Southern CA, and a bit of the middle

So, our next trip up is to Long Beach, CA. It wasn’t necessarily on either Jon’s or my list of must see places, but we got a very inexpensive flight from home to Long Beach on Allegiant Air. It was kind of a “why-not” type of trip. Especially since we’ll be at home for awhile after this, because of Jon’s work schedule. We had an afternoon flight, so we got into Long Beach at 5 pm. We had decided to stay in Ventura, so our first evening was pretty much just driving to Ventura from Long Beach. It was a pleasant drive, with only one traffic jam about 20 miles north of Long Beach.

On day 2, which was really our first full day in California, we headed up to Hearst Castle. Mind you, this was a bit of a boo-boo on my part. I booked tickets online for the Castle, and then realized that the drive there is still 180 miles from Ventura. When I told Jon, he was just as shocked as I was – he had the impression it was about 90 miles. We decided to go anyway, because unless you are doing a drive down the California coast, Hearst Castle isn’t really close to anything. It’s a good thing that William Randolph Hearst was rich enough to bring everything to him.

We had lunch in the town of Cambria, which has a quaint main street and a touristy feel, at a deli called Sandy’s Deli and Bakery. Jon had the Cobb salad and I had the Turkey Club. Our meal was fantastic. I think this was the best club sandwich I’ve ever had. It was so full of goodies that I had trouble holding onto it!

And then we were off to Hearst Castle. We were glad that we bought tickets online, because when we got there shortly after noon, the next tickets available for the tour were at 3 pm. On a Monday! Ours were for 1:20. We dawdled around looking at the exhibits for awhile, and learning about the life of W.R. Hearst. He inherited his fortune, including the land where Hearst Castle is built, when his mother died in 1919. By this time, he had already made his own fortune in the newspaper business and was getting into the movie business too. He built Hearst Castle, because at 56, he wanted to spend more time on the property, where he had camped with his parents growing up. However, he was too old to be “roughing it” anymore. When he was camping, they had the servants haul a bunch of 4-room canvas tents to the site, complete with wood floors and heating stoves. Uh-uh, “roughing it,” my thought exactly.

So, back to the tour – at the appropriate time, you had to board a bus with 40 of your closest friends for the 5 mile trip up the hill from the Visitor’s Center. Wow, this place is amazing! The little guest house is 3000 square feet, another is 3600 square feet, and the main house is 70,000 square feet. After World War I, when Europe needed money, many countries sold their treasures, and Hearst was there to snatch them up. He has paintings that are hundreds of years old, religious icons, French fireplaces, choir stalls from a 600 year old church.  You know, the sort of collectibles that everybody decorates their house with.  It is like a European museum tucked into the boonies of California.

After the tour, we went back into Cambria and wandered around a bit.  We went to Black Hand Cellars, which has a tasting room on the Main Street of Cambria.  They had a good Syrah, and an even better blend called Hit ‘n Run.  Their Alibi blend was delicious too, but not quite as good as the Hit ‘n Run.  We liked their reds better than their whites.  She recommended we try out Moonstone Cellars down the street, so we headed there next.  The folks at Moonstone were friendly and down to earth.  We really liked their whites – they had a Sauvignon Blanc that was crisp and fresh, and a Gewurztraminer that was delicious, without being too sweet.  Jon really enjoyed their oaked Chardonnay, but I liked the unoaked Chardonnay better.

We took their recommendation for dinner, which was at the Seachest Restaurant just outside Cambria.  Can you guess – they serve seafood!  We had oysters, clam chowder and yellowtail.  Delicious!  An excellent unpretentious place.  Water view and no dress code!  Cash only though, so if you go, bring some.

The Seachest Restaurant

Then we had a long drive home….  that other 180 miles.  All in all, the day was well worth it.  I’m glad we made the trip – even if it was further than we had planned!  I found my new home – although I can’t afford it in a million years…