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Cambria and Paso Robles
Celebrating California's Central Coast:
Cambria and Paso Robles

Story and photos by Mary McGrath

tchy to get out of town, it was time to plan another excursion. I'd heard some great things about Paso Robles, and thought we'd partner with a stop in Cambria to round out the adventure. It was a great strategy.

Paso Robles is a mere 40 minutes from Cambria, requiring an easy drive over pristine rolling terrain. The fact that the area is home to so many wineries made the decision an easy one. Let's go!

boardwalk along the cliffs near Moonstone Beach Drive near Highway 1

Cambria is a gorgeous 3-½ hour drive north of LA. As we meandered up Highway 1, we remembered previous visits where we stayed on Moonstone Beach Drive, home to several restaurants and quaint inns that freckle the terrain. Lacing along the cliffs is a wonderful boardwalk, offering visitors a bracing view of the Pacific.

This time, we stayed at the Pelican Inn and Suites, a cozy enclave of nicely appointed rooms sporting chic modern amenities with a coastal twist. After plopping down our suitcases, we were entertained by the stories of general manager, Charlie Yates, who gave us a brief introduction to Cambria's history, and a bit of information about the property. It's rumored that there are ghosts in some of the neighboring properties, and that's always of interest to me, but I'm glad there weren't any in our room!

Since we were on Moonstone Beach Drive, a stroll was in order along the boardwalk. Who can ignore such a view? Ground squirrels danced by, hoped we'd share some food with them, but alas, our pockets were empty. Soon, they were hopping toward the next passerby, eager to beg for a morsel.

Dinner was planned at the nearby Madeline's Restaurant & Wine Bar, a cozy romantic spot in downtown Cambria that boasts a nicely fused American menu with French influences, thanks to owner, Chef David. Make sure you check out the diver scallops and the crab and lobster cakes. Both were remarkable, making this stop a memorable one.

diver scallops at Madeline's Restaurant and Wine Bar, Cambria

What's a visit to Cambria without a short trek to Hearst Castle? I've visited this place many times, and each time, I'm ushered into Randolph Hearst's glorious past, and decadent opulence. One day, I hope to swim in that indoor pool if there's an opportunity. Or maybe they need a lifeguard.

the indoor pool at the Hearst Castle, Cambria

If you have time, take a quick trip up to Piedras Blancas, where you can enjoy the sea lions and sea elephants romping on the shoreline. The magnitude of these beasts is quite remarkable, giving you a snapshot of nature in its rare form. It's fun for the kids also.

seal pup at Piedras Blancas

bottles of wine at Castoro Cellars, Paso Robles

Soon, we were off to Paso Robles to do damage at a few wineries, and there are so many to choose from. Our first stop was at Castoro Cellars, where we enjoyed a delightful picnic under their gazebo, provided by 15 Degrees C. Salads and sandwiches on such a glorious day set the tone for some serious wine tasting. Castoro offers three complimentary tastes, a real bargain compared to some venues, and their low-key attitude will put any budding oenophile at ease.

Their Event Gallery hosts a different artist monthly, and provides a chic indoor venue for private and public events.

art work at the Event Gallery of Castoro Cellars, Paso Robles

Doug, owner at Peachy Canyon Winery

From Castoro, we headed across the street to Peachy Canyon Winery, a small, world-class family winery specializing in Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon based blends, and Malbec. Ask for Doug and let him tell you about his family's history, and his background as a teacher. It's a great story.

A nap was in order, but first we had to navigate to the hotel, the delightful La Quinta Inn & Suites in Paso Robles. Thankfully, it was easy to spot from the freeway, and soon, we were in slumber before heading out for dinner. Loved the bedding at this hotel, and the place is modern, convenient and affordable, all plusses for the weary traveler.

I'd heard rave reviews about Thomas Hill Organics, and all the hype was well deserved. Tucked away down an alley off downtown Paso Robles, this place serves produce straight from their farm, and features unique wines from all over the Central Coast and Paso Robles. Any of their salads is a must, and although we didn't try their pizzas, they're a big hit at this place. We opted for the Short Ribs and the Scallops, and both were unusual and innovative. Don't forget dessert. Tres Leches and the Olive Cake were both divine.

Scallops at Thomas Hill Organics, Paso Robles

A stroll through downtown Paso Robles takes you back to Mayberry with its simple charms. And although it's growing quickly, this area still is relatively affordable, which accounts for the escalating popularity of this region.

For more information:
www.winecoastcountry.com

La Quinta Inn & Suites
http://832.lq.com

Pelican Suites
www.pelicansuites.com

Hearst Castle
www.hearstcastle.org

Castoro Cellars
www.castorocellars.com

Peachy Canyon Winery
http://www.peachycanyon.com/

Thomas Hill Organics
http://www.thomashillorganics.com/home.html

Madeline's Restaurant
http://www.madelinescambria.com/

15 Degrees C
http://www.15degreescwines.com/

Related Articles:
Pismo Beach: Classic California on the Central Coast; Take the Cure in Paso Robles; Oyster Festival, Central Coast; 3 Cities in the Central Coast; Wine, Waves and Whimsy In Pismo Beach; Monterey Bay

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FEEDBACK FOR PATTI

I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK

FEEDBACK FOR JULIO

The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.

Julio

* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!

Julio

FEEDBACK FOR WENDY

For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!

Cheers

--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in responding...you had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy

FEEDBACK FOR NINO

I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA

FEEDBACK FOR RUSH & CHUCK

Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA



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