Nearly all my beach experiences in my life have been with resort-orientated shores, mainly on the East Coast. When I thought about the beach before, images of high rise hotels, boardwalks, and piers danced in my head.
Encinitas lies in stark contrast to these notions. While there are hotels in the area, they seem small, and I don't think I've seen one that sits beach front. The shore here seems casually but profoundly regarded -- woven into the town's cloth without overpowering it. I'd have a hard time comparing Encinitas to any of the beaches on the East Coast -- Cape May and Rehoboth come close, but even these seem more touristy than my present surroundings. All the glitz and garish trappings that typifies East Coast beach towns seem absent here.
That this vision of Encinitas was not corrupted by monetary interest is no doubt due to the laudable stewardship of the city's planners and leaders. Perhaps too, the landscape has shaped Encinitas's growth -- cliffs separate the town and the shore. Only a couple Encintas streets end with stairways that provide beach access -- the rest end with great cliff-top vistas of the ocean, but no way to get down.
The main road through the town, "Highway 101", is surrounded on both sides by charming restaurants and shops. More chic second-hand clothing stores than I've seen in one town provides, if nothing else, hip window dressing. "E Street Cafe", the coffee shop from which I'm presently writing, I can say with certainty is the best coffee shop I've ever patronized. Roomy, free wireless internet, and great art on their walls are aspects that draw me in (and, oh yeah, good coffee). Not a single nationally-owned fast-food restaurant lies beside the town's stretch of 101, decidedly inconvenient for someone without a car and groceries. In town there are more churches than I'd have anticipated, many for unfamiliar denominations like "Church of Spiritual Unity" (healing starts at 11am).
Of course, there are things I'd like to have in the area that aren't. The single movie theater here is more of an art-house theater, and doesn't even show "current" art house movies. Catching whichever blockbuster is the current rage means driving 20 minutes to the next town. And for a beach town, there's a surprising lack of dedicated ice-cream shops. There's a restaurant that has a good selection of ice-cream, I'm told, but something tells me if I ordered a large chocolate malt milkshake I'd be disappointed.
I feel like I'm missing a large part of Encinitas without a vehicle -- and I don't just mean seeing places that lie outside of walking distance (though that's certainly a large part of it). Until my car arrives (due 9/10 ), I'm unable to get a feel for the traffic's ebbs and flows, shortcuts, and other aspects culture one must be driving to appreciate.
I'm very much looking forward to getting to know the town better.