as here from Maine in the second half of the 1800s. She’ll give you any info to discover the whole area at the best.
And it will be enough to cross the street taking to the farmhouse entrance, the Route 1, to have literally the Pacific Ocean within reach.
The Little River Inn is a wonderful Victorian Age dwelling dating back to 1863.
The enviable position on the ocean, the special welcome reserved to guests, the excellent seafood cuisine of the day and local wines, furthermore have been the place where James Dean stayed – creating quite a lot of problems to the staff, since he was known as a “bad boy” – during the “Rebel Without a Cause” and “East of Eden” filming, made it a stop not to miss.
My tip: give oneself an aperitif or even better a romantic dinner with a view of the ocean at the Ole’s Whale Watch Bar to enjoy the day’s lights until the last moment and then enjoy the sunset on one among the most charming sceneries of the Mendocino County.