1. Folly Beach, S.C.
During the early 1980s, I lived in the historic district of Charleston. I rented an apartment for $175 a month from a curmudgeonly woman whose car I nearly crushed with an air conditioner. But that's another blog post.
On warm weekend afternoons, I'd drive out to Folly Beach, a 'Left Coast' enclave in conservative South Carolina. The Southern tip of the island is barren (but beautiful) and, at least back then, was mostly frequented by Charleston's small gay population. Nothing wicked, mind you. Just long, hot afternoons, hanging out with friends, reading, jumping in and out of the ocean (in August it felt like bath water), then driving home in my convertible Camaro, music full blast, climaxed by a visit to Wendy's drive-through window for a Frosty. We're talking good times here, people! I return to Folly Beach whenever I get the chance; I spent a couple of delightful hours there just last summer. And one day, I want some of my ashes spread at the very Southern tip of the island. That's how special this place is to me.
|Nick going for a 'swim' at Folly Beach|
This is a quiet, small, beautiful beach south of Pacifica on the spectacular coastal road Highway 1, about a 30 minute drive from San Francisco. Nick and I have spent many happy afternoons here, taking in the spectacular surroundings and the quirky inhabitants. It is, after all, a clothing-optional beach--a place where you might, say, stumble upon a nude game of volleyball.
For all its charms, Gray Whale Cove can be maddeningly elusive. As beaches go, it's like Brigadoon--the town in the Broadway musical and film of that name that only appears for one day every 100 years. I say this because on far too many occasions, we'll drive down from sunny San Francisco only to discover that Gray Whale Cove has disappeared in the fog. I'm not one to linger in fog, so it's back to the city we go, disappointed but determined to enjoy this beach again.
Now, I'm afraid we may never have that opportunity. As of last fall, the state of California was planning to close Gray Whale Cove and other state parks for budgetary reasons.
|Gray Whale Cove|
I was torn between citing this beach town and Positano, also in Italy. Positano is the more interesting of the two places--a wildly vertiginous village that tumbles down steep cliffs to the sea. However, we're talking about beaches, and in this regard, Monterosso Al Mare gets my vote.
|The beach at Monterosso|
When Nick and I were there in September 2011, the water was deliciously warm, but not too much. You can rent a beach chair, grab a cocktail and a sandwich, and watch with amusement the hot chaos of this Italian resort town. During our stay, for instance, a woman in full bridal regalia was being photographed all around the beach--and eventually, she jumped into the sea for yet more photographs. Nick thinks it was all a photo shoot, probably for a magazine. Someone else told me there's a new tradition of brides 'trashing' their gowns after the wedding in high style. I prefer to think that, like me, she was simply overtaken by the beauty of the coast, the romance, and, yes, a few Camparis.
|The bride and groom in Monterosso's 'tunnel of love'|
|Bride and groom, on the rocks|
|The bride gets swept away|