Monday, April 23, 2012


Wine tasting in Paso Robles

California has everything!  From seashore to desert, valleys to mountain peaks, it is an ever changing landscape.  It also has ever changing weather!  Unfortunately, the 2 days we spent at  Pismo Beach were cold and rainy, but going inland a little to Paso Robles we found some sunshine.  

Paso Robles is slightly north of San Luis Obispo in the heart of the central coast wine country.   Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio spent the first night of their honeymoon here (don't ask me why).  It was established in 1870 by Jesse James’ uncle Drury James.  Jesse hid out in tunnels underneath the original Paso Robles Inn. 

California's Highway 1 is one of the most scenic drives in the world. We were fortunate in that the weather was clear and the road had not been closed due to rock slides.  It was hard for me to believe that some15 years ago we navigated the same hills and curves in a 40' motorhome with a car hitched to the back.  

(Ron and I sold both our homes when we married in 1995. We bought a motorhome and lived in it full time for 6 years as we  traveled all over the US and Canada.  On this 9 month circle the U.S. car trip, we are re-visiting some places we especially liked as well as making sure we see some areas we missed.)

Slightly north of San Simeon and Hearst Castle is a large colony of northern elephant seals, the largest of the seal species.  Males can be 20 feet log and weigh over 5,000 lbs.  Females are much smaller, about 1,600 lbs.  The males fight aggressively for dominance to win and protect harems of about 50 females.  Once a year elephant seals shed all their fur.  It is called a ‘catastropic molt.’  Here they rest in the sun - exhausted from mating season? They line the beach as far as you can see.

Northern Elephant Seals

We stopped in Carmel By The Sea for lunch en route to Monterey.  Both towns have grown considerably since we were last here.  Monterey has morphed from a fishing village into a major tourist town.  

Pacific Grove, next to Monterey, is reminiscent of Carmel some 20 years ago.  The coastal drive around the peninsula is gorgeous with views to rival Pebble Beach’s 17 mile drive – sans the $9.75 toll.  We returned to Monterey to visit Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row.

Shacks immigrants lived in
In the early 1900s, after attempts to can salmon failed, Monterey turned - wth great success - to canning sardines.  Most of the laborers were from Sicily but workers also migrated there from Japan and the Philippines.The market collapsed in the 1940s; all but a few  canneries closed by the early 50s.  Cannery Row was made famous by John Steinbeck's book of the same name.  Steinbeck, one of the great American writers of the last century (Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden) won both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes.