Lunch with Kaffe

May 01, 2013

The bleachers at Nepenthe, on sunny days you can't find a seat!

It was chilly outside on the deck, but we had a great table inside.

Loved our view.

I must remember to serve fresh homemade potato chips with smoked salmon!

Molting season, aka lazy season.

The males with their large elephant noses are out to sea, just the females and babies left.

Wild geraniums at Avila Beach.

There are 3 routes we can take when we drive south to visit our kids.  Interstate 5 takes us down though the central valley where agriculture is king.  West of I 5 is Highway 101 which hugs the coast for about half of our trip, very pretty.  Or we can take the very scenic, coast hugging and winding Highway 1 aka the Pacific Coast Highway.  I love it when we go Hwy. 1, it means lunch at Nepenthe in Big Sur, gorgeous ocean views,  quiet little beach towns and the big lazy elephant seals.

My first visit to Nepenthe was in 1968 as a high school junior.  Big Sur at the time was even quieter than it is now.  Nepenthe was always a haven for artists, musicians and writers, very hippyesque and this little teenager was very much in awe of that flower child atmosphere.  This visit would have been at the time when Kaffe Fassett's parents, Lolly and Bill Fassett still owned and operated Nepenthe.  Kaffe would have been long gone by then, already pursuing his textiles career in England and later to become associated with Rowan.  I remember being too poor to eat there, but had a coke and sat on the sunny deck and enjoyed myself immensely.  I was half expecting Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead to appear at any minute!

Nepenthe is perched up high with an exquisitely beautiful view of the blue pacific.  The Fassett family bought a large property in the late 40s when Kaffe was a young boy.  This is where he grew up, this pristine wild land with so much inspiration, not only in nature, but in the bohemian clientele it attracted.   Kaffe comes by his creativity honestly.  What a lucky guy to call this place home, must have been a heaven on earth.

Years ago, when I read that Kaffe Fassett actually grew up there, that his family owned (and still does) Nepenthe, I almost fainted!  I always thought he was from England, but now I can claim him as a Californian, my own!  Now, when I visit Nepenthe, it's like I feel some connection with him, I don't know, it's funny but I do!  The shop at Nepenthe was selling his autobiography, Dreaming in Color, which I bought on the spot and now am having so much fun reading and re-reading every single word.   What a creative and colorful life, Dreaming in Color is the perfect title!

Our trip didn't end there, there was much more to see.  Each trip down we try to see some new things and revisit some old favorites.  On this trip we went on to see the elephant seals at San Simeon, eat cookies in Cayucas, spend the night at Avila Beach, lunch in Santa Barbara, then a walk on Malibu Beach to rekindle old memories.  I.  Love.  California.  Did I tell you I'm a native?  So is mother.  Proud of that little thing.

Here are some links to things we enjoyed on this trip!  Oh, and I didn't actually have lunch with Kaffe, but guess you knew that!

Lunch at Nepenthe in Big Sur.
Elephant Seals just south of Big Sur.
Read more about elephant seals here.
Candy and coffee at Sebastians's in Sam Simeon, but next time we'll stop for lunch.
Cookies at Brown Butter Cookie Co. in Cayucas.  Sin.
Adorable Avila Beach!  Stayed at Avila La Fonda, love these people.
Dinner (and breakfast) at The Old Custom House.
Lunch at The Boathouse in Santa Barbara.

If you can, ditch the crowds and travel mid week and off season.  Best California advice!

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  1. What wonderful pictures, Kristin! Makes me feel like I am there. Lucky you to live in California. I love to visit to see relatives and always hate to leave. Chloe

  2. Beautiful images, Kristen! You live in a wonderful place.

  3. The Pacific Coast day! Thanks for the tour!

  4. This is so timely, because after we're done in SF, we're heading down to Carmel, and high on my list of things to do is lunch at Nepenthe! I only knew of it from reading about Kaffe's life! So I'm going to check out each and every one of these links, and may be visiting some of them myself!

    I love California too. But I'll admit it took me a while to warm to it - the first few times I visited, it almost felt like a foreign country to me - everything is SO different from the Midwest! Believe it or not, I felt more culture shock than when I visit Europe! But I've overcome that, and now I feel like I want to make it out there at least once a year. This will be my third year straight, so it's working for me so far!

    1. Gail! That is perfect! I do hope you get to go mid week, you'll enjoy it so much more without the crowds, but I know that you get to go when you can. I have a great "budget" (ha, that's a relative term in Big Sur) hotel to stay at in Big Sur. Check out Deetjens, We love it there and less expensive than the famous Ventana Inn or Post Ranch Inn. There are great hotels in Carmel too. We'll talk when we meet!

  5. Thank you Kristen for your visit and encouraging words. I am trying to remain positive.
    What a treat to enjoy a nice meal with great views. Love the ocean view and seeing the seals. Thanks for sharing your outing.

  6. Good heavens, that ocean is beautiful!!! Living in the Midwest and surrounded by nothing but acreage, seeing things like this just gives me goose bumps. I have visited the ocean several times (even stood on the edge of the Atlantic during Hurricane Katrina!), but it never ceases to amaze me. You're right there with it on a regular basis, and it's obvious that that amazement is still yours, too. That's cool!

    I have never seen so many sea lions (oh, called them elephant seals, and I need to get the terms right!) all in one place like that! They're just chillin'! Must be nice!!! :-)

    That picture of the long pier is REALLY cool!!! Love that! Also love the photo of the shops there at the beach. It reminds me of visiting the beaches near L.A. (Rodondo, Santa Monica, Venice, etc.) While the facades at Venice weren't quite that nice, the shops were still a lot of fun to visit. Wacky!!!

    Great pictures! So glad you're able to enjoy this little piece of heaven!

  7. Thanks for sharing your trip Kristen! Loved the seals! Beautiful photos!


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