Last month, one of our travel experts, Angie set off to California to visit San Luis Obispo county. From exploring the quaint small towns to touring a California Castle, Angie gives us a personal take on her time on the Central Coast.
Welcome to Morro Bay
I sit on the balcony, looking out at the view of the Bay. The water is still and matches the shade of grey of the morning mist. It’s chilly, but nothing a Londoner like me can’t handle. We arrived at Morro Bay the previous night. After our 26-hour journey, we had checked into the 456 Embarcadero Inn, and flopped down onto our cosy beds. I awoke at five o’clock in the morning. Not even the sleeping seals and otters have started their day. Everything was still, and calm and I was at peace.
The morning started off slow, in a good way. A few members of the travel group decided to explore the little seaside town and walk toward Morro Rock, a Volcanic plug which stands proudly over the beach. We were advised by our helpful receptionist that the walk would take about 40 minutes, and while we each had a little moan about the distance, we went ahead anyway. The walk turned out to be pleasant, nice and easy with a few stops in between. We cooed over the sleeping otters and admired the early morning surfers taking a dive into the freezing salt water. On the way back, we stopped for coffee and a pastry at Rock Espresso Bar, and watched the shops and cafes open for the day. By 12pm, the town was filled with locals, visitors and the California sunshine. Our day ended with dinner at the local seafood restaurant, The Dutchman, and a bonfire by the beach. Day one, done.
A Magical Trip to Hearst Castle
After checking out of our hotel, we made our way to the next destination. From Morro Bay we drove 40 minutes along the coast to San Simeon, home of Hearst Castle. This popular tourist attraction was once the place to be in the 1920s. It also doubled up as entrepreneur William Randolph Hearst’s personal California home. While us Brits were used to seeing medieval castles and palaces in our own home country, we weren’t sure what to expect. Arriving at the property, we understood why the word castle was attached to the name. From the outside, the home looked like a grand Mediterranean-style cathedral, something you would likely see in Madrid. However, the Hellenistic-inspired outdoor pool made Hearst look less clerical, and more luxurious. The interiors of the home mimicked a Medieval castle, something Henry VIII would have personally designed himself.
It was fascinating to learn more about its history, how screen sirens, politicians and other notable public figures were often invited to an elaborate weekend. The tour painted a picture of the grand home transforming into a party scene that would’ve have put Gatsby’s soirees to shame. We left the castle impressed and amazed, and gushed about its beauty while driving to our next stop.
When in Atascadero
By lunchtime, we arrived to our next home for the night, a small and charming town, located east of the county. From the outside, Atascadero looked no different to the ordinary picturesque colonial town you would discover on the East Coast. After meeting its locals and browsing through their independent businesses, there was a unique little quirk that made the area more intriguing. Its main street was lined with coral-painted buildings, a very California quality, which housed an array of vintage stores, thrift shops and antique goods. We began our Atascadero excursion with a trip to a local pub, Bristol Farms, for some cider tasting. Shortly after, we were taken to the Central Coast Distillery for another tasting, before heading to the local bar for Sunday beer. We take the time to settle into our hotel, The Carlton, before setting off to the next item on our itinerary.
The Field of Lights
We ended our day with a visit to the spectacular light display in Sensorio. The Field of Lights is a temporary display, set up in the middle of a field, 20 minutes outside of Atascadero. Walking through the display at sunset was unlike anything I had experienced before. As the sun went down, the bright colour lights illuminated the fields. The 59,000-light display paid homage to San Luis Obispo’s spring bloom. Adding the night-time element provided guests with a magical experience, like characters in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. A dreamy way to end our visit to San Luis Obispo.
Looking to book a holiday to San Luis Obispo County? Consider staying at the Apple Farm Inn, a picturesque hotel close to downtown San Luis Obispo. Contact one of our travel experts today on 020 7749 9282.