Mermaids encircled me this weekend and I didn’t even have a toe in the ocean. The mermaid-inspired cottage we rented in Solana Beach was awash in sleek, green-finned mermaids — at the front door, embedded in the bathroom tiles, adorning the walls and the pièce de résistance — a sparkling 5-foot mermaid mosaic in blues and greens that illuminated our private patio.
Solana Beach is nestled along the northern coast of San Diego County and a 30- minute drive from downtown San Diego. After a relaxing 2½-hour ride on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, Jim and I arrived at Solana Beach’s Quonset hut-inspired train station.
Solana Beach is a favorite destination of ours. Small and inviting with lovely beaches, shops, restaurants, and nearby hiking. The Cedros design district has abundant art galleries, import and antique stores and cafes. Leaping Lotus, one of my favorites, has 21,000 square feet of shopping pleasure. Beautiful, fun, quirky and unique gifts, many created by local artists, always tempt me.
Many stores carry decorative items featuring the mythical oceanic half-female, half-fish mermaid. These beautiful, seductive maidens with their streaming auburn tresses have mystified seafarers for thousands of years and inspired myths, stories, movies and even an annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid is perhaps the best know mermaid of all time, but who can forget Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks in the 1980’s romantic comedy Splash?
In 1493, Christopher Columbus sighted three mermaids near what is now the Dominican Republic. He wrote they “came quite high out of the water but were not as pretty as they are depicted, for somehow in the face they look like men.” English adventurer John Smith described a mermaid he saw off Newfoundland in 1614, “her long green hair imparted to her an original character that was by no means unattractive.”
Mermaids, manatee, doppelganger, who knows? The mermaid spell has endured across space and time and clearly lingers in Solana Beach where surfers, paddle boarders, and families enjoyed the unseasonably warm November day.
On my last evening there, I walked to Tide Beach to watch the sunset. As the sun kissed the sea good night, I wondered if the fleeting green flash I saw was the shimmering tail of a lost mermaid as she dove down to the idyllic oceanic floor. I don’t know for sure… but I’d like to think so.