Friday, September 19, 2014

Thoughts on California's Central Coast

Just back from a week on California's Central Coast. We flew to Oakland, then drove to:

1. Santa Cruz: Not so great. Downtown is superb, and Laili Restaurant is a treasure. But the beach is average at best and full of homeless folks, and there hasn't been much done to make it usable or pretty. Some kind of failed casino is now a huge arcade with homeless camped in front. Not our favorite tourist site. And where is the fabled hippie vibe? Heck--come to Portland for that. Not S.Cruz.

2. Moss Landing--Found a GREAT little diner for breakfast. Truly superb Hispanic chefs in there. Told them they're the greatest.

3. Monterrey: As fun as I remember. Stand-up paddleboarding. Sea lions. The woman in the tourist center was the most helpful and informative person on earth. Friendly, Classy. Upscale. Pretty. Interesting. Cannery Row is still good. Sand Bar restaurant is wonderful.

4. Pacific Grove: Where I would live if I wanted to live on CA's coast. Which I don't. Lovely downtown and beaches.

5. Paso Robles. Great downtown; well done folks! But it's HOT there in September. And, sad to say, the wines are not good. Not even Turley or Tablas Creek are very good. I think it's too hot there to make great wine. Wineries are coasting on their laurels. It's too bad. I speculate that many Californians think their state's wine is good, when in fact most of it isn't. Check out Walla Walla, folks. There is quality there, AND it's cheaper.

6. San Luis Obispo: Lovely town! Lovely downtown! Lovely fig laurel trees. Great restaurants (check out Red Luna). I love this town. Cal Poly makes it a cleaner, brighter place.

7. Santa Barbara: OK, but full of homeless and some bug that bit us and caused painful swelling and itching. Terribly hot there and not one house or business in the city seems to have A/C. Won't be back. Kayaking was fun, but the hurricane that hit Cabo caused freaky and quite scary waves in SB.

8. Bakersfield: (OK, this was on our way back using I-5, and it's a sentimental fave for me since I worked there a few times, decades ago): Still flat, still hot, and we tried Noriega's Basque Restaurant for dinner, but it was neither Basque nor good. They served the following well-known Basque dishes: Chicken Cacciatorre; Steak; Spaghetti; Lettuce Salad with Vinegrette.

Overall, Monterrey remains the place to go, and Big Sur really rocks! Just don't go for the wine.

BTW, the drought is for real. We saw dry-farmed vineyards really suffering--many plants dying--and ditto for many almond orchards.