Singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles was born and raised in Eureka, California. After beginning her performing career as Audrey in her high school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, Bareilles has collaborated with Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams, Elton John and Sugarland (among many others) and has written a New York Times best-selling memoir, My Life (So Far) in Song. In 2015 she was hired to write the score for the Broadway musical Waitress, based on the movie of the same name. She was nominated for both Tony and Grammy awards for the production’s music and lyrics and the show continues its successful run at New York City’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre today. For this week’s Listen Up, we’ve chosen a video of Sara Bareilles performing her single “She Used to Be Mine,” from the musical Waitress.
The entire 1,100 miles of California coastline was declared a national monument in 2000 by Presidential decree. Living in the Golden State for the last 24 years, we visited most of the monument, piece by piece, leaving just one sliver between Loleta and the Oregon border to be explored. This week we completed our adventure with a visit to the magnificent coastal area where the redwoods meet the Pacific in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.
Ocean vistas were changeable from moody and obscure to the crystal clarity of boats in harbors, craggy monstrous stacks, gentle bay waters, and ocean waves, as the fog rolled in and out along the coast without rhyme or apparent reason. The towns were tiny and faded (Orick, pop 357), sprawling (Crescent City, pop nearly 8,000), a sleepy fishermen’s village (Trinidad, pop 367), quaintly Victorian (Ferndale, population 1,370) or Victorian with an edge (Eureka, with a greater metropolitan area population of over 45,000). Sometimes the highways and byways were scenic, cutting through giant redwoods, breaking open to stunning ocean views. At other times, the ugly American redundancy of big box stores, atrocious beige architecture and fast food restaurants brought to mind Anywhere U.S.A. But in each town there was something that hit the spot, feeding our hunger for authenticity. Crescent City’s nearly deserted crescent shaped beach provided solitude, Trinidad’s harbor brought back memories of the Amalfi coast, and Ferndale is a compact little gem with a pleasing mixture of Victorian buildings (both homes and Main Street businesses) surrounded by dairies and ranches.
But it was Eureka that won our hearts. In the historic Old Town, the Arts District is a lively area of extraordinary 19th century structures, now housing restaurants, artists’ lofts, and one-of-a-kind retail shops and other businesses just a few blocks from the boardwalk stretched out along Humboldt Bay. The Carson Mansion (now the private Ingomar Club) sits on a hilltop, across from the Carson House, now known as The Pink Lady, which operates as a vacation rental. The Arkley Center for the Performing Arts has been beautifully restored and brings local, national and international music, dance and theater presentations to Eureka, and mixed in with the Victorian architecture are buildings from the 40’s through the 60’s, many of which still house their original businesses established more than 70 years ago. We rented the California Cowboy apartment in the beautiful perfectly situated Buhne Building through Airbnb, finding a large one bedroom treasure with styling worthy of an Elle Décor cover (though it does come with a shared bathroom). To our surprise, the building sits across from Eureka’s mid-century modern store. Yes, it’s that kind of Old Town: easy, changing, water views, and surprises on every corner. It passed our great small town test with flying colors: interesting architecture, locally-owned bookstores (for both used and new books), a great library, good food (Brick & Fire Bistro, Humboldt Bay Provisions, and Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe), a good bakery with an excellent chai latte (Ramone’s), arts and entertainment (the Arkley Center), and a marked sense of vitality on the rise. Eureka!