A few weeks ago, my husband told me to leave the weekend of April 12-13 open. I knew better than to ask why: our 20th anniversary was the following week and he has an unbelievable record of surprising me with trips and events. Throughout the years, we’ve gotten in the car and sometimes after 30 minutes, sometimes after four hours, we arrive at a place I’ve always wanted to go or has a sentimental meaning for us. In the trunk, I’ll find a cooler or a bag packed with appropriate clothing. We’ve ended up on mountain tops riding trams to a fancy restaurant surrounded by snow, at a private hot-tub with my bathing suit and a bottle of champagne, and at a spa getting massages followed by an amazing dinner reservation. His choices end up so varied, I have stopped trying to guess. He’ll have the kids and the pets and the house taken care of, and my only question ever is: do I need to pack, and if yes, what?
This last weekend was no exception, and even the packing was easy. Our 19-year-old daughter knew where we were going so we sat in my overcrowded closet choosing outfits for the weekend. Then I learned that the weather had taken a turn for the negative and I had to double-pack. Better too much than not enough, right? In went boots, a couple of sweaters and an extra pair of jeans.
We hit the road early Saturday morning. We turned west, so right away I knew we weren’t going to the mountains or our local beaches or the desert. About 45 minutes later, we were still heading in the northwest direction, taking the freeway headed towards Ventura. This eliminated a few other ideas, so the guessing began. I actually got it pretty early, as he hinted that it was going to be a sentimental trip, and since this was our 20th anniversary, my mind immediately went to our honeymoon and a city a few hours up the road from where we were: Pismo Beach. I was right!
On our honeymoon, we stayed at the Shore Cliffs Lodge right on the water in Pismo for one of the nights. This year though, our anniversary fell during Spring Break, making it a little harder to get reservations. When he called around, he got lucky and the Sea Venture, a little more south than the Shore Cliffs, had an available room on Saturday night. Score! Most rooms have a private balcony with a hot tub and a view. Perfect!
We still had a few hours to go though and not long after I guessed, we started getting hungry. A quick look at Google Maps for a popular breakfast location and we were at Sambo’s on the Beach in Santa Barbara. We love to try off-the-beaten-path venues or restaurants that locals known and love, and Sambo’s fit the bill. It was cold out in our shorts, but we squeezed into the only vacant bench in the lobby and waited about 30 minutes until a table was open. Given the long line, this wasn’t a bad wait at all, and Sambo’s keeps a big urn outside filled with very hot and strong coffee.
Sambo’s menu has a lot of normal breakfast items but with their own spin. I was immediately torn between the regular Eggs Benedict and the California Eggs Benedict. The husband wanted pancakes, something they’re known for, but he too loves Eggs Benedict. In the end, we each got the EB and munched on the chocolate chip and blueberry mini-muffins they serve as appetizers while you wait. So fresh and what a neat idea! I happily changed from coffee to a Jumbo Mimosa after my husband twisted my arm and ordered it for me. (Ha. I was eyeballing it on the menu the minute I opened it.) They don’t shy away from the champagne in their mimosas. The Eggs Benedict was probably the best we’ve had, with Hollandaise sauce perfectly tangy and creamy and I don’t know if it was, but the English Muffin tasted and felt freshly made, as in made in-house by Sambo’s. We quickly learned why there were so many people waiting! The environment was fun, funny videos were on a TV in the corner and pop music blared, so it was a hip experience while not being overwhelming. Sambo’s is now on our list of places to visit next time we travel up the coast!
(And to be clear, no restaurant or anywhere we visited is aware I’m writing about them nor were we compensated in any way. This is 100% just my personal recap on a fantastic trip and some great places to add to your bucket list!)
After heading back out on the road, full and happy, we mapped out the way to Solvang. One great thing about traveling through central California is that you really can’t make a wrong turn. You can go out of your way if you have a certain final destination, but there are so many places to stop, you’ll have another winery or restaurant or hotel if you miss the one you’re looking for.
We made it Solvang early afternoon and scoped out the bakeries. After loading up on some cool stuff at a German store, we purchased this huge custard cream puff from the Solvang Bakery, and a six-pack of macarons. And two little bottles of wine, just in case. I got to see the Clydesdales pulling the trolley (one of the prettiest animals in the world) and then we were back in the car.
Wineries are all over California, and we always try to hit up at least one on every trip. Laetitia Winery, in Arroyo Grande, was a very spur-of-the-moment visit but probably a favorite winery out of all that we’ve been to. If you’re looking for a winery where you can really indulge, relax and hang out for a while, this is the place. We headed straight for the wine-tasting ($10 per person for five flights, but free if you buy a bottle) and enjoyed every kind we tried.
We ended up purchasing a bottle of their Estate Chardonnay and another of their Estate Pinot Noir. Both had wonderful flavors and will be easily paired with meals.
Bag in hand, we wandered some of the grounds, starting by taking a wooden stairwell down to a picnic area, in the shade of beautiful trees and surrounded by the vineyards on one side, flowers all around, in the rolling hills. I could have sat there all day!
Instead, the husband decided a game of bocce ball was in order. What a neat idea for a winery, right? You can drink a glass of wine and kick your husband’s butt in bocce ball…so I did. We then wandered a little more, as there are trails and scattered tables, and then got back on the road to head to our hotel.
Though the landscape was beautiful and the beach views nothing short of gorgeous, we were ready to arrive at the hotel, jump in our hot tub and eat those macarons. (Check out the winery and their wines here at their website!)
If you’re looking to stay in Pismo Beach, consider the Sea Venture. It’s just a little south of Pismo Beach Pier and within a short walking distance of downtown, so you have shopping, dancing, food and everything else within 10-15 minutes. We checked-in, a little early, and the hotel sent up a yummy bottle of Pinot Grigio. The hotel staff and room impressed us immediately! The room’s layout was unique, with a little kitchenette area off to one side with a table, concealed refrigerator and coffeemaker. On the counter was wine glasses – actual glass, not the plastic you find in so many rooms – and a corkscrew. No having to call for someone to uncork it for you! The bed was a monstrously huge feather bed with nine pillows (I know this because the husband was counting) and a down comforter you can burrow in. We like to sleep listening to the beach, so it’s great having warm bedding that isn’t a sandpaper blanket. We also fell asleep with the fireplace on. Hot tub, feather bed, fireplace = Best.Place.Ever.
Into the hot tub we went! I pulled out the macarons and we ate on the balcony, enjoying the view and the wine. There was a kite sailing event down the beach from us and a lot of people to watch. Then a highlight of my trip: drying off in soft, fuzzy hotel robes while sharing that huge cream puff. I’m pretty sure that despite not being too hungry, we could have each easily eaten a whole one instead of sharing. Next time you’re in Solvang, grab one…or two.
Next up was dinner at F. McLintock’s Dining House in Pismo Beach. We’ve eaten there several times now and love the western themed building and menu. If you’re on the young adventurous side, you can even ask the waiter to refill your glass of water the fun way: he puts on a blindfold, stands on a chair, and fills the glass while you hold it on the top of your head. So fun to watch! We were seated by the window, overlooking the water, where we enjoyed some Chardonnay and talked about our prior visits. We each ordered totally different plates; the husband got a steak (of course, you have to try one here) and I got the Artic Char. (I can’t eat red meat, sadly.) Every meal is served with a cast-iron pan full of fried potatoes and western grilled beans.
They totally surprised me with the group “Happy Anniversary” sing – so cool! We ate the brownie sundae and planned the long walk on the beach to work off all the calories from the excellent meal. (And all the other food we’d eaten all day!)
After the walk on the sand – where our feet froze off, it’s really deceiving when you look at the amount of people in the water and on the sand but remember it’s still only April, where temps drop quickly at night and the sand temps along with it – we went back to our hot tub and a lounging evening. And that was just day one!
I’ll re-cap day two and a lot more photos later this week. We had such a good time and packed a lot of fun into less than 48 hours!