Updated: Jul 25
California is paradise. The weather is moderate, the beaches are plentiful and never crowded. Activities abound. Why did we leave??
House prices, earthquakes, perpetual fires, exceedingly high taxes and crippling traffic......
Ex-residents now, we love going back to California for as many mini-breaks as possible. Our favourite haunt for weekend getaways, Paso Robles, is half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is blessed with a landscape of rolling hills, vines, and olive trees, dotted with cows.
Paso Robles is 40 minutes from the Pacific Coast and year-round weather is moderate with warm summers. We were there in January and the temps were 40-68F.
Flights from LA, SF, Seattle, Phoenix, and Las Vegas to San Luis Obispo place you 40 minutes away. Paso Robles is a four-hour drive north from LA and three south from San Fran via Highway 101. It will take you 6 hours of driving time If you chose the scenic Hwy 1. Or, in my sister's case, 10 hours later after driving through restricted military space trying to outrun a forest fire. See post: Road Trips Fun or Folly.
Wine is the Star attraction in Paso Robles, outshone only by the friendliness of the people in and around town. There are over 200 tasting rooms in and around Paso. There are also craft breweries, distilleries, and olive oil tasting rooms.
Paso Robles Wine Country has approximately 33,000 vineyard acres planted with wine grapes, and is well known for its heritage varietal Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rhône-style wines.
If you lack a designated driver, there are many establishments in town who offer tastings from the local vineyards. It would be a shame, though, as visiting the vineyards and facilities are part of the fun. The area is bursting with beautiful vistas, spacious patios and Gourmet restaurants. Perfect locations for imbibing the local blush.
Wine tastings can range in price from free to $40 depending on the vineyard, and if you sign up for the vineyard's wine club, the tasting fee is usually waived. Our suggestion is to pay the tasting fee and join at a later date if the wine stays with you. The clubs deliver 6-12 bottles, once or twice a year. We belong to two clubs and have always been very satisfied.
Check the city website and tourist guide for the many available wine tours if you prefer not to drive.
The 'Farm to Table' catchphrase, so popular now with Tv food pundits, has long been in practise in Paso Robles. As a food editor, I need to rave about this. RAVE. I have never had a bad meal in Paso. We prefer to stop at small, independent restaurants that offer farm fresh fare at good prices. They are in abundance here. We also enjoy the menus at the winery restaurants and are always pleased with the food and service.
Our absolute must-have is a plate of fish from Pier 46 at lunchtime. Located at the intersection of 46 and Interstate 101, Pier 46 is a seafood market and casual restaurant with an outdoor patio.
Paso has a large variety of accommodation ranging from national chains, B&B's to boutique hotels and camp sites, and a few vineyards also serve as lodges. While I’ve never stayed at a winery in Paso, the idea is lovely. Our favourite Central Cali place to stay is the seaside village of Cambria, which is a daunting drive if attempted post-wine tasting without the designated driver. Not advised!
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Cambria is a seaside village in San Luis Obispo County, California. Nestled among Monterey pines, the Village is home to 5800 residents. Originally called 'Slab Town', Cambria, which is Latin for Wales, was renamed in 1869. I am not sure the place would hold the same appeal if it were still named Slab Town.
Cambria runs along Highway 1 and is 15 minutes from Hearst Castle, the scandalous former home of William Randolph Hearst. Tourism is the main trade.
Tourism is the main financial activity in Cambria. There are many hotels and B&B's, many bearing reflection to a bygone era, along Moonstone Beach Drive. Cambria has mini-resorts with spa facilities, but no giant multi level hotels. This protects the aesthetics and contributes to the tranquility of the town.
This year, we stayed at the Castle Inn. It’s a little older and very simple but comfortable and clean. They offer ocean views with direct access to a private beach private beach, pool, and a delightful breakfast bar.
Along the beach there is a 2.85 mile hiking boardwalk with stops along the way with information about the tide pools, animals and vegetation. You can also walk the rustic beach, but be careful not to trip over a elephant seal*. The crashing waves are soothing, but the wind is a bit brisk. Temperatures year round are an average 40-70*. It was 55 in Jan., and I was happy to have brought a comfy jacket on our beach walk!
Paso Robles and Cambria are great destination for rest, relaxation and hella good wine drinking. To witness the natural beauty of the Californian Pacific Coast should be on every traveler's bucket list.
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*The Northern Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Beach, Cambria California
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