A perfect family jaunt. Breathing fresh air. Beautiful scenery. Good food and wine. Happy kids. These are the ingredients to a good trip. We went to unsplashy Pismo Beach. An overlooked little hamlet between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Did you see “Sideway’s”? Near, there, but on the water.
One the way up we ate a bbq tri tip sandwich that was unreal. Stop at Los Olivios if you have a chance. A tiny town with a Western feel. The perfectly cooked meat melt in my mouth. We split one sandwich and then need to split one more. Rex also got hip to the tasty bbq and was all in.
For a happy family vacay the drive should take no more than two DVD’s to get to your destination. An opportunity came up for us to go to Dolphin Bay Hotel in Pismo Beach ( think it’s technically Shell Beach, but right next door). Mark is taking part in World of Pinot Noir in March so they hosted us to come up get the lay of the land. From the moment the offer was floated till I “closed” the deal I was like a dog with a bone.
Did someone say seaside vacay?
This area is very pretty and underdeveloped by California standards. When I was a kid it was kind of sleepy. It is still sleepy, in a good I don’t have to hear loud noises way. But, it’s gotten a little Sonomaized due to it’s great, small wineries which have been breeding like rabbits.
It never gets freezing, it never gets super hot. So, you can’t expect to run around in a bikini here ( not that I would until I’ve had a body transplant). You can take nice walks with a sweatshirt along the sand and then jump in a hot tub after you’ve gotten some triple creme cheese from the local store .
Not the tropical heat of Hawaii, but like Hawaii the breezy weather keeps the air fresh.
When I was a kid the only places to stay on the central coast were more of the motel variety.
Dolphin Bay is the first 4 star hotel on the scene. The rooms are…wait, can’t even call them rooms, they are more like condos. They all have full kitchen’s ( I will forgive the electric stove tops) which is the best way to travel with kids for pocket book and sanity. Our room condo was right on the bluff overlooking the ocean. We could see brave surfers in their wet suits waiting to catch a wave. We walked down to the beach and looked at the tide pools. The kids loved exploring. I loved getting the fresh sea air in my nose.
When I’m at the beach I always think of the lyric from Quadrophenia
the beach is a place where a man can feel
he is the only soul in the world that’s real.
It was brain Draino.
When we walked into our condo/room Vivien yelled, “this is the best day of my life.” Mark and I talked about how silly people are to buy a second home along the beach ( as if we could) when one could just come up here a few days a year. It did feel like a home. We showed our affection for our temporary domecile by making it as dirty as if we were at home.
We had a tasty dinner at the Dolphin Bay hotel dining room. Executive Chef Brian Collins is raising the bar for what you would expect to find in Pismo. The dining room aesthetic however was stuck in the ’90′s. I wouldn’t mind if had the same prosperity, Clinton was still President, my dad was still alive , but in this decade, the room needs more color, warmth, and it’s gets pretty loud. If you eat before the sunset, however, you won’t notice the room because it looks out over the ocean.
The kids liked the saline pool, but I was glad when I could persuade them to join me in the not too hot hot tub. With my mug of tea and robe we sat in there often looking over the ocean. I met a couple of nice moms poolside as well.
One day we got a sitter ( after I got my massage) and MP and I were taken on some private wine tastings. Mike Sinor of Sinor LaVallee,and Ancient Peaks,hosted while we sipped mong the barrels at Center of Effort. I was making no effort enjoying the beautiful day and being plied with great wines.
Mike is also President of San Luis Obispo Vintners’s Association. It was very educational, but after a few wines, I cease to learn and hear caliope music. Mark bought some Sinor LaVallee for Campanile. We moved on to Tolosa winery which also had a cheese tastings.
I was licking the plate of the cheese because I had not eaten much before we left. MISTAKE. After a few tastings on near empty stomach I just wanted to talk about sex. Fortunately, one of the people taking us around was a nice PR gal. ”Mark, go look at the grapes, I’ll be over here talking about ex boyfriends” ( no, I wasn’t driving). At Tolusa before I tasted there great wines I bought a box of the most delicious crackers I’ve ever had. I think I ate 25.
After the cheese we donned the safety vests to see how this stuff gets made. Very little of which I remember, Mark does, so that’s fine.
I was impressed that so many Central Coast wines are tasting more “old world”, my preferred type of wine. Most people still like the big, sock you in the mouth California Reds– and I do before or after food– but not with food. And I cannot abide buttery, Oaky California Chardonnay. Although, in the ’90′s I loved them.
The following day we did more hot tub and tide pool walks.
Mark was the professor and I was the photog–per usual.
Then we hit the butterfly grove. Monarchs come in bunches to Pismo between October and February. I have never seen so many butterflies. We saw them fluttering around in the grove of large trees.
Then we looked up and saw what looked like bunches of leaves to the naked eye, but with the telescopes provided we could see that they were Monarchs.
A short walk from there was the beach, but it looked different than the Oregon coast type of our hotel area. This one reminded me of Martha’s Vineyard. One more walk, before we fired up the DVD player and headed home. Rex shoes and socks got wet on that promenade.
We ate dinner in Santa Barbara at the Hungry Cat. Mark carried Rex in and I ran toward State Street just as stores were closing. As luck would have it, I ran into a toy store and got them both activity pages to color and some warm socks.
We are going to return to Pismo in March for the wine event. I am really looking forward to it.