An afternoon at Lands End might begin with lunch at Louis’ a modest brown hip-roofed building with brick trim. A blue oval-shaped sign with gold letters hangs above the door. It reads Louis’ Restaurant, Family Owned Since 1937. Come early because it gets crowded around noon. Pick one of the ocean view booths at the back of the restaurant for the best views in the house. You will zone out on the stunning scenes. Watch the fog thin and lift uncovering the beauty of the play of sunlight sparkling on the waves of an incredibly blue Pacific Ocean. Watch see sea lions frolicking on Seal Rocks and marvel at the Sutro Bath ruins below. The food is good. I recommend the homemade minestrone soup with sourdough bread or if you want a real fat feast, order the fish and chips. Don’t leave Louis’ without tasting their pie à la mode.
Lunch over, pause at the white picket fence adjacent to the restaurant to gaze at Ocean Beach before heading down to the remnants of the Sutro Baths, a trip back in time. Imagine men and women in woolen bathing costumes that extended from neck to knees swimming in one of the six enclosed saltwater swimming pools of the once lavish bathhouse. These pools were flushed with ocean tides.
Take the steep steps down to the baths passing wind twisted cypresses and blankets of pink ice plant blossoms along the way. At the old Sutro Baths’ ruins balance on the craggy walls then explore a secret cave on the northwest side of the baths. Inside the cave, briny mist smells of seaweed and tiny sea creatures. Listen to the ominous roar of the ocean pounding against and under the rocks supporting the cave. Peer at the crashing waves through one of several small apertures in the cave. The Sutro Baths burned down in 1966.
Leave the baths using the more leisurely ramp trail and head to the historic Cliff House.
In the Cliff House find a table in the Sutros Bar and Lounge on the second floor. Surrounded by soft ocean colors and natural wood sip a traditional Ramos Fizz and gaze out the two-story floor to ceiling windows at the foaming tongue of waves lapping at the sensuous curves of coastline where sand meets ocean.
The Cliff House, built in 1863 exudes a feeling of elegance as you sit where the wealthy Hearst, Stanford and Crocker families once dined. The Cliff House like the Phoenix rose from its destruction three times. In 1887 severely damaged when the schooner Parallel loaded with dynamite ran aground and exploded on the rocks below it rose again only to be burned in 1894 and again in 1907. Today it still stands in all its glory.
As you watch the sky redden and the sun begin its journey into the sea turning the water purple, consider it a day well spent.
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