Article: Alice Diamond For International Press Assoc.
When visiting California, everyone immediately thinks they must see Los Angeles and San Francisco. But right in between these two busy cities, in the middle of the state lies beautiful San Luis Obispo. A wonderful place to stop, unwind and spend a few days.
San Luis Obispo is famous for it’s wineries and olive oil. Driving along the coast you will see so many beautiful wineries and can do some wine tasting.
San Luis Obispo, known to locals as SLO, is also famous for it’s fine food which is grown locally.
When you reach the town, be sure to stop and visit the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. It is right across from the river which winds through the town.
Just walk over the little walking bridge and choose one of the many lovely restaurants with outdoor dining along the river that look across to the mission. Take a stroll through town.
If you decide to stay overnight, I suggest staying in either Shell or Avila Beach. They’re quieter areas and it’s beautiful being by the ocean. One of my favorite things to do is to just find a bench by the ocean and sit and unwind and lookout to sea, it’s so restful and healing.
Sycamore Hot Springs in Avila Beach is a good place to unwind and take a hot mineral bath or massage. There are many great places to eat by the ocean near the hotels.
This time when visiting SLO, I decided to stay at a local farm. I chose the Rinconada Dairy in Santa Margarita which is 10 minutes north of SLO.
We were hosted by the owners, Christine and Jim Maquire. They raise goats and make some of the finest goat cheese much of which is shipped to gourmet cheese shops throughout California.
Jim is also the SLO district attorney, and when he is not at the court he is working on his farm.
It was fun walking through their beautiful farm property. Beside goats, they also raise sheep and chickens.They also sell the eggs. When Christine has time, she makes wool yarn from the sheep.
Their home is large and sprawling. We were in a separate wing and had a lovely, comfortable room and private bath. This whole wing of the house was ours.
When we arrived they welcomed us with a drink and hors d’oeuvres and delightful conversation. They recommended The Range Restaurant in the town of Santa Margarita, which was excellent.
The next day, I watched Christine make cheese in a special sterile room setup with giant vats containing fresh goat milk.
You must be covered wearing special boots and gloves and head cover before you walk into this area. It’s quite impressive and so much work. I have new respect for the whole process of cheese making.
If it is culture you desire, SLO does have opera, and symphony as well as some of the greatest country bands at the 150 year old Pozo Saloon and Amphitheater. It was Christine who let me know about the opera and symphony in SLO and the country music concerts as well.Much terrific entertainment originates from Cal Poly University.
In the SLO area you may want to go hiking. For scenic hikes Montana de Oro State Park has beautiful trails near the beach you can walk or take a kayak ride in scenic Morro Bay. Where a gigantic extinct volcano towers over the bay with it’s sheltered water. If that is all to active for you just stroll through the town of Morro Bay and have lunch.
On the way if going north from the town of SLO stop in Harmony a tiny town of working artists with a population perhaps of 10. Stop and see them blowing glass, creating metal work or making pottery. It’s a perfect place to stop on your drive going north along the coast.
We stopped in Cambria for lunch a short distance from Harmony if headed north. It’s also a nice town to wander through. There are delightful shops and excellent restaurants and hotels if you choose to stay over.
A “Must See” in SLO County absolutely is a visit to Hearst Castle — a majestic castle built in the 1930’s by newspaper magnet William Randolph Hearst. The castle was his vision and that of his architect Julia Morgan to showcase his vast collection of sculpture, art and relics , it has 165 rooms . It is about 45 minutes north of SLO, but absolutely worth the drive.
Hearst Castle is nothing short of magnificent, such splendor. When you are up at the Castle do look out and see the spectacular view. The Hearst Family still owns 250,000 acres surrounding the castle , it extends for miles around. There are several different tours to experience. You will want to return again some day to do another tour.
When you are finished touring the Castle and return to the coast just below the castle north of Cambria along the ocean is an elephant seal rookery. The elephant seals return to this same spot every year to give birth their babies. A viewing area has been built so as not to disturb the mother’s and their babies, it is fascinating to watch them. Out in the distance is the Piedra Blanca Lighthouse.
Over the years, my husband and I continue to be drawn back to this area. For us it’s the right balance of peacefulness and yet there is always something to do in the evening for entertainment.
Do consider SLO County when visiting California. It’s an area that will call you back again and again.