Coastal Delights: 17-Mile Drive, Hearst Castle, and Paso Robles

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The next morning I woke up to natural sunlight shining through the blinds. I sat on the balcony and enjoyed the ocean view while Viv got ready and snapped a few overcast morning photos. The fresh air kissed my face and made me think about living near the coast. Except, I can’t stand the cold. Oh well. Guess not.

My intention was to drive down to the little village area we visited last night, but when the “17 mile drive” and “Pebble Beach” sign appeared on the freeway, I made a rash decision to veer straight for the exit and do a little bit of sight seeing. Everyone says the 17 Mile Drive is the most beautiful stretch of coast you can see.

The first 8 miles (depending on where you start) take you through a private neighborhood of million dollar homes and mansions. A couple of them were for sale. I mentally told myself to jot down a couple phone number just incase I win the lottery. LOL.

It was actually pretty cold that morning, so we traveled the Californian way, which is to roll down your window, snap a few photos and move along. Viv laughed at me, but being that everything is so spread out, it only makes sense that you need a car to move around. What else are you going to do? Hitch hike?

We didn’t see any frolicking deer, sunbathing seals or sea otters as the website claimed. We did spot a couple of flying pelicans and plenty of shore birds. We also saw lots of tourists. Had we had more time, we could have had a nice little picnic on the beach and enjoyed the view.

Back in Carmel, the town center looked drastically different compared to what we had seen the night before. No crazy drivers in sight, just families and couples leisurely strolling up and down the streets.

We finally found a great breakfast place called “Village Corner”. Their breakfast menu provided a variety of options ranging from eggs, omlets, pancakes (buttermilk, banana and brown sugar or wild berry), huevos rancheros, hot skillet, eggs benedicts (4 kinds) and the other usual breakfast options. I’m a huge sucker for Eggs Benedict, so as you guessed it – I ordered Eggs Benedict. I guess Viv loves the Benedict too, so she got the Veggie Benedict. Here’s the menu if you’re curious.

It wasn’t particularly busy that morning at the restaurant, but there was a nice lady sitting by herself next to us enjoying breakfast. “If you don’t’ mind me asking,” I asked. “Is Carmel a friendly place to live? I mean, it seems like such a warm cozy ocean side town… is there much of a community or tight knit feeling here?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t really know since I just moved here in September” she said. “But I have made a small circle of friends I’ve met in town.”

“Oh, where did you move from?”

“Houston, Texas, my kids grew up and moved out. So, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life at a job I didn’t like and a place I didn’t need to stay at. So I took a chance and moved out here!”

Her life as a paralegal in Houston was awfully stressful. After settling her divorce and the kids graduated from school, it seemed like a good time to consider a change of pace. But when she suffered a mini-stroke, she was forced to make a decision about whether she wanted to stay at a job she barely enjoyed or find happiness for herself. To add insult to injury, her employer increased the workload and hinted that she could be replaced. She told her closest friends at work that she was going to leave and nobody believed her. And yet there she was – IN CARMEL. “Good for you!” I cheered.

Following breakfast, we took a quick walk, peering into a couple of stores. Off the main road is the Carmel Bay Company, which sells home, kitchen and garden décor. I don’t know why I love going to home decoration stores; but it’s not as if I need more stuff at home. Upstairs is home to even more home decorations, racks of clothing and (low and behold) a shoe section. I casually commented about how beautiful the interior of the building was and the store clerk was so nice that she went and retrieved a book of historical buildings in Carmel. She pointed out that the building belonged Actor & Director, Herbert Heron; some guy who directed a lot of Shakespeare plays.

We hurried back to the car to catch our 2pm appointment at the Hearst Castle about 2 hours south of us. Apparently we hadn’t thought this through very well, because neither of us realized how windy the next trek was going to be. Cabrillo Hwy. The coves and cliffs all generally look the same, but you’ll notice that the rock formations are different. But by golly, the view is breathtaking and you just want to spend hours staring at the crashing waves below. The blue skies reflected off the water, creating a dazzling effect of shimmery, shiny explosions of water. Whoosh!

At about 3pm we arrived at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, just off the 1 Hwy. We did “Tour 1” which is recommended for first-time visitors as it provides an overview of the history of Mr. Hearst, his eclectic taste and building endeavors. Hearst Castle is a historic landmark, which was designed by architect, Julia Morgan. The ranch is about 250,000 acres, 14 miles from the coastline and enough rooms for you to sleep in a different one each day. The Neptune & Roman pools looked too nice to dip your toes in and the main house is something else. My vocabulary became limited to “Wow” and “Whoa”. Unfortunately, the building construction was never completed during Mr. Hearst’s lifetime, but today in addition to daily tours the castle is in a constant state of restoration and maintenance.

About 40 minutes away, we drove up into the rolling hills of Paso Robles. We had taken our time in Carmel and were trying to make up for lost time and daylight. We met Philip Krumal, the owner & chef at Asuncion Ridge Inn who gave us a warm welcome, showed us around the inn and treated us to some a variety of cheeses and crackers. The inn is very small compared to others, but as a bed & breakfast, three private suites are enough to make you feel like you’re at a remote resort with luxurious amenities at hand. Everything that we saw in the inn, from the curtains to the 800 thread-count bed sheets were hand picked by Philip. You have to be here to see it for yourself. It’s a mix of a little bit of paradise meets “I could live here forever”.

We ventured back into Paso Robles for dinner at Thomas Hill Organics. Viv had done research online and read that they served lots of fresh food. The menu actually changes on a regular basis for natural reasons: they only cook using seasonal organic produce from their farm in Paso Robles. I wanted to order everything off the menu. Seriously. Check out these items from the menu…

  • Baby Carrot Salad, Medjool Dates, Hemp Seeds, Madras Curry
  • Bagna Cauda, Purple Fingerling Potatoes, Farm Fresh Poached Egg, Warm Anchovy Vinaigrette
  • Rooibos Thé Pan Seared Striped Sea Bass, bloomsdale Spinach, Lemongrass Cream with Sweet Pepper Sambal
  • Flat Iron Steak with Szechuan Peppercorn Sauce, Roasted Purple & Sweet Potatoes, Grilled Green Garlic

Everything tasted so darn good.  We ate. And ate. And ate. “This tastes so good I’m going to cry!”, mouthed Viv. It was grandma’s kitchen meets culinary institute. The simplicity and combination of textures, tastes, flavors and ingredients merged harmoniously. Nothing felt rushed or out of place; just perfectly delicious.

That night, I soaked in a hot bath and read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. Learning about where grocery store food comes from makes me cringe. I’m so glad we had dinner at Thomas Hill. Organic, fresh and local food is the way to go.

Oh, did I mention I also had a glass of Asuncion Ridge Pinot Noir with my hot bath too? Delectable. Philip is not only the multi-talented owner and chef, but also the winemaker of Asuncion Ridge Inn & Vineyards.

I could live off this land for a while.

Please?

Some places to see, eat and stay

17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach
www.pebblebeach.com

Village Corner Bistro
Post Office Box 2265,
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
(831) 624-3588
www.carmelsbest.com

Carmel Bay Company
Ocean Avenue & Lincoln St
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA‎
(831) 624-3868‎
www.carmelbaycompany.com

Carillo Highway
www.dot.ca.gov

Hearst Castle
750 Hearst Castle Road,
San Simeon, CA‎
(805) 927-2020‎
www.hearstcastle.org

Asuncion Ridge Inn & Winery
729 13th Street
Paso Robles, CA‎
(805) 461-0675‎
www.asuncionridge.com

Thomas Hill Organics Restaurant
1305 Park Street
Paso Robles, CA 93446-2236
(805) 226-5888
www.thomashillorganics.com

Sonya Lee

Since a child, Sonya has been traveling from the corners of Canada to the far east Asia. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, she led a normal family life with her brother, mother and dad. A well received job opportunity in Hong Kong for her father put the compass in action from a young age. Sonya loves good food, and I mean GOOD simple food. She loves an occasional drink, be merry and enjoy the good times. Having recently healed herself from a large ruptured cyst, her favorite foods include fresh carrot juice, grilled vegetables, sauteed portabello mushrooms and truffle french fries. Her philosophy? Healthy food makes a healthy body. Read more on the Editor page. When she's not fretting over WAFT, she runs a small design agency called mowie media and shares the good times with her dog, Monster and 3 cats Sabi, Kaeli & Misty.

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