Pacific Grove, Calif., was my home for much of this past summer. The city, called "PG" by locals, is also known by other endearing names, such as:
• Butterfly Town, USA. Multitudes of monarchs fly to Pacific Grove in late October from up to 2,000 miles away. These welcome winter visitors grace the town until early March.
• The Most Romantic Town in the West. Natural beauty is everywhere. The crowning jewel, the Pacific Ocean, washes over wondrous rock formations. When the capricious sun and blue sky break through the fog, almost like one of those monarchs taking its first tentative steps out of its cocoon, the ocean can become a sea of diamonds dancing on a bed of sapphire and emerald. My favorite non-potable drink is now Pacific Ocean on the rocks. I could inhale its scent forever.
• America's Last Hometown. Even with so much big-city culture in the area, there's a folksiness about PG. The name Pacific Grove itself sounds a bit like the Grover's Corners of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." I attended PG's Fourth of July celebration in Caledonia Park, to which the whole town was invited. Local denizens in period costumes gave a spirited reading of the entire Declaration of Independence.
I also thought of a sobriquet for this magical city, which captivated me from day one - Pacific Grove: A Little Piece of Paradise. In addition to the ever-changing ocean and arrival of monarchs, many things make this city by the sea unique.
Take the homes, for instance: an eclectic mix of Victorians (several of which have been turned into bed-and-breakfasts) and Craftsman style and flower-covered bungalows, with modern condos and apartments added to the mix.
Many homes have a plaque affixed to the front of the house that lists the first owner and the date the home was built, such as "Hannah Peacock, 1916." Some have charming names such as "Daffodil House" and "La Petite Fleur," (the little flower) my personal favorite.
During my almost daily walks to town, folks passing by said hello and often exchanged pleasantries with me. Once downtown, I noticed a distinct absence of fast-food restaurants; bars were nowhere to be found. All downtown businesses are individually owned.
While having lunch, I enjoyed watching people go by, many accompanied by their favorite pooch on a leash. I never did see a dog running unrestrained in the streets. However, I did see many deer, who roamed freely and often came up to our hotel grounds looking for breakfast, just about the time I was looking for mine.
Other things that make PG unique include:
• Daily temperatures that average from the 50s to the high 60s all year. One tour guide told our group that only 2.2 percent of the world's surface enjoys such a moderate climate.
• The Feast of Lanterns, which celebrates the early Chinese presence in PG, lasts almost a week in July. Homeowners hang out lanterns of many colors in recognition of the retelling of the Chinese Blue Willow Story, which is given a Pacific Grove twist. Festivities culminate with fireworks over the water as Queen Topaz and her court sail by.
But it's the people who really make visitors feel welcome. On my second to last Sunday in Pacific Grove, I decided to check out Asilomar State Park. Asilomar (the name means "refuge by the sea" in Spanish), is a 107-acre preserve with many rustic buildings that form a hotel/conference center complex.
At Phoebe's, the Asilomar café, I came upon a group of local knitters. When I expressed interest they immediately invited me to join them. I explained that the following Sunday was my last one in PG before heading home to Tucson. "Come anyway," they encouraged. So I did.
But even paradise isn't perfect. Homeowners here are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks outside their homes. Some do not take this responsibility seriously. A huge crack in the sidewalk precipitated a fall on my tush the first Sunday there. I was grateful to walk away from that one.
After I had been in Pacific Grove for a while, the lost look on my face must have disappeared, as several tourists asked for directions. It was a good feeling to pay it forward after all the help I had received. Hopefully all the information will remain in my memory bank, as I'll be back!
If you're interested in finding out more about Pacific Grove, go to www.pacificgrove.org online or call 1-800-656-6650.
On StarNet: Read Barbara Russek's recent columns at azstarnet.com/barbararussek
E-mail Barbara Russek at Babette2@comcast.net