Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Just Northwest of Santa Barbara, CA is this little triangle of small towns, Solvang, Buellton, and Los Olivos, that are full of charm, character, and scenic opportunities. Solvang offers Danish charm where one can feel like they were transported to Copenhagen and gorge themselves on butter cookies and ebelskivers. The city was founded in 1911 by Danish settlers and includes a Hans Christian Anderson museum and park. Buellton is considered the Home of Pea Soup, where Pea Soup Andersen’s has been serving scratch made fresh pea soup since 1924. Los Olivos has multiple wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants and eclectic shops.

The Central Coast of California is well situated North of the Los Angeles / San Fernando Valley and South of San Francisco / Paso Robles area. The area is littered with agriculture and small farm stands selling local produce. The landscape is dotted with craggy oak trees that can reach up to 600 years old, and are native to the area.

We wandered around, ate & drank, visited wineries, and poked around the numerous shops. It’s the stuff vacations are made of, relaxing and indulging in the local culture. We drove some of the back roads around Foxen Canyon. We wanted to drive through Figueroa Mountain, but the historic snow and winds in the area closed the areas to traffic.

Further Northwest is Cambria, another charming town worth exploring along the coast. Just outside of San Luis Obispo, Cambria is a popular destination spot for locals and tourists alike.

Cambria is a convenient location close to Paso Robles, 30 miles North, Hearst Castle (San Simeon), and Elephant Seal Vista Point.

While in Cambria we enjoyed a gorgeous hike along Fisculini Ranch Bluff trail (at the end of Windsor Rd) with great trails along the oceanside. We indulged in our own picnic at one of the many ‘twig’ benches along the well kept paths.

Next time we are in the area, Cambria is well worth a stay. Another hike we would have loved to do was the Moonstone Beach Drive at Leffingwell Landing.

You can see my photos of Morro Bay, further North, here ..

Noguchi Gardens: Costa Mesa, CA

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Continuing our efforts to gain new experiences in a familiar area, we read about this ‘place’ Noguchi Gardens.  Now don’t think this is a Japanese Gardens kind of place to stroll through… it’s more of a courtyard between buildings outside of The Westin very near South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, CA.

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We went at dusk just before our dinner reservations in South Coast Plaza at ANQi.  We loved the way the light played on the water and the ‘streams’ built into the flagstone courtyard for this modern take on a functional Zen garden..  It was very very spiritual and reflective.noguchi falls_Ssi.JPG

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Crystal Cove State Park: Laguna Beach, CA


We just got back from our trip to CA.  Someone recommended we do Crystal Cove… so we checked it out.  But the really hot tip, was to do The Beachcombers Cafe.  Not that the Beachcombers Cafe was that great … or that bad… but the beach was very photogenic with lots of mussel infested rocks for great foreground..  As an added benefit the parking was free with a validated ticket at The Beachcomber (pre-empting the $15 charge to park and walk the beach).




We chased seagulls and danced with the waves as we got our shoes wet and walked up one way, then back the other.  It was relaxing, and great fun.



Crystal Cove has a unique history in that it was owned by the Irvine family back in 1876.  In the 1930’s Hollywood came in and built 46 cottages for a movie set.  After the movie production, the cottages were abandoned and squatters came in and occupied them until their eviction in the 1970’s.  Today as a State Park there are 17 restored cottages which can be rented.  What a hoot that would be!

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Check out more pix at