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I define Mendocino as a destination on California’s northern coast to escape real life. It’s a three and a half hour to four hour drive from San Francisco but well worth it. The drive along California Highway 128 thru some wine country to get there is visually pleasing as well. I imagine that most San Franciscans head south to the central coast of Big Sur for a similar escape because of the shorter drive. According to the owner of my bed and breakfast, most visitors to the Mendocino headlands are from the San Francisco Bay Area, France, Switzerland and Germany.

The highlight of my visit was the discovery of Big River Beach which was a short walk from my lodging. You would need to take some wooden steps down from a sandy church parking lot to get onto the beach. But once your feet hit the sand and you see the water the senses awake. The visual panorama is stunning, sublime and otherworldly. It’s not the type of beach setting you would associate with tropical islands, the Caribbean or some glitzy European getaway. The temperatures were very cool as I was wearing a jacket and light scarf – yet I was still comfortable. Big River Beach felt dramatic and exclusively hidden.

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