For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holidays at Hearst Castle

For many of us, the end-of-year holidays are steeped in tradition. This year I added a new rite to my Christmas jubilee by visiting Hearst Castle. During the month of December, festive decorations gild the entryways and adorn the lavish interior of San Luis Obispo's illustrious villa, and guests can choose from one of several guided tour options to soak in the grandeur. I purchased a ticket for "The Grand Rooms Tour" and boarded a bus that took us high up the winding road that leads to the former estate of the late publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

Sitting lofty above the unspoiled coastline of San Simeon on "La Cuesta Encantada"—the enchanted hillthis palatial retreat, completed in 1947 by Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan, is a testament to sheer determination. After inheriting 250,000 thousand acres of ranch land in 1919 after his mother's death, Hearst enlisted Morgan to "build a little something" on the hill where he grew up camping. 

This little something, built over 28 years, grew in extravagance to encompass "Casa Grande," the main house comprised of over 68,000 square feet of grand rooms and a movie theater, as well as several impressive guest houses, two opulent swimming pools, extensive blooming gardens, and tennis courts. In its heyday, the property even had a private zoo. 

Now a California State Park and open to the public almost every day of the year, Hearst Castle is a landmark tourist attraction. Following are a few glimpses of the holiday sparkle and largess of a bygone era. 

Influenced by a trip to Europe with his mother when he was 10 years old, Hearst became a lifelong art and antique collector. He embellished his estate with treasures acquired from all over the world and this hilltop retreat is now a living museum. In the Assembly Room of La Casa Grande, Christmas trees and bright boughs of holly brighten remnants from the past.
 In the Refectory—named after a monastery dining hall—Hearst's guests dined while surrounded by sheer opulence from floor to ceiling, yet still had the informal comforts of home provided, like paper napkins and ketchup bottles. These accoutrements were similar to what Hearst grew up with on his childhood table. Filmmakers modeled this Gothic-inspired room for the dining hall in the Harry Potter film series. 
This poinsettia tree added crimson cheer to the Morning Room. What a place to have tea every morning!
After guided tours, guests can stroll the gardens and pools at their leisure. The dramatic Neptune Pool, influenced by ancient Rome and studded with Roman columns, holds 345,000 gallons of water and is surrounded by fine art and open views of the surrounding mountains and nearby ocean. 

During my visit in mid-December, San Luis Obispo County warmed up to ideal temperatures in the high 70s. I have to admit that lounging around the Neptune Pool was my favorite part of the tour.
While wandering around the estate's grounds, I stumbled upon this charming little 3,620 square-foot guest house, Casa del Sol. In order to withstand earthquakes, all of the structures on this enchanted hill are made of steel reinforced concrete. The architecture is influenced by historic styles from Hearst's travels.
The reflective Roman pool is the last site of exploration before boarding a bus for the five-mile ride down the hill. This splashy indoor pool, tiled from top to bottom with glass mosaic tiles, is simply amazing. 
No matter what time of year you visit Hearst Castle, it is always a sight to behold.

Wishing you holiday grandeur and a very happy new year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

San Luis Obispo Horizon

During this splendid time of year when the clouds return, I find myself constantly gazing at the sky. When puffy formations blow across the horizon, I know chances are good that at the end of the day I'll find a spectacular light show where clouds meet the water. But sunsets are fleeting, never predictable, and never ever the same.

This evening I chased clouds all the way to Shell Beach in the southern part of San Luis Obispo County, hoping to catch a worthwhile view. Oh, boy, was I ever in the right place at the right time. Here is a progression of tonight's end-of-day phantasmagoria.



 Quite a light show in Shell Beach.

Friday, December 6, 2013

San Luis Obispo Sparkle

I have little tolerance for Christmas decorations popping up in stores prior to Thanksgiving. But once our national feasting day officially came and went and December 1 descended upon us, I felt ready to ring in the remaining end-of-year festivities. Only one problem remained: last Sunday's cerulean blue horizon and 80 degree temperatures. The weather just didn't suggest a holiday mood. 

So I went in search of my own yuletide sparkle and headed to Laetitia Vineyard & Winery. Perched in the Arroyo Grande hills at the southern end of San Luis Obispo County, Laetitia's grand tasting room is surrounded by their 620-acre vineyard, where since the 1980s they've been producing estate wines. Renowned for their sparkling wines, crafted in the classic "Méthode Champenoise"—the arduous process used in the French Champagne region where the effervescence is achieved by secondary fermentation in the bottle—Laetitia is second to none when it comes to bubbly.

Laetitia offers an impressive tasting menu and guests can imbibe in five pours of their own choosing. Some might be inclined to start with just one of the many sparkling selections before moving on to sip Laetitia's estate varietals; such as chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah, or even a Rhone varietal from their label, Nadia, which sources grapes from nearby appellations. But not me. I lolled over the holiday sparkle. 

I explored the Brut Cuvée non-vintage, the Cuvée M 2009, the Brut Coquard 2008, the Brut de Noirs 2010, and finally the Brut Rosé 2009. Sipping through these five dry, fizzy gems galvanized my holiday spirit. 
I envisioned tall flutes filled to the brim, pairing well with holiday fare and festivities. 

I also hit their winery trail, which meandered through the auburn-colored estate vines. 
During this short walk I felt the sun's blush and peered all the way to the ocean.

Although the upcoming holiday season clashed with the gorgeous weather, I have no grumble. 
After sipping Laetitia's effervescent creations and exploring their peaceful surroundingswhere guests can relax comfortably while picnicking and sipping a bottle of wine outside who could complain?

 Later in the week, wintry weather finally nudged its way into San Luis Obispo County. 
With freezing night temperatures and chilly days, I imagine Laetitia's vigorous fall leaves found their final resting place.

With the onset of this brisk week and the official start of the Christmas season, a relative and I decided to ring in the holidays by dining at the landmark Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo City. The pink inn's jubilant decorations are over the top and not to be missed during this cheery time of year. I couldn't resist indulging in a little more bubbly (pink Spanish cava) to continue soaking in the holiday sparkle. 

There are countless ways to trumpet the end-of-year festivities.
Regardless of the weather, enjoy the dazzle of this season!

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