Escape work, worries and the world at the Pleasure Point Inn
By DEBRA LO GUERCIO
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 and
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. If
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, www.pleasurepointinn.com