Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year Road Trip & Wearing Bikini in 50 Degree Rain!

In 2002, I took a last minute road trip to central California on New Year's Eve and had a fabulous time. I have not returned to central Cali since. So this year, I decided to do another road trip, and my good travel buddy Cherisse came along with me. Cherisse and I went to Hawaii in 2006 with 3 other ladies, and we had a blast. We had so much fun on this road trip, and this will go down as another unforgettable trip in our books.

We first stopped by Solvang, a Danish town nestled in the mountains along the coast. I haven't been here in over 10 years. We walked around and wandered into a bakery with amazing pastries called Mortensen's. We went for the chocolate eclair and their raspberry and cream cheese stripe. They were excellent! The only words that came out of Cherisse's mouth the whole time was, "Oh my God, oh my God." I couldn't stop laughing!

Beautiful architecture in Solvang.

Then, we moved on to Hearst Castle. Again, I haven't been here in over 10 years. I've been here twice before and took their tours 1 and 2. I loved tour 2 so we went on it. William Randolph Hearst kept a collection of exotic animals while he was here, and the descendants of some of these animals still roam around the hillside of the property. When I was here 8 years ago, I saw a pair of zebras chilling by highway 1. It was an odd sight to see.

All tours start at my favorite pool in the whole world, the Neptune Pool.

Casa Grande, the main residence. I love the Spanish/Mediterranean style.

Cherisse and I outside of Casa Grande before going in.

View from Casa Grande.

The Library. Mr. Hearst was a huge collector of various antiques and arts. Everything here is museum quality. Even the ceiling is imported from Europe and is 700 years old!

Mr. Hearst's bedroom. The bed is Italian and is 700 years old.

The Gothic style Italian ceiling, 900 years old if I remember correctly.

Mr. Hearst's private study, where he ran his empire. Hearst Castle was technologically advanced in its day, with just about a telephone in every room!

A Frigidaire fridge in the gigantic kitchen/pantry, circa 1931. It looks great!

The tour ended at the other beautiful pool, the indoor Roman pool.

Everything you see in gold at the pool are real 22K gold. We were walking on gold!

Then, I took Cherisse to see elephant seals. I accidentally discovered this place north of Hearst Castle when I was here in 2002. These seals would just lay out on the beach and I could walk up right next to them, but they have built a walkway / observation deck since and you can't get that close to them anymore. These seals were aggressive! We saw them fighting for territory and for the females; such drama. They also make the funniest noises that made me laugh so hard.

Here's yours truly with an elephant seal on January 1, 2003. Yes, I had short hair before (even shorter than this prior to 2001!). :)

Last sunset of 2010!

For New Year's Eve dinner, I found this place called Robin's in Cambria. This place serves food using fresh local ingredients, and has an excellent vegan option. Since Cherisse is vegetarian, this made an ideal place for us to enjoy our meal. I found their dishes to be very creative and tasty. We loved all the dishes and had a great time. I highly recommend this restaurant! Cherisse had this expression like she just went to heaven with every bite. Again, I laughed so hard every time she made the face until my stomach and jaw hurt!

I started with their Indian Spiced Lamb & Sweet Pea Phyllo Rolls with fresh mint chutney and yogurt. They were so flavorful! I never thought I would be eating a spring roll with Indian spice and lamb meat in it.

For my entree, I went for the Lobster Enchiladas with cilantro cream, avocado, white cheddar, tomatillo salsa verde, cumin black beans, and brown basmati rice. They were amazing! The enchiladas actually came with chunks and chunks of lobster meat.

I was in food heaven!

For desserts, we both eyed the same items. It's funny how Cherisse and I are on the same page when it comes to food. This was the theme throughout our trip. We shared this yummy vanilla bread pudding.

And a pumpkin cheesecake that was out of this world!

Our plan was to go down to this local place called Mozzi's to ring in 2011 with the locals, but we were so relaxed and full so we went back to our hotel. Cherisse brought party favors and a bottle of delicious almond champagne. It knocked me out!

The next morning, we went back to Cambria before hitting the road. We discovered many wonderful local shops, including this place called Fermentations. In addition to selling local wine, they make their own olive oil, vinegar, and sauces. Cherisse bought a bottle of sauce, and I scored a bottle of their Citrus Cilantro Grapeseed Oil and a bottle of Fig-Lemon Balsamic Vinegar. I made a salad dressing with these for lunch today and OMG, they were amazing.

One of the store clerks recommended this place called Indigo Moon for lunch. She said they have a cheese platter and it was music to my ear. We shared some sweet potato fries with red pepper aioli sauce. These are the freshest sweet potato fries I've ever had! And the aioli sauce was so very tasty. We were trying to figure out how to make the sauce ourselves because it was so good.

I loved the cheese selection of the day: brie, cheddar with chives, and the third had horseradish and some kind of seeds in it. I asked for some honey on the side and drizzled it over the bread, cheese, and walnut "open sandwich" that I created. Oh my oh was Cherisse's turn to laugh at my expressions.

After lunch, we hit the road. I took Cherisse to Morro Bay to see the famous Morro Rock. Again, the last time I was here was over 10 years ago.

Since Cherisse has never been to central California, we stopped by places with interesting sights. After passing downtown San Luis Obispo, we made a quick stop at the charming Madonna Inn.

Then, we did something crazy. Cherisse's coworker recommended that we go to the Sycamore Springs Resort and check out their outdoor mineral springs hot tub. We had made a reservation, but it was 50 degrees and raining the whole day. When we got there, we weren't too sure if we were going to do this. However, we learned that they are actually busier when it rains, and it was all sold out that day with people still walking in and trying to get in. So, we decided to start off 2011 with a bang and went for it. I will NEVER forget wearing my bikini in 50 degree winter rain! Soooooo cold!

But once we got in, it was ahhhhhh....perrrrrrfect!

Our view from the hot tub. It was so tranquil and relaxing. This is how you bring in a new year! :)

After 30 minutes, I was dancing in the hot tub!

After a relaxing bath and smelling like sulfur (or rotten egg, LOL!), we went to Santa Barbara for dinner. The last time I was in Santa Barbara was November 2008 (I will repost photos from that trip soon). Santa Barbara is a beautiful city and a place I love to visit as a day trip on a whim.

I checked on my Yelp to see what's nearby, and Cherisse noticed this place called Silvergreens. We decided to check it out. It turned out to be a fabulous choice because this is a restaurant unique to Santa Barbara. They use only fresh local ingredients with everything made from scratch each day. What's more, this place is Santa Barbara's first Certified Green restaurant. I went for their seared ahi salad and tried their home brewed tropical iced tea. They were so good! Everything was fresh and tasty. This was the healthiest meal I've had in the last 2 days!

Needless to say, we had tons of fun exploring the beauty of central California on a whim. The only reservations we made were for Hearst Castle and for Sycamore Springs hot tub; we winged everything else and stopped by places as we passed them by. Sometimes, you just gotta go with the flow and allow life to pleasantly surprise you!

Happy 2011! This is going to be a fantastic year! :)

View the entire photo album here:

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