This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.
While traveling on your own can be gratifying, and traveling with a significant other (if you’ve got one) or family member is fun, nothing beats a good girls’ trip. You get a chance to escape the doldrums of life and chatter with the women you love about anything and nothing at all. And if you plan it well, you can also have some unforgettable travel experiences!
Recently I took a girls’ trip to the Central Coast in California. We live in San Diego, so that meant a car ride through LA (the worst!) and Santa Barbara, through Los Padres National Forest, ending up in San Luis Obispo County. Here’s what made our trip fabulous.
1. Throw Away Your Schedule
The drive from San Diego to San Simeon should have taken just over 6 hours, but it took 9. No matter; the road trip stretched on because we were having a great time.
First, we stopped at the Santa Barbara Public Market for lunch at Corazon Cucina. After a mind-bogglingly good meal of veggie tacos and quesadillas, we picked up dessert at Enjoy Cupcakes in the market.
A few hours later, we were antsy again when I spotted a giant lemon. Well, I spotted a lemonade stand shaped like a giant lemon. It was perched on the edge of the tiny town of Los Olivos, so we pulled in. The village was chock full of adorable Wild-West looking shops and restaurants, but we beelined for Figueroa Mountain Brewery. (Sorry, lemonade. Not this time.) Lori and I had a beer while Sandra made a phone call.
We arrived in San Simeon at Cavalier Oceanfront Resort late, after the fog had rolled in and obliterated visibility. After a quick bite, we warmed ourselves by the fireplace in our room and talked of all manner of things over a bottle of champagne.
Normally I’m much more…shall we say concerned about staying on schedule, but the journey was way more fun for letting go of time expectations.
2. Plan Just a Few Highlight Destinations
Honestly, there’s just too much to do in San Luis Obispo County, and with contacts at SLOCAL and local destinations offering us so many options, I was worried our trip would be overly filled with things to do. But we narrowed it down to a few and left the rest of our time open, which served us well.
Our big highlight was Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst and his architect, Julia Morgan, took 28 years to construct what was supposed to be “a little bungalow” but ended up becoming a mansion with 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways. We took the Grand Rooms tour and saw just a fraction of what the property had to offer (tip: I’d do at least two tours to see more). Afterward, we wandered the magnificent gardens on our own.
The next day, we explored the area, visiting the elephant seals in Cambria, shopping in Cambria (stop in at Black Hand Cellars and say hi to Tom. He’s got a great story.), and chatting with a pirate in Morro Bay. Oh, and we also witnessed a stampede of zebras running across part of the Hearst property. You can’t plan for moments like this in travel.
3. Eat and Drink Well
Like most women, we love to eat and drink. San Luis Obispo County is a fantastic place to do both. While Paso Robles is known for its stellar wines (and Allegretto Wines and Hearst Ranch Winery prove that it’s true), the county also has some wonderful craft beers. I mentioned Figueroa Mountain, but we also sampled beer at 927 Beer Co. in Cambria and Libertine Brewing Company in Morro Bay.
Foodwise, we had our top meal at Cello Restaurant at Allegretto Vineyard Resort. The chef is creative and pays attention to details with dishes like risotto and mushroom flatbreads. And the buttermilk cheesecake? To die for.
4. Stay Somewhere Sumptuous
I’m fortunate in that I’m a travel writer who often gets to stay in luxurious hotels because I write about them. Lori, Sandra, and I were delighted with both of our accommodations on our three-night trip. Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon had spacious rooms and those wood-burning fireplaces I mentioned. The property extends down to the beach, which, while fog-laden our entire trip, still provided a great place to chat with local surfers and pick up Easter egg-colored rocks. Word is: when it’s not foggy, you can view whales!
The second leg of our trip found us at Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Paso Robles. While it looks like an ancient Italian villa, it’s actually just two years old. Nestled among its grapevines, the resort pays keen attention to detail and has some of the most impressive art I’ve ever seen at a hotel. The cabanas by the salt water pool didn’t hurt our experience either.
But the suite we stayed in was the most memorable part of our trip. Suitable for Ocean’s Eleven, the suite was modern in decor and lavish in its furnishings. A sweet little patio was just steps away from the pool. For those whose rooms face the inner courtyard, there were firepits and statues to admire in the piazza.
Despite the long road home (we stopped in the Danish-inspired village of Solvang, of course), we returned refreshed and happy.
Blog post and all photography by travel writer Susan Guillory. I received comped stay and meals at Cavalier and Allegretto, as well as complimentary admission to Hearst Castle, though all opinions are my own.