Cambria Journey (October 2005)

From Castles to Kayaks (Cambria 2005)

The October Habitravels Cambria California Getaway was a blast! This sleepy Central California coast community is an ideal base camp if you want a variety packed holiday. A review of our agenda illustrates this.

Friday evening’s Hearst Castle tour transported us back to a time when Hollywood’s stars and the dignitaries of the 1930s and 40s hobnobbed at William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies 90 thousand plus estate. Originally known by the Hearst family as “La Cuesta Encantada” or “The Enchanted Hill” this spectacular show place, which Hearst called “The Ranch” has drawn millions of visitors from all over the world. In 1919 Hearst hired Julia Morgan, one of the first women to graduate from University of California at Berkeley with a degree in civil engineering, and for the next 28 years, she supervised nearly every aspect of design and construction on the hill. Here are a few mind boggling stats on this so-called “ranch.”

Square Footage
Casa Grande: 60,645
Casa del Mar: 5,875
Casa del Monte: 2,291
Casa del Sol: 2,604
Roman Pool: 1,665
Total: 90,080 Square Feet

Estate Total: 41

Estate Total: 61
Casa Grande: 41

Sitting Rooms
Estate Total: 19

Casa Grande: 38
Casa del Mar: 6
Casa del Monte: 4
Casa del Sol: 8

Medieval ceilings and antiques brought from European abbeys and estates abound. Period costumed docents bring to life an evening at the Castle on these night time Living History” tours. The estates’ two swimming pools are astounding. Neptune’s pool is 104 feet long, 58 to 95 feet wide, and holds 345,000 gallons of water, but most memorable is the indoor Roman Pool, inspired by famous ancient Roman baths. It wasn’t that popular with guests because the ten foot depths scared them. One shallow off-shoot nick-named “the sissy pool” became a favorite “lovers’ lane.” Decorated from top to bottom with mosaic tiles, many of them infused with gold, it glitters at night. In 1947, Hearst left the Castle for the last time with some building plans not complete, but his “unfinished symphony” in architecture is an opulent treasure trove and a must see if you are in the vicinity. Find out more about the castle and available tours at

Saturday we left luxury behind and took to nearby Morro Bay’s waters in kayaks. Five minutes out we met up with an otter savoring an abalone breakfast; fine dining with an ocean view. The ancient landmark of 576 foot high Morro Rock dominates the skyline. The last in a chain of long-extinct volcanoes, Morro Rock became a landfall in the 1500s for Spanish galleons and the village of Morro Bay grew as a result. In 1968 Morro Rock was declared a State Historical Landmark, and has been called the “Gibralter of the Pacific.” Wild life thrives in the bay, making it an ideal spot for nature lovers to paddle. It is home to a wide range of water fowl and sea creatures, and deer roam the sand bar beaches. If you’ve never kayaked this is a great place to get your feet wet, because the estuary is protected and there’s plenty to see while you perfect your paddling style. There are several reputable kayak tour operators. We enjoyed our guided excursion with Kayak Horizons,

Sunday we headed to the Indian summer warmth of Paso Robles Wine country with The Wine Wrangler, We toured five wineries, from mom and pop to ultra-chic establishments. We enjoyed a taste of “Liquid Love” as we bellied up to the bar at Old West themed Tobin James Wine Tasting Room. Story goes that Tobin James is descended from the notorious Wild Wild West James brothers, and the infamous outlaws hid out in Paso Robles, and maybe, just maybe, bellied up to the very same bar. Our next stop was architecturally chic Bianchi. By now the wine sampling was already “relaxing” me and our stops were blending together. A highlight was the visit to Eiber Winery, where we learned a bit about wine production and toured extensive underground cool wine caves. If possible schedule your wine tour for Sunday to the Saturday crowds.

As with all Health Habitravels programs there was daily Pilates/yoga. Our “studio” in Cambria was the gazebo at Shamel Park, and the steadfast beat of the nearby Pacific tides our accompaniment. The focused practice and gentle stretches were very welcome after climbing Hearst Castle’s hundreds of stairs and getting a great workout paddling into the wind in Morro Bay. Once again we had a homey stayed at The Pickford House Inn,, a great choice if you prefer B&Bs to your standard motor inn. Sunday evening we did what you just have to do when you’re in Cambria, and that’s watch the seals play as the sun sets on Moonstone beach. Locals are out for the twilight show. But as usual, the best part of the getaway for me was sharing these experiences with wonderful people, and making new friends. The group finished off the weekend by toasting a lovely couple from Chicago who had come on the weekend to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. What an honor to be included in such a happy occasion. I hope to have many more such honors as my Health Habitravels Retreats and Journeys continue.

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