Obviously, big trips are extra fun, but we also love going on little weekend getaways! In January 2016, we went to San Simeon to see Hearst Castle. We also snuck in a little wine tasting on the way back.
We live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so we just drove down to San Simeon on Saturday morning. It took about four hours. We tried to leave early to avoid the traffic, but I no longer think it is possible to avoid the traffic here.
In order to see Hearst Castle, you must have a tour. It is possible to join a tour when you arrive at the Visitor's Center, but a lot of the better tours fill up. The guides told us that in the summer, weekend tours often book well in advance. About a week before we went, we used their website to reserve two tours for the day, The Grand Rooms Tour, focusing on the main rooms, and the Designing the Dream Tour, focusing on the architecture and design of the property. The website is very easy to use. You can book tours here.
The Designing the Dream tour was much better. It had fewer people, and we got to get closer to the rooms and go inside. I would recommend that tour, but it was good in combination with the main rooms tour. The only overlap was the indoor Roman Pool.
It rained the entire time we were at the castle, but it was actually just fine. I would like to return to spend more time seeing the outdoor archictecutre, but the majority of the attraction is the sumptuous decor in the interior rooms.
The tours start and end at the visitor's center. That's where there are restrooms, guides, and shops. There is of course a souvenir photo. An interesting side note: the visitor's center at Hearst Castle has hands-down the best beef jerky I've ever had. We bought one pack to snack on and we immediately wished we'd bought more. Do yourself a favor and get some when you visit!
That night, we stayed at the Cambria Beach Lodge, located about ten minutes south of the castle. It was adorable! I wish the weather would've been nicer so we could take advantage of the great beach location and the free bicycles. The downside to the Cambria Beach Lodge is that there are no real drawers in the rooms. It was a little odd. Also the walls were quite thin.
For dinner, we walked over to the Sea Chest Restaurant. It was right next door. The Sea Chest was tasty but...we'll say quirky. First, it is cash-only, so be prepared for that. The decor is dated and they do not take reservations. You just have to go early and hope for the best. Thankfully, we went at around 5:30pm and got a table right away. It was also pouring rain, so that probably helped to thin out the crowds. I got the catch of the day, halibut, and my husband got salmon. I far preferred my meal. His salmon was good, but they put a very strong mustard sauce on it that I did not care for. My husband enjoyed it though. Guess that's all that matters.
The next morning, we enjoyed a free continental breakfast at the Beach Lodge and then headed out to do a little wine tasting before heading home. Cambria is very close to Paso Robles, which is a fantastic wine-growing region known for Cabernet Sauvignon in particular. We started at JUSTIN because their cabernet is one of my favorites. It did not disappoint! They had several limited-release wines that are only sold in their tasting room. My favorites were their Pinot Noir and their Isosceles Blend. It was very fun. We had a nice little snack at their outdoor restaurant before heading home. It was a fabulous little weekend!