Best Things to Do in Cambria, California

Friday May 6, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 8 Comments

Harmony Cellars, wine, travel, Nancy D. Brown

Harmony Cellars is a place to go wine tasting near Cambria on California’s Central Coast

Are you visiting Cambria for the first time? Below is a list of Central Coast Secrets and recommendations for things to see and do in Cambria, California.

When I have a visitor from out of town, I take them to Fermentations or  Harmony Cellars, located outside of Cambria in the town of Harmony, population 18.

If you are looking for typical California cuisine, I recommend Cambria Pines Lodge Restaurant.

Are you looking for a quiet place to escape and unplug? Check out Cambria’s Moonstone Beach.

When you come to Cambria, get your picture taken on Santa Rosa Creek Road  or in downtown Cambria.

Moonstone Beach, Cambria, California, travel, Nancy D. Brown

Moonstone Beach on California’s Central Coast is a quiet place to relax in Cambria

The best item on the menu at Cambria Pines Lodge Restaurant is the Pan Seared Sea Scallops.

Notice a lot of trees in Cambria? This beach town is best known for towering Pines near the sea.

Looking for cheap food in Cambria, check out Robin’s Restaurant. And for a wide selection of Central Coast wines, stop by the Cambria Shell Gas Station and Gift Shop.

For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to the Black Cat Bistro.

In Cambria, take your picture at the beach.

The best vantage points are taken by driving to the top of  Santa Rosa Creek Road.

Moonstone Beach offers great views and is the best place to  experience the Cambria Chili Cook Off & Car Show.

In Cambria, outdoor enthusiasts will want to bike ride or go horseback riding with Outback Trail Rides.

Looking for a little exercise? Walk along Moonstone Beach.

Creative Arts Cottage in downtown Cambria on California’s Central Coast

If you are a museum lover, Cambria’s best museum is Hearst Castle.

Don’t expect a night out on the town or dancing in Cambria.  This place shuts down at night.

Black Cat Bistro is the spot for late night dining.

The Cambrian or The Tribune will keep you posted on what’s happening in town.

You can tell a lot about Cambria from visiting and going to the Cambria Farmers Market.

In the spring you should attend the Cambria Chili Cook Off & Car Show

In the summer you might enjoy a picnic at Shamel Park and while watching the Fourth of July fireworks celebration.

Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked Piedras Blancas Light Station.

Go to The Tea Cozy for a great breakfast treat or spot of tea.

Just outside of Cambria you can visit San Simeon and visit the Elephant Seal Colony.

Santa Rosa Creek Road, California Central Coast, travel

Santa Rosa Creek Road offers some amazing views of California’s Central Coast

The best way to see Cambria is by bicycle.

Don’t miss the Cambria Farmers Market if you have kids traveling with you.

What are your favorite things to see and do in Cambria, California?

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Thanks to San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau for assistance with this post.  All photos except Santa Rosa Creek Road, courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown.

San Francisco Neighborhoods, North Beach

Friday April 29, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 3 Comments

Welcome to the Neighborhood, A Series About San Francisco Neighborhoods


Coit Tower, San Francisco neighborhood, North Beach, Travel, Nancy D. Brown

North Beach

One of San Francisco’s oldest and most visited neighborhoods, North Beach has much to offer a traveler who wants to spend a few hours exploring one of America’s best neighborhoods, a distinction from the American Planning Association.

APA Executive Director Paul Farmer said “We are pleased to celebrate not only North Beach’s commitment to tolerance and tradition in its built and social environment, but its commitment to preserve its essential character.”  Spend some time at a few of our recommendations in this neighborhood, and you will experience for yourself some of that essential character.

Set the North beach cliches aside, slow your pace, and engage all of your senses to truly appreciate this compact neighborhood.


Molinari Delicatessen, North Beach, San Francisco, travel, Nancy D. Brown


First off, let’s engage your sense of taste. Since North Beach is generally considered the destination for basic (read: bland) red sauce Italian food, we suggest you bypass the checkered tablecloth restos and instead graze through the neighborhood at three of our favorite culinary destinations. Each of these spots has been turning out their specialities for around 100 years, so not only will you have some delicious food, you’ll also have an authentic experience from the original food artisans in the city.

Molinari Delicatessan on Columbus at Vallejo. We can’t say this enough: best salame in town. And that’s saying a lot since charcuterie and cured meats are having their moment in the Bay Area. Molinari’s is having more than a moment – for over 110 years, they’ve been making salami in SF.  It’s world famous (one was even presented to the Pope!), and with good reason. To try it for yourself – take a number and order about “this much” of the sliced salame from the deli case. Eat it on the spot. If you love it, take home your own three-pounder hanging from the ceiling.

Victoria Pastry. Opened in 1914, this Italian bakery houses an original massive brick oven which accommodates up to 25 full sheet pans side by side. It takes a lot of muscle to work the oven that turns out delicate pastries and cakes; two of our faves are the Cassata Siciliana Cake and the cannoli.

Italian Slice House, pizza, San Francisco, North Beach, travel

Liguria Bakery. This tiny shop made focaccia long before it became trendy & still stands on the corner where it opened in 1911 (happy 100th birthday!).  We suggest arriving early at the bakery, because when they sell out of the focaccia – which they do almost every day –  they close up shop. Our two favorite flavors are the pizza and the rosemary, but you just can’t go wrong here.

And if you want to check out the new kid on the block, go to Tony’s. There are now a plethora of awesome pizza destinations in the city; one of our favorites is Tony’s – either the Pizzeria Napoletana or the Slice House next door. World Pizza Cup winner Tony Gemignani offers multiple options – Sicilian style, Napoletana thin crust, by the meter…and it is all very, very, very good. If you eat in the resto, check out the wood fired oven from Naples – it’s the World Cup oven Tony brought back from Naples.


The food gets most of the glory in this neighborhood, but the shopping is pretty great too. Like most San Francisco ‘hoods, you’ll find unique shops offering merchandise you can’t find anywhere else.

Al’s Attire. This is more than a shop, think of it as your personal designer. Al’s Attire specializes in custom suits, coats, hats, shoes, dresses…basically anything that can be sewn. The fabric selection is dazzling. The space is so cool. The people are super friendly. There are beautiful ready-made items available as well. How beautiful? We’ve seen grown men cry.

Indie Industries. This small but well-stocked shop is owned by the designers who produce most of the items in the store. The designer collective includes the founding members – FIT grads from NY – and Bay Area designers, who design and make both men’s and women’s clothing. This is a great place to pick up something unique and reasonably-priced for yourself and for those back home.

Aria. You will find eccentric, eclectic, odd and beautiful vintage items from around the world at Aria. Very Tim Burton-ish meets your high school science classroom meets the best flea market booth you’ve ever seen.


North Beach Alley, San Francisco Neighborhood, Travel


Well it’s five o’clock somewhere. Let’s cocktail!

Don Pistos. Mexican in North Beach, okaaaaay. It’s out of character for the ‘hood, but manages to fit right in. We like to take a break here with a Michelada – a bloody mary type beverage that’s made with beer instead of vodka. It’s a nice change of pace in North Beach, and one of the best Micheladas we’ve ever had.

Comstock Saloon. If Ivory-Merchant were to do a period piece on the San Francisco of yore, they would be inspired by Comstock Saloon. This spot has served as a watering hole for San Franciscans since 1907, and the beautiful restoration puts the patrons right back in that era. The cocktails are very 2011 however. The Southside is our fave Comstock cocktail at the moment, with the Manhattan coming in a close second.

Tosca. Everything you want your North Beach bar to be: opera and Frank on the juke box (vinyl naturally), red leatherette booths, a long curving bar. The whole place has a sepia-toned feel to it. The best thing to complement the atmo is the “house coffee”. You may never take your coffee black again.

What is your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco? What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?

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Celebrate Earth Day – Third Planet from the Sun

Friday April 22, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 0 Comments


Aztec and Mayan Interpretation of the Planets

On a recent trip to Los Cabos, Mexico, I had the opportunity to view the moon with a powerful telescope.  With the help of Mexican Astronomer Maria Elena Muriel, I was able to view Saturn, as well.  Muriel explains the stars and planets to guests of Marquis Los Cabos from an Aztec and Mayan viewpoint; one of many things to see and do during a visit to Los Cabos, Mexico.

Maria Elena Muriel shared this poem with me and I would like to share it with you on Earth Day.

The Third Planet from the Sun

This is the third planet from the sun

A very small blue sphere orbiting

a space – for a moment.

An extraordinary place, capable to create

The conditions to produce the phenomenon

we call “life.”

Where each creature is as unique as this

World that we call house and where the

day begins almost the same way for everyone.

Maybe one day when you receive a warm sunbeam

or the kindness of a stranger, you will discover

how a single life reaches to many others.

You will understand how things are intertwined between

each other, just as the veins joining at the same family,

and that the humanity is not the one that weaves

the fabric of life, but we are the only one more of

its threads.

And everything we do to that fabric, we do it

to ourselves in the third planet from the sun.

This is not just another planet,

it is our home.

What are your favorite things to do in Los Cabo San Jose, Mexico?

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Mini Spa Treatments at Marquis Los Cabos