Castle and wine

Trip Start Oct 20, 2006
Trip End Nov 05, 2006

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Where I stayed
Morro Bay Campground

Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hearst Castle was one of the reasons we chose this trip. Today we get to tour the "house" at 9am. After a quick muffin and O.J we head up 101 only to discover we forgot that cars get hungry too. Our gas tank is just about empty.  Not knowing where the next facility is going north, we turn around and head south towards Morro Bay, then take the turn off to Cayucos. Kary and I are both swiveling our heads around as we cruise thru this beach front gem of a town.  If we had more time here, we'd be strolling the quaint streets, but gas is really the priority, so not finding a station head back to Morro Bay.
The coastal drive takes us to San Simeon. The Visitors Center is where we pick up our pre-confirmed tour tickets ($20 per person)  then we head into the theatre for the movie detailing Hearst life and the building of his dream. Then onto the bus for the ride up the mountain to the "Castle."  The driver stops for some quick photos as the Castle comes into view. We disembark, and the tour guide starts his presentation on the lower  patio. I've seen castles and beautiful homes before but this is unbelievable what vision and committment to a project can accomplish. This is just part of what we experienced from the "outside looking in".  
I can't imagine how guests could adapt so quickly to this opulent lifestyle during their brief stays. And the perk of working on site is that employees get use of the famous Neptune outdoor pool if tours are not being conducted. I'd be wearing a swim suit under my uniform everyday to work.. just in case.
Back to reality and back in the car heading to Solvang. We stop at Morro Bay Campground (only because I nagged Kary enough during the ride about wanting to see the famous Monarch butterflies that arrive in October and cover the trees). I pull out my paper that says they should be near campsite 116. Well, we're there, and out walking but no Monarchs. Seems we are a little to early. Nature just doesn't want to cooperate on this trip.
Kary saw a Trader Joes on the way and says we should pick up some sandwiches here for lunch. My first time in a TJ's and I'm stuck at the front of the store looking at all the types of wine and thinking we could just buy it here, take it to the hotel and forget the wineries. We buy a few bottles and some specialty beers for my son-in law and discover when we open the trunk that we still have those trohpies to UPS back. Oh, well, on to the Danish windmill capital of the US.
I thought that any hotel would be an upgrade from last nights saggy mattresses, banging & moaning heating system and astro turf carpeting. Kary picked the Wine Valley Inn in downtown Solvang, so I was keeping my thoughts to myself, which at times if very difficult to do. When we drove thru this town that had decided to take all the old architectural features of the existing homes and businesses and turn it into a little Danish village in the Middle of California. This "fake" town where there isn't a Danish speaking person to be found, I had a feeling that our hotel would rival last nights for atmosphere and comfort. 
The reception are is clean, well decorated and modern. I'm feeling a little better. After getting our keys and walking back thru the outdoor area to our room, I am starting to feel very relieved. Fountains, pond,  green areas, and when opening our door a beautiful comfortable room. and The Wine Valley Inn is perfect. I mention that I could just sit and relax. Nope - not an option we are going to tour some vineraries. Kary has a map.
I didn't realize how many wineries are in this area. Our first stop is at Gainey Vineyard. We can do a wine tasting, or we can taste and tour. Never one to miss any type of tour we opt for the T &T. Tasting is first. We're thirsty, so this is good. A glass is $10 per person. The employee saw the look on my face when I saw the size of the huge glass. She suggested Kary and I share a glass. Worked perfect, since one of us was driving and the other has no sense of direction. After 4 or 5 maybe 6 tastings, we think we need to buy a bottle or two. California is environementally sales oriented. If we give back the glass, we get our money back if we purchase some wine. Well, that's a nobrainer. Here's the glass, I'll take a couple bottles. And the next offer is if you buy a winery monthly club membership, you get a huge discount on the wine of the month, and they will ship it. Which conveniently happens to be the wine that we liked the most, and we still have the trophies to ship so this is sounding pretty good. We order the wine give them the information for shipping, only to remember that Pennsylvania does not allow liquor to be shipped into the state.
Hmmm. A quick cell phone call to Kary's husband who just happens to have his office in Delaware, and we are now shipping our wine to Deleware.  Life is good, and on to the next winery.,which was on the way back to Solvang. We joined this wine club and shipped a few more bottles to Deleware. We saw a UPS store on the way into town, and figure we will stop there tomorrow.
Back in Solvang, we hit the town looking in the small stores. 
I'm headed to a huge red dutch shoe on the sidewalk for a classic photo. Got it only to discover we are on winery row. aka Copenhagen Drive:    Lucas & Lewellen 1645, Royal Oaks, 1651, Lions Peak 1659, Stolpman 1659 (this is a double tipper) and Mandolina 1665.   
Oh my gosh, which wineries do we try?  Just a few of them. And forgot to ask about shipping, so now we have more bottles of wine in the trunk with the trophies.
We discover a Pittsburgher owns a restaurant in Santa Barbara (after deciding that Danish food just isn't in our menu selections) so we drive 25 miles south to Aldo's Ristorante Italiano.  Well worth the drive. The food was fantastic, and the atmosphere was just what we were looking for. A piece of cheesecake followed us back to the hotel. Later we split the cheesecake and opened a bottle of wine. Ahhh, we really are on vacation.
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