Bodega: More Than Just For The Birds

Escalon Times - - NEIGHBORHOOD VALUES - By CARY ORD­WAY Cal­i­for­ni­aWeek­end.com

There is a scene in Al­fred Hitch­cock’s “The Birds,” near the start of the movie, where Tippy He­dren is speed­ing her sports car through the rolling green coun­try­side. Sud­denly the cam­era pulls back to show a bay and sea­side vil­lage that are so pris­tine and pic­turesque they would do jus­tice to any fine paint­ing.

The movie then pro­ceeds to al­low thou­sands of birds to ter­ror­ize this idyl­lic lit­tle place and run Tippy and boyfriend Rod Tay­lor com­pletely out of town. For­tu­nately, it was all just a movie and we’re happy to re­port that the movie’s lit­tle vil­lage — Bodega Bay — has sur­vived to be­come an even more pop­u­lar get­away than it was be­fore Hitch­cock chose it for his movie.

In fact, birds are big busi­ness in Bodega. You can’t cross the street with­out some re­minder that the movie was filmed there. The Tides Restau­rant — fea­tured promi­nently in the movie — now has a gift shop that has be­come a near-mu­seum with its shelves and shelves of stuffed birds, Hitch­cock posters, lo­ca­tion pho­tos and just about any kind of cloth­ing you want em­bla­zoned with some vari­a­tion of Bodega Bay or “The Birds.” Of course, no mat­ter that the “real” restau­rant burned down long ago and the re­place­ment build­ings bear no re­sem­blance to those used in the movie.

What does re­main is the same sleepy sea­side vil­lage that ap­peared in the movie. While there cer­tainly have been many new build­ings added since the movie’s re­lease in 1963, the town re­tains the same char­ac­ter so ev­i­dent in the movie. For that rea­son, Bodega ranks high when most peo­ple plan their North­ern Cal­i­for­nia va­ca­tion.

Our sug­ges­tion would be to rent “The Birds” be­fore tak­ing your trip to Bodega Bay. It will

be fun com­par­ing the many lo­ca­tions in the movie with how they look now, 40 years later, and the movie will also give you a good idea of what to ex­pect when you get there — as long as you dis­re­gard the birds.

You might also dis­re­gard a few ge­o­graphic in­con­sis­ten­cies. For ex­am­ple, one of the most mem­o­rable scenes from the movie is when the birds at­tack the chil­dren at the coun­try school and the kids try an or­derly re­treat from the school only to be forced run­ning and scream­ing down to the wa­ter­front. The old Pot­ter School that was used in the movie is still there — prob­lem is, it’s in the town of Bodega, sev­eral miles from the wa­ter­front that the movie shows just down the street from the school.

An­other great place to match scenery with the movie is to take Bay Hill Road from the vil­lage area a lit­tle more than a mile up into the rolling hills above Bodega Bay. Soon you’ll be able to look back at Bodega and see ex­actly the same “es­tab­lish­ing shot” of the bay that Hitch­cock used in those early scenes of the movie.

Back down at the Tides Restau­rant, there still is a bit of the wa­ter­front fla­vor seen in the movie. Fish­ing trawlers bring their fresh catch to a seafood com­pany on the dock, and there are al­ways plenty of bark­ing sea li­ons hop­ing to dine on left­overs. In the movie, Tippy rented a small mo­tor­boat at this dock be­fore mo­tor­ing across the bay to her new boyfriend’s house.

Now for those who could care less about movie-mak­ing, Bodega Bay was an es­tab­lished get­away long be­fore “The Birds” came out. The peace­ful na­ture of the bay, the coun­try­side and the many parks and beaches along this part of the Cal­i­for­nia coast make it an ocean lover’s par­adise. It also helps that the area is rel­a­tively easy to get to from the San Fran­cisco Bay area — less than two hours from al­most any Bay area lo­ca­tion -- and that lo­cal ho­tels of­ten of­fer spe­cial travel deals or va­ca­tion pack­ages.

We stayed the night at the Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa, the area’s only four-di­a­mond re­sort. Sit­u­ated ideally close to the south­east shore of Bodega Bay, the prop­erty of­fers an ex­pan­sive area just out­side your door to go ex­plor­ing the bay. The sights, sounds and smells of the bay are right there — most no­tably the foghorns heard faintly in the dis­tance, guid­ing ships away from the haz­ardous coast­line.

The lodge is spread out in a se­ries of build­ings that have been up­dated with Cape Cod styling. Our taste­fully ap­pointed suite was like a high-end stu­dio apart­ment with a com­plete liv­ing room area ad­ja­cent to the bed and a small desk ar­range­ment. Of spe­cial note was the over­size Jacuzzi tub, which got some good use dur­ing our stay. At the other end of the unit, slid­ing glass doors opened out to the bay shore, and a pa­tio of­fered a re­lax­ing place to ob­serve the sur­round­ings.

The Bodega Bay Lodge also fea­tures a re­sort-style ocean­view pool and large hot tub, which seemed quite pop­u­lar with a group of busi­ness peo­ple who were stay­ing at the lodge as part of a cor­po­rate re­treat. Then of course we must not for­get the spa — not on our list of ac­tiv­i­ties, but pop­u­lar with guests who come to Bodega Bay for rest, re­lax­ation and re­ju­ve­na­tion. In fact, spa va­ca­tions are big busi­ness nowa­days and you’ll find spa re­sorts in most ma­jor Cal­i­for­nia tourist des­ti­na­tions.

Bodoga Bay of­fers trails to help guide you to beaches such as Short­tail Gulch Beach. The trail to Short­tail is fairly new and al­lows ac­cess to a beach that was pre­vi­ously dif­fi­cult to reach. There is a whole net­work of such trails in the area, mak­ing for end­less hours of ex­plo­ration and dis­cov­ery.

If you’re up for a short drive, the coast­line near Bodega of­fers many spec­tac­u­lar sea­side view­points as well as beaches to ex­plore. Driv­ing this part of High­way 1, it seems that just about ev­ery bend in the road re­veals an­other pic­ture-per­fect view of the rocky shore­line, spec­tac­u­lar bluffs or Robin­son Cru­soe beaches.

Just south of Bodega Bay you’ll find To­ma­les Bay, a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for kayak­ers and oth­ers who want to en­joy up­close-and-per­sonal con­tact with the area’s marine life. At the Bodega Marine Lab­o­ra­tory, each Fri­day from 2 to 4 p.m. you can ex­plore a num­ber of aquar­ium dis­plays fea­tur­ing col­or­ful lo­cal fish, a kelp for­est and other marine life.

Hitch­cock re­ally was look­ing for great scenery rather than the birds he ul­ti­mately added to the movie through spe­cial ef­fects and me­chan­i­cal de­vices. But, iron­i­cally, Bodega Bay is known as a “hot spot” on the North­ern Coast for find­ing rare birds. More rare birds have been spot­ted in Bodega than any other place in Sonoma County — and, for­tu­nately, not one of them has in­sti­gated an at­tack on the thou­sands of tourists brought to this area each year by “The Birds.”

Photo cour­tesy Visit Bodega

The rugged Sonoma Coast is just one of the many rea­sons to head to Bodega Bay.

PHOTO COUR­TESY WIKIPEDIA

The Bodega Bay school house made fa­mous by Al­fred Hitch­cock’s thriller “The Birds.”

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