Meet me in San Luis

Coincidentally, this week, the LA Times had an article about the Central California Coast entitled: Nature Meets Luxury.  Isn’t that the truth! I am devoting the entire summer to it, not for the luxury, but for the beauty.


Let me start this ad hoc post today with an apology: it may seem tossed together as my mind is a bit scattered right now.  It is crunch time which, for me, means either I am getting ready for a trip (ugh, one scheduled for September) or to receive visitors. This week it is the latter. Deanna and Annabelle will be here next week and staying for awhile.  So, who knows what I will be able to cobble together in the way of posts.  I beg your indulgence in advance.

This weekend will be all about cleaning and shopping.  But for the past two months, we have been scouting places to entertain people for the next six months or so, as well as looking for eventual retirement spots.  We have pretty much ruled out any state outside of California. Despite the threat of drought and the sky high prices, we pretty much plan to be here forever. Geoffrey can’t retire any time soon, and that translates to, wherever we are has to be in striking distance of his office and building Downtown, LA.


So that means, in turn, we probably cannot move for quite awhile.  I don’t know why I keep thinking about doing that anyway. We have a pretty, comfortable house in a lovely upscale area. Likely it is because of the heat and wanting to be among more like-minded people. Valencia is beautiful in a manicured way. Every bit of vegetation has to be artificially supported with water and fertilizers and pest-control because it was wrangled right out of the chaparral and desert. Only money can do that, and money is what keeps Valencia livable. But, as we are discovering, it is cheap at the price by California standards.


I love Downtown, but I am not ready to be in a condo again.  Plus, at night, still, DT is dangerous to a degree where I would not feel comfortable walking the dog late, the way I did when I lived in Manhattan.  DT has just gotten to the point where it is a hot commodity, loaded with stuff to do and gorgeous renovated apartments that are already far too expensive, but not to the place that NYC is, where neighborhoods shelter you from the intrusion of crime. Maybe another decade and it will be there.

So, where else? The South Bay? Uh-uh. No way.  The InFirm are there. Plus, the crummiest little shack is three quarters of a mill. And, it is closer to the South than the North and I am a Northerner, through and through.

Nope, I chose Valencia to place us on the conveyer belt that is the 5N, in the hopes that somehow I would wake up one day and find our house nestling into a lovely hillside in the East Bay of San Francisco.  Hasn’t happened yet, but you never know — we are all rockin’ and rollin’ on subterranean plates.  Hope springs eternal.


Now, I love Pasadena and have lived there briefly.  But, Pasadena is for visiting unless you are a true, old money blue-blood. There is no place to live in Pasadena, under a million dollars.

The Valley is a tomb, as far as I am concerned, and a hot one at that.  Nope, points north only.  OK, so where? Where that is within driving distance for now, of DT LA?

We tried exploring Santa Paula and for a brief moment, I thought that made sense. But, the housing prices are similar to Valencia — high, not out of reach — and I am not crazy about being on Route 126.  It just seems boring and farmish.  I am a city slicker by birth.  If I were to get a farm, I want one in Carpinteria, overlooking the Pacific.  We have friends who bought an avocado farm there and custom built a stunning house that blends into the landscape and enables them to have breakfast watching the whales migrate, and dinner overlooking the twinkling lights of the city.  They are our age, but don’t have to work. So, that’s out.  By the way, we are attending a wedding on an estate there in the fall, so I can share Carpinteria, if I have the presence of mind to take pictures while teetering around lawns on stilettos, not my strong suit.


I shared Solvang, but that was not a candidate for the big move some day. That is a place to take people at Christmas.

Next up, taking the 101 North, I wanted to reacquaint myself with San Luis Obispo, as I mentioned last week.  We did the trip in reasonable time and I wandered around with all three cameras, snapping hundreds of pictures.  It has taken me so long to process them, that these are only the first few. The rest will be on Flickr soon.

Continuing along with my theme of Hollywood bombshells to use as avatars for beautiful cities in California, if Santa Paula is Ava Gardner, and Solvang is Scarlett Johansson, then San Luis Obispo is Naomi Watts: versatile, uninhibited, quirky and toned.

Just a brief word or two about SLO, SLO-town, as the locals call it with the most positive of meanings.  In fact, I sort of visualize a Sloe Gin Fizz when I hear that term, largely because I drank a few of those in my reckless youth at college, despite hating the taste (to this day and from the beginning) of alcohol. That drink is the perfect imagery that synopsizes SLO on the Central California coast.  A college town, reeking of NoCal atmosphere: laid back, perfectly humidified at 40%, with Barcelona weather, i.e., mild, breezy, sunny all year long.  Just a short trek to the beach from the center of town, loaded with kitsch and funk.


A stream meanders through the city, florified naturally with a swathe of verdant woods. It gives the whole place a Berkeley sense, complete with slumbering vets, who gravitate to college towns for the free food that many of the venues give them and secluded niches to catch a nap. This is a place to slouch around aimlessly, simply enjoying life in a relaxed, earthy atmosphere of acceptance and diversity. The whole place seems awash in the soft colors of blue sky and warm beaches.

San Luis Obispo is an artist’s dream.  Not only is the surrounding area gorgeous and downright inspirational aesthetically, but, there is a thriving market for folk art and crafts. In additions to stalls in various places on certain days, there are stores abounding in local merchandise, all hand made. Sculptures appear all over town, as do museums.  I think this is quite characteristic of Northern California, so I would say that the lower edge of NoCal is San Luis Obispo.


If you did not need LA or SF and did not have to commute, SLO is the perfect spot, half way between the two, and a stone’s throw from Big Sur and then Carmel.  Truly, if money were no object, I would live in Carmel, California.  I cannot describe it adequately until I go up there again and take a slew of pictures, which we plan to do eventually. It is the only true paradise, outside of the Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains in the Southeast, that I know of — and I have been in virtually every state in the USA. Ok, Ok, throw in Positano. Oh, I will also say, Vancouver Island, Canada, which has to be the place the gods vacation, it is so breathtakingly beautiful.

Prices in the area are high but not insanely so.  Plus, there are all kinds of housing as with most college towns (California Polytechnic Institute, SLO — there is one in Pomona, east of LA, too.).  SLO is an old Franciscan mission town, so there are many old buildings and sites to visit that give one the flavor of Spanish California, if that is your thing.


Perhaps most important, is its proximity to miles and miles of wild, stunning, windblown, bird-crying sands and seas.  You would have to stand at Morro Bay to appreciate the sounds that natural ocean areas enjoy.  We spent over two hours just drinking it all in, as if by absorbing it we could bring it home and let it filter through the garden and trap it there forever.


SLO is out for us for the interim, though.  It takes three hours to get up there, but the return would be four hours with traffic, since much of the 101 is a two-lane road.  In fact, the ongoing clean-up from that spill in May has virtually turned the southbound 101 into a parking lot, every day, from 1 pm until after dark. Clearly, if you want to live on the Central California Coast, you had better work locally or be independently financed.


Visit my Flickr page for more photos and info on SLO.  Next up, another candidate for our retirement some day, but it may be dicey to write it up for next Friday, with our little princess around.  I will keep you posted. Thanks for being so patient with me right now (well, more than usual, right? hee hee).


Images: BB/San Luis Obispo, California – click to enlarge them

38 Comments on “Meet me in San Luis”

  1. Another superb post that makes me feel like I’m on an enriching walking tour with an interesting and lively tour guide. Your words evoke the emotions that your photos solidify. I truly do wish I could be there with you. Maybe one day 🙂 Good luck with preps for Deanna and Annabelle. Enjoy your time together!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wouldn’t that be lovely, Vera? I there and you here. We would have a wonderful time, I believe. What a blessing photography is that enables us to convey so much with just one picture. I appreciate your noticing that I do try to create a mental image with words, but I do believe I could have done it just in pictures, just as vividly. 😀 Thank you for the good wishes, it will be a whirlwind, but, we always look forward to their visits.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I liked the way you give the ups and downs of Valencia. Sounds pricey and lawns too manicured to be worth the expense. I enjoyed the downtown scenery in Pasadena along with the similar kind of look and feel of Santa Paulo. I loved the meandering stream setting in San Luis Obispo. I like university settings and Franciscan mission towns. Of course, I would like the folk arts and aura of SLO, too.
    Beth, you are on the right paths of beautiful settings blended with Nature being part of each location’s credentials. I like the way you give us choices and lovely photos to gaze at admiringly. We are definitely wishing we could visit or even better yet, live in California, Beth!
    I liked that you can see the sea otters who are so adorable and playful in the water. Where was that? I lost track. . . Carmel, this would be lovely and almost unattainable, but one never knows what you might find with a good real estate agent, Beth! Thanks for this really entertaining post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • So far we like SLO the best but it is a bit too far north, unfortunately. We might pick Santa Barbara, which is upcoming in a future post. It is only 2 hours north of DT Los Angeles and is very similar to San Luis Obispo.

      The sea otters were at the beach in San Luis Obispo, Moro Bay specifically. You just cannot imagine how cute they were. There were about six of them playing together. I shot probably 50 pictures of them, each one I liked better than the last. Moro Bay is such a delightful place. I didn’t want to leave!

      Thank you Robin. I am sure you would love Central California. Very easy place to live and nice, friendly, easygoing people, too. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well, you are probably familiar with all these places, as they are half way between you and me. But, each time I go, especially with a camera, I see them as if it were the first time. I am having fun with these trips and posting about them. Thank you for reading Susan. 🙂


  3. I have to agree with others above that your photos are remarkably remarkable! Such clarity and color (do post edit?). I have PhotoShop on my laptop, don’t know how to use it! Is that your blue house? You felt safe walking a dog at night in Manhattan? Is i t safe? I would have suggested Solana Beach, but you’re a northern girl. Valencia seems fine. My mom used to drink Slo-gin with 7-Up! I have not heard anyone say those words or drink that drink in decades! And right…Solvang is for visiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Manhattan was the safest city I have ever lived in, bar none. Growing up, I lived on the UES and then after grad school we lived in the 1st precinct, the safest in NYC. I walked our dog at 1 am sometimes and never had a minute of worry.

      I use Adobe Lightroom CC — only $9 a month and they keep adding features. I am addicted to that program. It comes with PhotoShop too but I rarely use it, as PS is for changing things, not enhancing them.

      As for Sloe Gin, I went to school in Upstate NY and that was the preferred beverage of the well heeled kids, apart from the hootch they made tossing grain alcohol and a bunch of stuff into trash cans for “sink drinks”. I could barely get down a half a glass of beer, but those sloe gin drinks were full of sugar and seemed more like desert, so I could manage one from time to time. Not a drinker, lol.

      Solana Beach, what, near San Diego? Yeah, I don’t want to be near the border. For a world traveler, every single time I have been to Mexico, I have gotten deathly ill, even being super careful. Never again. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I have never been interested in visiting the state of California. Even though it is one of the cheapest non-stop flights from my province.There was nothing that was of interest to me. Maybe I just don’t know much about that state. Your posts have really peaked my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am really glad, if so, JM. I resisted the place for years out of lack of really getting around and seeing it was far more than Hollywood and beach bimbos. There are so many beautiful places that I finally came around and now would not want to live anywhere else (well, except maybe Vancouver Island, but Canada is probably sick of Americans, lol). 😀


  5. Dear Beth !
    These are posts which we get to go round free.
    The Pics and Write-ups makes them sensible and rather tickle one to visit the place.
    Thanks for sharing and making us scratch our heads.
    Even one has the money and time to go round the world can they finish visiting all the places in this world.
    No isn’t !
    So Thank You Once Again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I achieve just what you have described, Shiva, then this blog will have been a success! I enjoy visiting other places virtually too and hope my blog can serve that purpose for people who either want to learn about California or who will not be able to visit here. You are kind to say that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Once again, Beth, remarkable photos and commentary. You really bring these places alive and set my feet twitching. So many place names I’ve heard of and only had the vaguest idea of and some never heard before. I admire your foresight in looking ahead to retirement to get it just right. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Anne-Marie, I am so committed to finding the right place and I would be lucky to pull this off. Who knows. If I didn’t have so much stuff to lug around, I would move to the UK, and go back to my roots. 😀


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