Road Trip To Hearst Castle & More
We recently took a new Mazda CX-9 on a road trip! It was an adventure getting there. Mud slides, road closures, heavy storms through out California. Took a lot longer than planned too. But we were comfortable and safe in the CX-9. Our trip included travel around the cities of San Simeon and Cambria and on the ‘must see’ list were Hearst Castle, the Elephant Seal Beach Sanctuary and NitWit Ridge. We saw a lot more and had a fantastic time. I hadn’t been up there for almost 20 years and the kids had never been. I love taking them on fun trips around California and making it educational is always an added bonus.
The drive was about 200 miles but with the storm that hit California all week we took it easy and gave ourselves plenty of time to get there and my friend and I took turns driving. We had fire trucks passing us on the freeway, a ton of car accidents on the road and even saw a car go off the side of the highway. It was definitely crazy weather for California.
We had an awesome navigation system in the Mazda CX-9 plus Serius radio with a ton of stations to choose from. We didn’t always agree but co-pilot had control of the radio.
Seals, The Beach & A Castle
When we got there we checked into the Silver Surf Motel, unloaded the car and went to the Elephant Seal Sanctuary (we visited here a few times). The motel had the cheapest rates in the area, was right by the beach and a few restaurants nearby. The peak of the season for the elephant seals is February so we were there in time to see a lot of them on the beach and a few males fighting. It was quiet wet outside and out umbrellas blew inside out but we made the best of it and enjoyed the sites. I love the backup camera on the Mazda! The parking lot was huge puddles and potholes from the rain and we had to navigate through it and around the other cars. We saw a few of these ‘Cow Art’ pieces too around the city. Not sure the name of them but they were interesting. I love the details, like the sand stars and barnacles on the legs.
View from the hotel. Looks like we could drive straight into the ocean. The car got wet, muddy and dirty and still looked great! If you drink wine you must drive up the coast to san Luis Obispo. They have a ton of wineries to visit. Next day we took a tour of Hearst Castle. They have four regular tours plus a nighttime tour to choose from and the tickets can be purchased in advance online. Parking is free and tickets are picked up inside the Hearst Castle Visitor Center. Inside there is a 30 minute movie about Hearst Castle and how it came about, gift shops and restaurants. After that we boarded a bus to go five miles up the hill to the castle. The weather was cloudy and a little cold but the rain held off and we had a fantastic time exploring the grounds and inside the main buildings. Beyond the clouds is the beach. Statues were everywhere on the grounds and inside. The whole place was amazing. Fascinating architecture and art. There was so much to see. I could easily have spent a few more hours there but the kids were going through it at a quicker pace. The outdoor pool, Neptune Pool, was being repaired and was drained but we saw the indoor pool. Above it is the tennis courts.
The outdoor walls, staircases and planters even had statues, decorations and more.Group photo of the four of us outside the main building at Hearst Castle. We ate lunch in Cambria at Linn’s (famous for their pies) and dinner at Big Sur Restaurant. All of the diners in Cambria are small, non-chain restaurants, mostly family-owned. Same with the gift shops and ice cream parlors.
The next day we went to the beach and explored. The tide was coming in and the waves were crazy from the storms. It was amazing to see that some beaches had no elephant seals at all and others had hundreds of them. I wasn’t sure what made the seals stay on certain beaches.Kids in the sand while the water was ebbing out.We drove back to the Elephant Seal Sanctuary and took the path the opposite way (day before we went left, this time we went to the right) and we hiked to the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Tours are given at 9:45 am on Wednesdays and Sundays in the summer. We missed out on a tour but still had a fun 3-mile hike. I love how well the car navigated in these cities where I didn’t know the streets or how to get anywhere and the roads were a bit crazy.
That evening we had dinner at Robin’s Restaurant. The building, like most in Cambria, is an old house. The menu is a mix of all types of cuisines. They consider themselves a ‘handcrafted global cuisine’ and they aren’t kidding. I would love to go back there for their Sunday brunch. Their menu is a mix of Indian food, like naan and curry dishes, seafood dishes, kid-friendly, like pizza, and even Thai food. The prices weren’t cheap but the food was amazing and service spectacular. They have outdoor dining on a small patio too. Robin’s compensated us a free appetizer for dining here. I picked the cheese platter that included nuts, cheese, breads, fruit and local honey. My son ordered a Iced Mocha Float that included a fresh rose petal. The adults ordered the Cioppino, a seafood soup and the kids ordered pizza. Fresh bread was also served for everyone.
There was a line to get in as we were leaving. If you plan to dine here it is a good idea to make reservations. Cambria seems to have an abundance of ice cream shops too. Some service homemade fudge and trinkets too. The hills surrounding Hearst Castle have cattle on them from a ranch the castle runs and the hills in San Simeon and Cambria have more ranches. It is said that the Hearst Castle herds also have zebras in them, from when the castle once had a zoo (and the zebras were released). I looked the whole time we were there and never saw a single zebra. Water run off coming down the hills. California isn’t used to so much rain so a lot of it was running directly to the sea.
Historic Landmarks In Cambria
Cambria had a ton of small stores for shopping. Clothing, art, even a yarn shop. This one, Gallery of Wearable Art (GOWA) was once a house, built in 1880.
Up in the hills is a one-of-a-kind house, called Nitt Witt Ridge. It was built by Arthur “Art” Harold Beal (now deceased) over 50 years and is now owned by Michael O’Malley. For a $10 donation you can get a tour of the house and outside grounds. You won’t find this attraction on all the tour maps, since it is not a favorite among the locals, but it is worth the money and time. Beal took items from the dump and around town to build his house. It is upcycling and recycling before it was in and the arches and walkways are very unique.
Most of the house is built out of wood, rocks and stone, old beer bottles and tires. It is said that Beal carved the whole thing out of the mountainside with a shovel. Staircase with abalone shells. Nitt Witt Ridge was a maze or rooms with random toilets in odd places, including one on a rooftop. We really enjoyed O’Malley’s tour and hope he is able to maintain this landmark historic attraction for generations to come.
On the way home we pulled over at Peachy Canyon Winery just so I could sit in this chair. Check one thing off my bucket list. The drive back was a lot of traffic and more rain but the Mazda got us in comfort. Did I mention how roomy this car is? We enjoyed the scenic drive and hope to go back up there again soon.
Scenic Horse Riding
I grew up with horses on our property and lots of time to go riding in our yard and on the bike paths on the arroyo that was behind our house. We even had people board their horses on our property and my sister and I had our own pony. That all ended when my parents got a divorce. Since then I’ve had little chances to go horseback riding. Being able to grab a friend or two and take a scenic horse riding lesson is something everyone should do at least once. Children should too. Learning to ride a horse should count as a life skill, like being able to drive a stick shift or cook in the kitchen. Since my kids don’t have easy access to horses we like going to a place with a great reputation, good trainers and calm horses so we can do a day ride and enjoy our time.
For those wanting to check out a horse riding school I’ve found it is nice to find a place decent in size, with lots of property to ride on and different types of lessons, depending on age and ability of the rider. You might even split up and take different lessons. Someone that has never been on a horse would benefit from private lessons. A person that knows how to ride but is a bit rust might want to take a beginners trail ride. For me, I think I’d like to take a beginners trail a few times and then advance up to a harder group. If you have little kids in your group you might want to have them take pony riding lessons. That is what I did when I was a kid.
If you are not experienced in riding make sure you wear proper clothing too. Most places will provide helmets. You are on your own to wear decent boots, jeans and a t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt, depending on the weather. The saddle, halter and other gear for the horse should be provided for you.
Nothing like getting out, enjoying nature, fresh air and gorgeous views while riding a horse.
5 Stunning Cruise Destinations You Have To Experience Before You Die
In recent years cruise holidays have boomed in popularity. They’ve become more than just floating hotels, and now offer the absolute pinnacle of opulent travel experience. Cruises give access to beautiful remote islands and people, so experiencing new cultures and food is made easy. With varieties of cuisine, spa and swimming facilities, and even casinos, it’s not surprising that people are choosing to travel by sea. If you’re considering a cruise holiday, but you’re still undecided about where to go, here are some suggestions.
Experience heavenly paradise with a cruise around the beautiful Pacific islands of Hawaii. You will have the opportunity to get some surfing action on the South Island, practice your hula dancing, and gorge on the refined cuisine of the natives. There is even the chance to swim with dolphins in a tropical lagoon. It is clear that the only way to see this beautiful island state is by water.
Venture around the Cape of Africa or up the Zambezi River, and experience the enormous range of sights that this organic continent can offer. Drift along the river and take in the local wildlife, or why not book a safari and get up close and personal with them. A visit to Victoria Falls – one of the seven wonders of the natural world – is an absolute must. Click here to find out what an African cruise can offer you.
With its stunning blue waters, hot sun, and white beaches, the Mediterranean is a classic holiday destination. Take in the sights and smells of Italy, see the ruins of Ancient Greece, pop into Barcelona, and visit the bazaar markets of Marrakesh. Swim in the warm waters and soak up the sun on board, and explore the beautiful towns that line the coast. The Mediterranean offers such a variety of culture and cuisines; there’s something there for everyone.
It is plain to see that the resorts of the Maldives were built with luxury in mind. The crystal clear waters and snow white beaches around the atoll draw people from all around the globe, for obvious reasons. A cruise of the area would take you to dock at the country’s larger cities. There you will see the ancient temples and experience the delectable food, before taking you back to the smaller islands to unwind on the beach. Just don’t forget your snorkel and flippers.
Vacation as the Vikings would, but with a bit more comfort and a bit less pillaging. The beautiful fjords and cliffs around Scandinavia make a dramatic backdrop for a cruise. There’re so many beautiful coastal cities to take in as well, from Helsinki to the Baltic states. Days off-ship will include the beautiful cobbled streets of Copenhagen, and the stunning parks and trendy restaurants of Stockholm.
Each of these five places is a must-visit in your lifetime, and what better way to see them all that by sea? The comfort and class of your cruise liner is the perfect way to travel around these stunning island areas. When you get home you’re guaranteed to feel both cultured and pampered.
CHILL at the Queen Mary
This week I’m blessed to bring my kids on a brand new adventure! The Queen Mary has a special event just for Christmas. They have been doing it a while now but this will be my kids’ first time here. Starting Wednesday and going until January 8th, 2017, you and your family can have a winter wonderland adventure at the Queen Mary. Bring some warm clothing and a smile and enjoy the day.
Just some of the awesome activities at the Queen Mary:
- Ice skating.
- Build gingerbread houses.
- Photos with Santa.
- Story time and hot chocolate with Mrs. Clause (or, in my family, we call her Sarah Clause, since in all the stories she doesn’t have a first name).
- There is live entertainment.
- Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
- And much more.
Tickets are available online as well as special hotel rates. For hotel rates for the Queen Mary CHILL event you can use promo code: chill16.
CHILL guests receive complimentary access to the World Famous Queen Mary.
Dinosaur Adventure This Weekend
If you and your children love dinosaurs I have the most awesome place you can attend this weekend. Jurassic Quest is live at the Ventura Fairgrounds. Explore the buildings and learn about dinosaurs. Hands-on exhibits, displays, crafts, food and more.
What. When. Where.
10 W Harbor Blvd, Ventura, CA 93001
Fri 3pm-8pm Sat 9am-8pm Sun 9am-7pm
The main dinosaur exhibit features ultra-realistic, life-size animatronic dinosaurs; Over 50 life-size dinosaurs in all. Visitors can interact with these huge creatures, learn about them and even ride a few. It features realistic scenes, enormous dinosaurs, cute baby dinosaurs and lots of fun activities for kids of all ages. There are huge T-Rex and Triceratops fossil digs where young paleontologists can uncover long hidden dinosaurs bones, the “Dino Bounce” area with several, towering, dinosaur theme inflatable mazes, face painting, Dino crafts and much more!
Attractions to see:
- Walking Dinosaurs (yes, they walk around, are life-size and look real).
- Dino Science Station.
- Dino Crafts.
- Face Painting.
- Dino Rides.
- Fossil Digs.
Get tickets now for this fun weekend event!
For Tickets and more information: http://www.jurassicquest.com
Enter & Win!
What is YOUR Favorite Dinosaur?
Right now one lucky person has the chance to win a family Four-Pack. To win simply post in the comments below the name of your favorite dinosaur! Winner must be of the age 18-years-old, or older and be able to pick up tickets November 11-13th 2016 at the will-call booth at the Ventura Fairgrounds. Winner will be chosen at random.