“Bart the Navigator” mapped out today’s journey. Given the beauty of our surroundings, he didn’t have to work too hard on our itinerary.
First stop, Cambria (pop. 6,032), a seaside village halfway between San Francisco and LA along CA Highway 1. We checked into our new digs – the Moonstone Landing Inn -overlooking the spectacular Pacific Ocean beach by the same name.
The views at Moonstone Beach made Bart speechless (well, not actually speechless, since he made this little video for Tour followers).
We decided to take what turned out to be a 5 mile power walk into the Village of Cambria, which is the Latin name for Wales. Besides the spectacular scenic coastal views, we took in the abundance of Monterey Pines, wild turkeys, and historic homes and buildings.
Rorie seemed a little confused by the directional signs on our way into town.
We had the good fortune to stop in the Chamber of Commerce and were warmly greeted by Lesley, who gave us an “armchair” tour of Cambria, great recommendations about places to go and information on upcoming events – including the Cambria Christmas Market light display…You can tell she loves this village.
The light display is colorful…As Lesley said, “you’ve never seen anything like it”.
Continuing on our walk, we were startled by the local amphibian life. The shop behind this giant frog is full of other amazing art glass pieces.
After all that exercise we needed breakfast and we needed it bad, but this guy had no recommendations for us.
Luckily, we found the best place in town…the Cambria Cafe, which has 4 plus stars on TripAdvisor. Everything here is made from scratch and delivers down home goodness.
We loved the Cafe’s prices. Sadly…this menu was just a reminder of days gone by. Even so, the restaurant has great food (and service) at very reasonable prices.
Rorie ordered a super sized breakfast burrito jam packed with eggs, cheese, ham and potatoes. Just a little something to start her day. Bart got his favorite kind of breakfast sandwich, called the Mac Copy. Crisp bacon, eggs cooked to perfection, fresh lettuce and tomato on a lightly toasted english muffin. The hot sauce was a great compliment!
Say “hi” to Tom Weaver, a member of Cambria’s Last Liars Club which meets regularly at the cafe. This is the local hangout and we were delighted to get a chance to talk with one of Cambria’s most friendly and interesting residents…no lie. To our good friend David, formerly from the small town of Avon, CT, this place is Cambria’s version of Luke’s.
After breakfast we headed back to Moonstone Beach to plan the rest of the day. On our way, we stumbled onto this place. Can you say “Holy Cannoli”?
Meet Brooklyn transplant Bob Simeone who owns the bakery with his wife Phyllis. The specialty here is Taralli which are Italian gourmet pretzels. The pastries were amazing too.
The historic East and West Villages are packed with neat boutiques, art shops, and restaurants housed in an eclectic mix of buildings.
But without a doubt, the most interesting place we saw was a house called Nitt Witt Ridge. Built entirely out of recycled materials by artist/recluse Arthur “Art” Harold Beal, he spent almost 50 years creating this “masterpiece”.
Having fully explored the Village, we decided to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Simeon (pop. 462), home to the majestic Hearst Castle. The mansion, which sits high on a hillside, took over 3 decades for newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst to build. His estate includes 3 guest cottages and is filled with the “best things he could find”.
Driving by the grounds of the retreat Hearst called “La Cuesta Encantada”, Spanish for The Enchanted Hill, we were shocked to see a herd of zebras roaming along side the cattle. Only in CA!
Continuing down the road, we discovered another startling sight in a cove near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse – huge elephant seals lounging all over the beach. Every year over 17,000 of these blubbery guys and gals migrate thousands of miles to what is called the Piedras Blancas rookery.
After taking in these amazing sights, we turned around and headed South to another waterfront town…Morro Bay (pop. 10,234). Tourism and commercial fishing are the big industries here and even off season, the place was bustling.
The most striking sight in town is this hulking 576 ft volcanic rock (or plug), in the entrance of the harbor. Gulls, sea otters and peregrine falcons are common sights in the bay and around the rock. Truly an awesome sight.
Strolling along the waterfront enjoying the shops and sights, we stopped in Giovanni’s Fish Market, a family owned seafood shop.
Can’t get much fresher than this. We’d rather run into a shark here than out there.
Rorie couldn’t resist getting a piece of mahogany colored smoked salmon to go.
After a day full of exploring and the discovery of unexpected sights, it was time to settle down to a good meal at a local joint. Family-owned Medusa’s Taqueria in Cambria was just the place. Casual and unassuming with friendly service, there was nothing low-key about their food. Bursting with flavor and freshness, this was one of the best Mexican meals we’ve had.
Taste buds and bellies satisfied, we went back to our beachside retreat to sit by the fire and, hopefully, get a restful night’s sleep. Ahh…