Now, I have been to Santa Cruz before. Granted, I was only 9 and so I had a limited understanding of the town. What I remembered was a bunch of little wooden houses in pretty colors and trees lining the sidewalks bathed in the yellow light of afternoon. Santa Cruz is like that in some parts, but you can never tell which ones.
That in fact is a hallmark of the place. It's weird. Everything about it is sort of strange. I felt like I had landed in an alternative universe where people have two states of being - aging organic or pierced pasty emo. Needless to say, I was observed because I am clearly neither.
In addition to the people who were going au naturale and those who were a little tightly wound, there was a mixture of strange business structure to the place. Some businesses were of the very expensive posh attempt at some kind of cultural fair. Others were clearly from a very specific hallway closet of a stoner in his eighth year at the UC.
When I say everything is weird here, I mean everything. Even the mascot for the UC is the BANANA SLUG. What? Who thought of that? They must have had a finger on the pulse of the place.
But you can tell the place is strange immediately, outside the mascot, the smell of marijuana wafting through the air on a light zephyr, or the aging hippies with more money than they know what to do with - it's all in the buildings. The town doesn't make sense. Houses are in random pockets, but wait! You're just as likely to find a pocket of businesses or industrial properties as you are residential! There are two extended commercial sections that we could find, and they required signs in order to find them. Who does that?! Stoners??
Don't get me wrong. I kind of like the place. It's quirky and artsy. Everything has character, even the chain stores. It seems to be a requirement. Everything outside seems to have strange shapes and a variety of colors and unique fonts. The people are warm and gentle. They have a wine tasting grotto of sorts (our purpose for visiting) which reminds me of the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc. There are multiple French bakeries in this small beach side town. How could you go wrong?! I actually found a chocolate croissant that had good chocolate and a flaky crust. It was the best I've had in Northern California so far, but was just slightly overdone.
The verdict? I'll go back there again. Perhaps I should wear less make-up, more drab colors in rougher fabrics and cork soled shoes. Maybe I could get away with all black and a beret. But in either case, I will definitely drink more wine and eat more pastries when I return. With any luck, I'll see a banana slug in all it's glory. Here's hoping!