This is the trip I talk about in Go, See, Do.  

My boyfriend, now husband, Gabriel, gave me a trip to Central Coast of California during the month of March. I had briefly been to San Diego years ago and not for any length of time to be able to explore. 

Southwest Missouri weather in March is very unpredictable and you never know if you will have to break out the flip flops or snow boots.  You will learn quickly that I am a warm weather person, so I am always happiest with warm weather and the ocean.  

We stayed with friends in Santa Maria, so we did not have to worry about finding hotel accommodations. One of the fun parts of staying with friends is that we got to enjoy the company of their fur baby. Skyler was a trained therapy dog and not allowed on the furniture, but I am pretty sure he knew I was a sucker and I would wake up with his sweet face looking at me.  Don’t tell anyone, but I let him get on the bed with me…..and the sofa. He has since passed away, so I have to include a picture of the sweet boy.  

We flew into LAX and rented a convertible.  “Wouldn’t it be fun to drive the hills and the coast of California in a convertible?”, said the 6’2” man.  They pull the car around and for those of you old enough to remember Office Hightower from Police Academy, we almost had to recreate that scene.  Then we couldn’t fit our one suitcase in the trunk. Calling it a trunk is generous. It was more of a cubby. So, we put it in the back seat. Again, I am being generous with saying it had a back seat.  

So, off we went to head to Santa Maria on the 405 in our convertible that Gabriel has to bend his head down to be able to see out the front window.  First piece of advice if you are driving from LAX to anywhere, whatever time your Google Map, Garmin, vehicle mapping system, says it will take you to get to your destination, double it.  You should also double up on the deodorant use for the drive. It is packed and people are angry and cars are on your bumper and motorcycles are allowed to drive between cars. At one point, I saw a sign saying that our exit was in 5 miles.  I thanked the Lord that it was almost over and then I saw a digital sign that said 45 minutes to our exit. Then I said some words that I had to ask the Lord to forgive me for saying.  

Our first morning we woke up and went to Old West Cinnamon Rolls in Pismo Beach. It is a family business that has lasted over three generations. You could watch them making cinnamon rolls by hand using the same recipe they have used for over 40 years.  I think we suggested that we share one, but both of us like our food, so we each got one. We should have waited to see the size before we made that choice. They are HUGE! I have the biggest sweet tooth. In fact it is my struggle and I am a sugar addict, but there was no way I could finish this.  It was so delicious!

We headed to Lompoc with my husband’s head hitting the roof of the convertible because it was too chilly to have it down and it was sprinkling.  In Lompoc we visited Sanford and Sons Winery. This was the first vineyard I had ever been with and it was just breathtaking. The building had a rustic, warm, charm to it.  They were so accommodating to a person that is not a wine connoisseur. I like what I like, whether it is a $10 bottle or a $100 bottle. They introduced me to their Pinot Noir and still three years later, it is my favorite wine.  We went to the barrel room and I would highly suggest doing this.  

Once we left it had stopped raining, but it was unseasonably cool, but we were adamant about using this convertible, so we turn up the heat, put the top down, and head to Los Olivos.  Los Olivos is a quaint little town that is easy to walk around. We ate lunch at Panino Los Olivos and had a sandwich. They have several sandwiches to choose from and they are all made with fresh vegetables, which is something we don’t always get in SW Missouri.  

One of my most favorite things we did was in Los Olivos.  We visited Sarloos and Sons. Here we did a wine and cupcake tasting.  We were both a little skeptical of how they would pair, but let me tell you, it was delicious.  I also love wine bottle labels and their labels are all family members. Last year for Mother’s Day, my husband ordered me a bottle of wine that was Mom.  

We left Los Olivos and went to the Danish style town of Solvang.  In Solvang we first had to try the danish pastry, aebleskiver.  Don’t ask how you pronounce it, I can only eat it, not say it.  I can best describe it as a pancake ball. We went to Solvang Restaurant where they serve up the aebleskiver with powdered sugar and raspberry jam.  The rest of our time in Solvang was spent walking around checking out the stores and the great local art galleries.  

The next morning we got up early and went to eat at Fat Cat in Avila Beach.  This place is nothing fancy, but you are located right on the water, so the view from our table was beautiful.  I am not a huge breakfast fan. Well, I should say not a huge breakfast fan at breakfast time. I like breakfast foods for lunch or dinner.  I ordered the avocado and bacon omelette. I forgot to tell you, the avocados in California are not like what you get in the Midwest. I already am a fan of avocados, but the ones in California are so mild and  creamy, so this omelette was incredible. I came back from Missouri and tried to replicate the recipe, but without the California avocados. 

With a full belly we are prepared for a full day and the first stop is Moonstone Beach.  This was supposed to be just a quick stop on route to other places. We had seen pictures of people collecting these colorful stones from the beach and we thought it would be like collecting seashells.  Y’all, the whole beach is these stones! When we walked up it looked like dark gray sand, but you look closer you see all of these colorful pebbles in all sizes. I could have spent half a day here collecting them.  I can only imagine how much my kids would have loved this beach when they were younger. 

Stopping in San Simeon to see the elephant seals was a highlight for me.  They are laying all over the beach and unlike anything I had ever seen

After watching the elephant seals it was off to Hearst Castle.  Hearst Castle was built by William Hearst in 1919. William was best known for publishing the largest chain of American newspapers in the late 19th century,  The buildings, the pools, the grounds, are all incredible even today’s standards.  

Before our last stop of the day at Daou Vineyards, we stop at Pasolivo in Paso Robles.  The setting was cute farmhouse style shop. The pairing tasting was great. They would suggest different balsamic vinegars, spices, and olive oil pairings.  I left with a can of lemon olive oil and blackberry balsamic vinegar, which is now my go to salad dressing.

Onto Daou Vineyard, which is my husband’s favorite wine.  Of course the wine was great, but the view was even better.  It was a nice relaxing time to sit and drink wine and enjoy the view after after a very busy day.  They even let us go to the bell tower, after giving up strict instructions not to ring the bell.

When you are in this area, you will hear them talk about Santa Maria bbq.  Don’t think you are getting traditional bbq that you would get from Memphis, Kansas City, or Texas.  It is a tri tip grilled over red oak and then most of the time they put a salsa over the slices. We had dinner at Ribline because that is where I was told to get the best tri tip Santa Maria style.  I was skeptical about the salsa, but I am now a believer. It melts in your mouth and has a mild smokey flavor. If you go to Ribline you must try the beachballs. They are a sweet potato ball with bacon, cheese, jalapeño… ok, I have to stop because my mouth is watering and I am 1,770 miles away.  Sorry that I didn’t get any pictures.

Our final day was spent in Santa Barbara.  While it is absolutely beautiful, I may have enjoyed it the least.  This is most definitely the upper scale of the areas that we went. I enjoyed driving out in the country to the vineyards and visiting the quaint towns most.  While in Santa Barbara, we went to the pier and ate lunch, went to a Mission, and to the Museum of Natural History Sea Life.  

My time on the Central Coast of California has ended, but I will take with me memories of the calming smell of eucalyptus, the fresh vegetables, the delicious wines we drank, the beautiful colors of stones on Moonstone Beach, and the beautiful scenery.