I’m lucky enough to have numerous women in my life who, like me, love to travel. Recently, I went with Lori and Sandra on a girls’ trip up California from San Diego to Central Coast. We had an amazing time, not only chatting about life and boys in the car ride up, but also enjoying the sights.
Here’s what I think makes for a memorable girls’ getaway.
1. Interesting Destinations
I counted it up and we hit at least seven cities/towns on our trip, including stops for lunch or dinner on the road!
Our main destinations were:
San Simeon: The one-time whaler village now has a population of just over 400 people. The pier (built so William Randolph Hearst could get his shipments of art and decor from around the world shipped to him) is worth a walk, and Sebastian’s General Store is a great place to have a bite and a glass of Hearst Ranch Winery wine before crossing the street to Hearst Castle.
Hearst Castle: I’ll write more about this because it deserves its own post, but suffice it to say, touring even a fraction of the 250,000-acre property was a highlight of our trip.
Cambria: The adorable seaside town of Cambria is filled with shops and restaurants. We enjoyed lavender lattes at Cambria Coffee Roasting Company, chatted with Tom at Black Hand Cellars (more on him later), and popped into a beer festival at 927 Beer Company.
Morro Bay: I’d heard Morro Bay was worth a visit but knew nothing of the volcanic plug called Morro Rock. After snapping a few pics of it, we had brunch, then met Pirate Steve (see Serendipity section).
Paso Robles: We only had a few hours to spare before heading back to San Diego, so we shopped the square in Paso Robles. Such great shopping! We bought mouth-watering cookies at Brown Butter Cookie Company and went wild for the gifts at the General Store.
2. Luxurious Accommodations
I’m not entirely convinced that my friends like me for anything other than the fact that, as a travel writer, I can sometimes snag comped rooms. We really hit the lottery for this trip.
For the first two nights, Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon generously comped us two Deluxe Oceanview rooms. We fought over who would have to share a bed! Both rooms were equipped with a wood-burning fireplace, which was delightful in the evenings.
What we didn’t expect was the fog! On the last leg of our drive to San Simeon, the fog rolled in and stayed our entire visit at Cavalier. The hotel thoughtfully provided binoculars so we could go whale watching, but with the thick white soup hanging over the water, we saw nothing.
The rooms were ample in size, and supremely comfortable. The on-site restaurant, Cavalier Restaurant, however, missed the mark. The food was passable, but not overly impressive.
The last night of our girls’ trip was spent in Paso Robles at Allegretto Vineyard Resort. Wow. This place, which is only two years old, evokes an ancient Italian villa. The hotel provided us with a One Bedroom King Suite, which was luxuriously appointed. The French doors opened up to a small patio, and just steps away was the saltwater pool.
The property itself was magnificent. The owner, Doug Ayres, has painstakingly purchased unique works of art from all over the world and designed the hotel’s space to provide a sense of calm and relaxation to guests. It worked.
3. Great Food
We San Diegans are pretty spoiled when it comes to amazing food. We have what I consider some of the most innovative restaurants in the country. Some of the meals we had on our trip were just meh, but here are a few noteworthy ones.
Corazon Cucina: Thanks to Yelp, we ended up at Santa Barbara Public Market for lunch on our way up, and after reading the reviews, there was no question but to eat at this Mexican spot. Besides the food being incredibly Instagrammable (an important quality for us ladies), it was also amazingly delicious. Just thinking about the cauliflower tacos makes me want to drive there now!
Centrally Grown: Another Yelp find was just outside of Cambria, at Centrally Grown, where we enjoyed the sunset while drinking Prosecco. Both the Chicken Piccata and Exotic Risotto were great, though Sandra had to send her salmon back for being overcooked.
Cello: Cello, the restaurant at Allegretto Vineyard Resort, was my favorite meal. The resort generously gave us a gift certificate for dinner, so, with the sun turning golden behind the distant mountains, we went all in. After gorging on risotto, a mushroom flatbread, and frutte di mare, we dared have dessert. Sated, we walked around and enjoyed the lights on the property.
4. Delicious Drinks
We’re a trio that enjoys our adult beverages. Though we were in Wine Country, we more often found ourselves drinking beer (Lori and I are big craft beer enthusiasts). An impromptu stop in Los Olivos led us to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, where the good ole boys were enjoying an early Friday evening pint. (I recommend the Stagecoach Stout!)
At Hearst Ranch Winery in San Simeon, we all found a glass (or bottle) we liked. I loved my rosé wine, and Sandra loved Lori’s glass of Cab Sauv so much she bought a bottle.
Our first stop at Allegretto was the tasting room, where the hotel had arranged for us to meet with John for a tasting. We sampled everything the winery had to offer. All delicious.
5. A Dash of Serendipity
My favorite ingredient for any trip is a little serendipity. It’s those moments you don’t plan that end up being the best.
Like, when we toured Hearst Castle and Sandra kept saying she wanted to see zebras. I thought the tour had said that at one time there were zebras on the property, but I figured they were long gone. Then as we were driving toward Cambria, I screamed, “ZEBRAS!” because there was a herd of them on the hill!
We pulled over with other tourists and snapped photos wildly. Then, just as we were about to leave, the entire herd of about 30 dashed across the hillside ensemble.
Then there was Tom, the owner of Black Hand Cellars in Cambria. I just happened to ask him what the significance of the brand name was, and we got a wonderful story about his wine-making great-grandfather in Ireland, whose wines drew the approval of the Black Hand Mafia. His wife and kids hid in the cellar when the Mafia came around because he wanted to protect them. Just like that, our experience became personal.
And finally, my favorite: Easter Pirate Steve. On Easter Sunday, we were in The Libertine Brewing Company (more beer!) when Sandra said, “There’s a pirate!”
I looked on the television. I looked around. Then I looked outside and there, in fact, was a pirate. Naturally, we had to meet him.
“Are you an Easter pirate?” I asked.
Good naturedly, he replied, “Of course!”
We chatted with Pirate Steve a bit and found out that he’s been entertaining folks in Morro Bay for 20 years. Google him and you’ll find him. He flattered us with compliments and left us giggling all the way home.
The best ingredient of a girls’ trip, however, is fabulous friends. People who love you and will take adventures with you!