Encinitas, California might just be the funkiest town in the United States. The small coastal berg which is pushed up against the Pacific Ocean is home to about 60,000 residents many of whom are living in their vans. Encinitas is made up of 5 distinct neighborhoods. Historic Encinitas which runs along the famous 101 and borders the ocean. It's a small and super-funky beach inspired downtown. New Encinitas is East of I-5 (so we've never really been there) and is basically like any other suburban, strip mall lined town (Target, Bed Bath and Beyond , Walgreen's etc.) Olivehain is also a bit inland and is mostly olive groves and has a more rural ranch-like setting. Bordering the 6 miles of pristine coastline are the beach blanket areas of Cardiff-by-the Sea (or simply Cardiff) which was named after the town in Wales and Leucadia, famous for its towering Eucalyptus trees. Encinitas is 25 miles North of San Diego and about 100 miles south of L.A. Other than surfers, skaters, tri-athletes and hippies; Encinitas is famous for its flowers...and its generally considered the poinsettia growing capital of the world.
There are some very cool places in Encinitas, but its the beach and the mild climate that attracts the most attention. Consignment shops, used record stores, florists, bead vendors and funk inspired coffee shops and restaurants line the 101. Swami's one of the most famous surf spots in the world is about 20 feet off the main road. A-Spin always stops at Juanita's Taco Shop whenever we're in Encinitas. Talk about funky--this place has bars on the windows, like a jail and apparently has never been cleaned. It's open from 7 am to 3 am. Juanita's serves the best carnitas in San Diego to a clientele ranging from bare-foot homeless surfers to Bentley driving billionaires.
Funky art is a big part of the overall vibe in Encinitas. Recently an unusual, unauthorized and controversial gift of art was illegally mounted under a train trestle just east of Moonlight Beach. THE SURFING MADONNA, a hand painted mosaic was attached to a concrete wall just before Earth Day by official looking workmen wearing jumpsuits and hard hats. No one was suspicious. The 10' x 10' installation took place in broad daylight at an intersection that sees 18,000 cars per day. The Surfing Madonna depicts Our lady of Guadalupe riding a surf-board with the inscription "Save the Ocean". Tons of Encinitas residents and tourists think the Surfing Madonna is extremely cool. She even has her own twitter account @SurfingMadonna. It's estimated that the mosaic contains at least $1000 of raw materials and took at least 100 hours to complete.
Nice gift ---right? --but the artist and his henchmen remain silent. Who created the Surfing Madonna is a big secret because even in funky Encinitas the politicians need to interject their 2 cents. The Encinitas City Council is insisting that the piece be removed because it did not go through the proper public review process. According to the City Fathers, The Surfing Madonna is considered graffiti and would set a terrible precident for other potential taggers. The Council voted unanimously to remove the artwork from it's seemingly permanent spot under the bridge. Not to appear to harsh, they allocated $2000 to conduct a study to ensure that the mosiac can remain in tact and find a home on private property. Really? Good Stuff?
An example of "city authorized" art is the surfing statue known as The Cardiff Kook. The Kook gets its name because of his unorthodox and unwieldy surfing stance. The Kook has become a place for good natured practical jokers to express themselves. The Cardiff Kook has been dressed in many elaborate costumes since it became a reality about 2 years ago. A huge paper mache shark's head was one of the best efforts. Recently, The Kook was dressed as Oprah to honor her last show. According to the city workers who are responsible for removing the costumes "it happens a lot....every holiday for sure". If you stop by to see The Cardiff Kook...do yourself a favor...have a maple bar at VG's Bakery across the street...ask anybody--even Rob Machado.