Friday, June 19, 2009

Cambria on the Central Coast

One of our favorite weekend getaway spots is Cambria, a little picturesque town on California's central coast. It is west of Paso Robles and northwest of San Luis Obispo, and is a quiet little area that is loaded with things to do ... or not do if you prefer to just lounge on Moonstone Beach. A great entry into Cambria is along Santa Rosa Road, which winds through the local hillside and enters town in Cambria's East Village.
The town has a split personality, with the older East Village and newer West Village. Both villages are home to good eateries, a few antique shops, boutiques and art galleries. Susan & I tend to favor the East Village where several of our favorite shops are located. In the old Cambria Creamery building are three great shops -- all different and worth a visit.
Birds of a Feather is one of the most interesting antique shops you will encounter -- anywhere. The owner, Bonnie Crawford, has a great eye for unique items, be they birds nests, old ribbon, or handmade figures. She also has a remarkable talent for displaying these items in layouts and vignettes that tell a story! Birds of a Feather also features the wares of local artists.

Next door is a creative garden shop, simply named The Garden Shed. Here you will find some great gardening gifts and tools. In the back is a garden area where the plants and outdoor pieces are grouped into little settings like outdoor rooms or cozy corners. Then there is also a little gallery that just opened featuring the artwork of four local artists.
Just a stones throw up Main Street is Burton Drive. There are many little shops and galleries along this two block road. It is home to a superb little kitchen boutique -- A Matter of Taste. It is also home to our favorite restaurant in Cambria -- Robin's. The cuisine is a mixture of Mediterranean fare and a fantastic selection of curries! If you have just one night in Cambria, have dinner at Robin's.

We always stay on Moonstone Beach. There are many lovely inns there. We favor Sand Pebbles Inn, but it's hard to go wrong if you are lodging right there on the beach! The day we were there, the dolphins and sea lions were putting on a show just beyond the surf. The usual flocks of seabirds were flying, squawking and dive bombing for fish. Gulls, sand pipers, pelicans and more! Everytime I see pelicans, I am reminded of a little ditty by Ogden Nash:
What a strange bird, the pelican,
Its beak can hold more than its belly can.

Springtime flowers along the shore and cliffs brighten up the landscape, driftwood on the beach create interesting sculptural effects, and harbor seals basking in the sun on the rocks give the whole picture a naturally wild perspective.

Cambria is located just a few miles north of Harmony (population 18!) and six miles south of Hearst castle.
Another few miles up the coast is the elephant seal beach at Piedras Blancas. The beach was relatively quiet the day we were there. In the breeding season the whole sandy area is covered with barking, grunting seals. But the ones that were there put on a little exhibition for us.

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