Last weekend my little fam took a trip down to Big Sur for a belated Mother's Day lunch at Nepenthe. I took so many photos this is going to be a two-parter. I'll start with a bit of the drive down Highway One, which is beautiful and scenic and highly recommended to anyone visiting California's coast. Also known as Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH, this 655 mile (mostly) two lane roadway runs from along nearly two-thirds of California's Pacific coast. Big Sur itself consists of about ninety miles of wild, rocky coastline that has long been known for it's savage beauty, remote access and sparse population.
Oreo came along, though she wasn't allowed in the restaurant. She enjoyed the drive and the walk we went on later in Los Padres National Forest. But for now, on to Nepenthe. Nestled right off the highway on the hills overlooking the ocean, the restaurant was founded by the Fassett family in a log cabin on the spot in the late forties. The previous owners were Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, who bought the rustic wooden cabin on the cliff using pocket change during a drive to L.A. on the (then) new scenic Highway One. Though the volatile couple never actually returned to the spot after that occasion, they were only a few of the many roving artists to be captivated by the area's torrid charms.
The word nepenthe itself comes from Greek: to remedy sadness or ease sorrow. As the website says, "In Greek, Nepenthe means 'isle of no care,' a place to find surcease from sorrow. So it continues to be for travelers today. A place to stop, to dream, to lift a cup to kindness..." And it certainly has become such a stopping point, and not just because of it's spectacular views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Eric enjoyed the restaurant's popular Ambrosia burger, while mom and I sampled the artichoke, Mexican spiced grilled prawns on green tea noodles, albacore tuna sandwich, and an amazing layered lemony cake with raspberry mousse for dessert. That's what I call a surcease from sorrow, yum!
We were lucky enough to miss the ever-present fog that hounds the central coast. It started to roll in just as we were taking a few goodbye photos of the Phoenix and checking out the gift shop. The statue was carved in the seventies out of the fallen trunk of a solid old oak tree that had grown on the property for many years. In the late sixties, a dancing scene was filmed on the patio by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor for the film "The Sandpiper." The wire cage in the left background is the fire pit, it looks exactly the same!
The Red Hot Chili Peppers mention the area in "Road Trippin.'" Hunter S. Thompson worked at the hot springs up the road. Jack Kerouac recounts a bender there in his 1962 novel Big Sur, which is currently on its way to being released as a movie starring Josh Lucas and Kate Bosworth and with a soundtrack by The National (um, I hope it beats the hell out of The Rum Diaries movie!) Henry Miller wrote of his nearly two decades in and around Nepenthe in Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. If you're interested in learning more about the historic restaurant and the immediate area, consider checking out the book "My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales..." by the Fassett's granddaughter Romney Steele.