Listen: To Build a Home by Andrew Gavin Williams (The Cinematic Orchestra)
It’s summer in Homer, Alaska. You’re in your favourite American indie movie with people in jeans, flannel check shirts and rubber boots, holding cups of piping hot coffee. There’s nothing you would change, included that authentic hippie spirit that is in all Alaskan generations and that deeply inside you wished it run in your veins as well. At 5pm, ’90s car and pick-up trucks arrive on the Old Town’s beach and stop one next to the other to look at the sunset over the bay, like in a natural drive in. As Homer Split is illuminated by the last ray of light, it turns into a golden tongue jutting out into the bay, right to the very tip. It’s a campground perfectly integrated in the surrounding nature and deeply connected to water, sailing and fishing (The Fishing Lagoon is crowded with men and women with fishing rods and bags). You warm up around the campfire where they’re grilling fresh filleted fish, and enjoy the owner’s family and their friends company. Together, you wait for another day to end in the Kenai Peninsula.
You’re queuing at the Two Sisters Bakery, a cosy house where sweet and savoury treats as well as main courses are cooked in the wood brick oven. Danish pastries, vegan sandwiches, quiches, red berries, multigrain loaves, sourdough baguettes, spicy vegetarian soups, cupcakes and savoury pancakes. Delicious healthy food served in generous portions by serene and loving hands. You will show up at the door of this cottage at breakfast, lunch and dinner, even on their closure days, hoping to find it open. Your search for fresh, fragrant and contemporary food ends here, in Homer, Alaska. In the backyard, a wooden veranda with benches, cushions faded by the sun and hanging flower baskets, and a playground area with trucks and spades abandoned in the sun by authentic Alaskan kids. Before the wild garden and the long beach on the bay, surrounded by tall mountains and glaciers. There are also two suites for the night, right above the bakery, on the top of the staircase.
Maura’s Cafe is a café and delicatessen with the atmosphere of Paris XIII arrondissement and the spirit of those who live on Kachemak Bay, looking at the sky over the bay changing colour at any time of the day. The soundtrack from an old film set in La Butte de Montmartre is playing in the background. The bar is a display of mouth-watering quiches, brown butter croissants, pain au chocolate, French cheeses, soft omelettes, thin and crunchy crepes with fresh ricotta and wild blueberries. You’ll come back at lunch time, and perhaps sit outside. You’re still in Homer’s Old Town, on the street that runs parallel to the sea.
Homer Split is Homer’s port. From here, you can take the ferry to Kachemak Bay, the touristy part of the city, with its travel agencies, bazaars, fish and chips kiosks… Among them, you’ll find a pale blue cottage with benches outside, called La Baleine Café. For us, this is the only place in the area worth coming to grab some food to go or where to stop. Unsurprisingly, this cafe is owned by Kirsten and Mandy Dixon, who also manage two fantastic lodges in the wild. The place in cheerful and informal, but lovely decorated as only few places are in Alaska. Expect fresh and organic ingredients and a menu of contemporary bistro near the sea. From 5am to 4pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
The wooden olive green building is the oldest in town and dates back to 1936. The ground floor, that once served as grocer’s shop, today hosts Michael and Asia’s Bunell Art Center. On the first floor, that consisted of hotel rooms, is the Old Town Bed & Breakfast (Michael and Asia’s). In the lovely corner room, Rose’s Room, you can look at the bay from your bed, while lying over a soft handmade patchwork quilt. In the morning, you can choose between a gourmet breakfast at Maura’s or at Two Sisters Bakery’s.
To discover that the pub and steakhouse next door served delicious stylish food was another of Homer’s many surprises. AJ’s Old Town Steakhouse & Tavern is well known for its big windows overlooking the bay. The view from here is like a magnetic painting in the middle of the city. We tried the grilled halibut with mash potatoes and roasted collard greens and cheesecake with strawberry sauce. If you come here when the live piano music is on, don’t leave fearing an irritating piano bar, the music is pleasant and the tunes well chosen.
This street and these people will think that you’re planning on moving here.
Words Paola Corini
Photos Luca De Santis
Translation Raffaella De Tommasi