Escape work, worries and the world at the Pleasure Point Inn

©Copyright 2001,2002, Debra Lo Guercio, all rights reserved

    I’m so glad I gave Santa Cruz a second chance. Last time, I only visited the Boardwalk area, which has a distinctly “grocery store feet” feel. Imagine blackened bare feet in the grocery store and you’ll get my drift. In a word – scuzzy. I don’t do scuzzy very well.
    I’d discarded Santa Cruz as a destination spot, but an opportunity arose to visit the Pleasure Point Inn. I had mixed feelings. I checked out their website andPleasure Point Inn wondered how such a lovely little oasis could exist amid a sea of tattoo parlors and bail bonds establishments. I had to find out.
    I discovered that beyond the Boardwalk, the carney-esque atmosphere gives way to seaside beach bungalows, middle-aged Kahunas carrying surfboards down the roadside and stunning coastline dotted with windswept Cypress trees. Perched beside rocky cliffs dropping into the surf and waves, the Pleasure Point Inn looks out over sparkling Monterey Bay.
    Walking up the stone-paved walkways, surrounded by the hush of the fog hugging the coast and the tinkling of water fountains, the feeling upon leaving the “real” world and stepping into the Pleasure Point Inn is like exhaling a long, slow sigh of relief. What gorgeous detail has been lavished on this completely remodeled oceanside home by innkeeper, Tom Perry, a former interior decorator.
    Cool, casual relaxation permeates each room, decorated in natural tones of creme, sage and beige. The bathrooms have tile floors, polished granite countertops and Jacuzzi bathtubs so deep you can sink up to your chin in bubbles. The rooms have every amenity you could hope for:  cable, mini-refrigerators, gas fireplaces and a cabinet full of coffee, tea, cookies and nuts. Even plates, silverware, wineglasses and corkscrews are provided; everything you need to escape work, worries and the world. Just bring some cabernet, a wedge of gouda, some rolled prosciutto, someone to cuddle, and you’re all set.
    Following the approximate two-hour drive from Yolo County – San Jose traffic permitting – you’ll want to collapse on the bed, kick off your shoes, and enjoy a truffle placed on a silver tray nearby. (Anything that starts with chocolate can’t be all bad. ) Next, a relaxing soak in the hot tub and you’re ready for evening activities. But where? My last visit to Santa Cruz was a bust; the high point was a trip to Safeway for licorice. My own instincts could not be trusted, so I turned to Tom. The man has an uncanny ability to size up his guests and make perfect recommendations.
    As my favorite traveling companion and I were still a bit road-weary, more hungry than peppy, Tom recommended the Paradise Beach Grill in nearby Capitola. Although on the noisy side, Tom’s choice was an excellent one-size-fits-all dinner spot with a tasty selection of continental fare. Whether you pull on your best jeans or a little black dress, you’ll feel comfortable. After calamari, clam chowder and lemon pepper chicken, we were ready to head back to the inn and call it a day. Following a serene night’s sleep (it is blissfully quiet there) in one of the most comfortable beds ever, I was delighted to find a full-sized coffeemaker in the room, not one of those tiny, wimpy ones that scarcely produce a mug of coffee.
    Once we were properly caffeinated, we toddled downstairs to the dining room for a scrumptious layout of fresh melon and berries, muffins, bagels and juice. Breakfast was lovely, but even better than the meal was the company. No, not the other guests – the innkeeper himself! Tom greeted us from his perch behind the breakfast bar, where he scanned the morning newspaper and enjoyed a cup of coffee. An affable and articulate man, we chatted about all sorts of things, from the finer points of interior design to the pleasures and perils of Italian travel. It was truly hospitality, and a joy to get acquainted with our host and feel welcomed into his home.
    As we mentioned our plans for the day, which included a walk by the beach and dinner at a nearby restaurant, Tom looked slightly troubled with the itinerary. IfPleasure Point Dining Room we REALLY wanted an evening we’d never forget, he said, begin with dinner at Ciao Bella, just up the highway in Ben Lomand.
    “Just a typical Italian place. The waiters will sing to you,” he said with an impish twinkle in his eye.
    Typical Italian? Try Hollywood meets Venice meets Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. On acid.
    From the naked golden statue at the doorway to the black light interior to the waitress with the leopard-print crewcut and angel wings (no, it was not Halloween), dinner at Ciao Bella was one gloriously rambunctious event. You  don’t GO to Ciao Bella. You EXPERIENCE Ciao Bella. The evening’s antics began as the proprietor, Tad the Creator, belted out “Unchained Melody” acapella, then segued into a bump-and-grind routine to “I’m Too Sexy” with his waitresses. And they were just warming up.
    I think we ate food.  Veal something or other. I think I loved it.  Swept up in a whirlwind of sound, music and activity, I’m not exactly sure. But of one thing I am certain: I’ll return to Ciao Bella over and over again, and if someday I disappear from journalism, it will be because I’ve accepted my true calling belting out “Cabaret” in a hot-pink vinyl mini-skirt, army boots and fluorescent green fishnets. With hair to match. Oh yes, and may I take your order?
    Sadly, we didn’t have nearly enough time at Ciao Bella. We were sampling a few more of Tom’s recommendations, like Moe’s Alley.  This is another local don’t-miss spot, not only because of the incredible live blues performances and dancing but because the crowd is not so young that I could have given birth to half the people in the room. Not a comforting thought for someone still yearning for a pink vinyl mini-skirt, despite the year stamped on her driver’s license.
    Bottom line, I can’t wait to get back to Santa Cruz. What a turnaround from my first impression, when I couldn’t wait to leave. When I do return, it will be to the Pleasure Point Inn, where I will gladly put Tom in charge of not only my bed and breakfast but my entertainment as well. I will be in good hands. And so will you.

Pleasure Point Inn is located at 2-3665 East Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. Rooms range in price from $220-265 per night. For more information call (831)469-6161 or visit their website, Home Page