A number of years ago my husband was visiting our daughter who was living in Ukiah at the time. They took a drive intending to go to Mendocino but never got there, and he has wanted to go to Mendocino ever since. With two grandchildren graduating high school one week apart, we chose to spend a few days between graduations in Mendocino.
I learned about the Stanford Inn by the Sea from a friend who has a cottage at Ft. Bragg. She often eats at the restaurant there, The Ravens, and loves it. As a long- standing vegetarian, I was interested to learn that this is the only vegan spa in the country. Listening to interviews of authors of vegan cookbooks and reading about how advantageous vegan eating is, I have been tempted to make the leap but have not done this on my own. What better way to experience vegan food than at The Ravens' Restaurant, a premiere vegan restaurant? This was an amazingly good decision. My husband, a non-vegetarian, could not stop raving about the fantastic food.
From the Stanford Inn by the Sea website: “ We are the Stanford Inn’s integrated and holistic wellness center offering nutrition, art therapy, meditation, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, Tai Chi, yoga, massage, spa treatments, gardening, cooking, nature walks, mushroom foraging and more.”
We arrived on a Sunday evening having driven in from Palo Alto with a “stretch stop” in Healdsburg- Sonoma County. It was a good place to stop briefly, lots of wine tasting and places to eat. Our GPS directed us to turn from Highway 101 to 128. We went through the Alexander Valley, to the Russian River watershed, eventually along the Navarro River through Boonville and the Anderson Valley and magically, mystically through Navarro River Redwoods State Park. The sense of majesty and beauty held as we turned off Highway 1 onto Comptche Ukiah Road and into the driveway of Stanford Inn by the Sea. Stepping out of the car on the way to register, everything felt special, calm, beautiful and uplifting.
After arriving, we were surprised and fascinated with all that was offered. So much to see and do in an atmosphere that feels safe and renewing- “It’s almost like heaven. It’s incredibly beautiful with the birds singing and the greenery,” was my husband’s comment.
Our room was beautiful and well appointed. The wood paneling all over the room maintains a natural feeling. Tucked away were a microwave, a refrigerator, and coffee maker. Keeping us in the world just a bit was a large flat screen TV with extremely good channel selections and excellent WiFi. There is also a wonderful sounds system and excellent plumbing. All of the rooms have balconies and views of the surrounding forests with ravens flying around and the ocean in the distance. Walking to our room from the reception desk, we noticed accessible rooms that were available.
It was soon time for dinner at The Ravens' Restaurant. This dinner and the one that followed the next night were wonderful and merit a separate review article. Breakfast and afternoon tea are offered as part of the guest plan but the community eats here often, too. At dinner we spoke with a couple, vegans from San Francisco who were camping nearby and noted that the restaurant is famous, and it was a great time for them to enjoy the wonderful food offering.
The lounge is a relaxing place, as well. It contains a gift shop, a bar, a restaurant area where dogs are allowed and another where they are not. Downstairs is space where various classes such as yoga take place. There is also workout equipment in addition to a gallery devoted to the history of the area and its first residents, the Pomo Indians. The pets visiting with their owners also bring a warmth and energy to the facility.
We had a wonderful time wandering the grounds. The grounds are sensuous with greenery and flowers everywhere. We enjoyed seeing the organic garden, the animals, horses, donkeys and llamas, as well as cats that are all rescue animals. We wandered down to the dock where "Catch A Canoe & Bicycles, too!" ( the name is based on the old campaign slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!") offers rental of Canoes, kayaks and bicycles from which one can explore the rivers and trails. We found our way to the gorgeous pool in the solarium where there are also showers, a sauna, and tables and chairs to sit and relax.
We found the totality of our visit here to be much greater than the sum of its parts: the room, the food, the environment. It was an almost spiritual and totally renewing experience to stay at Stanford Inn by the Sea even for two days.
My husband and I had the chance to talk with owner, Jeff Stanford, the last night of our stay. He confirmed what we were feeling during our visit, that there is a special energy at Stanford Inn and that a stay here can and has been a life changing experience for visitors. For my husband and I, it has been an amazing experience. We have found it renewing and revitalizing. The food has been an adventure and the flavors and textures that made up the food we experienced became an experience to remember. The food was as delicious as any we have ever had, anywhere but more than that we were left feeling comfortable and healthy. As Jeff Stanford said, “You will extend your life eating this way. It is science”.
The STANFORD INN by the sea Eco-Resort
44850 Comptche-Ukiah Road
Mendocino . CA 95460
PhotosL Leon Keer