Next on the list is a drive up Highway One to San Luis Obispo. We left Santa Barbara mid morning and headed out on the coastal road through a very nice looking estate. We were soon up on the cliffs overlooking the bay and after annoying an American woman by having the audacity to park in the parking spot next to her to take some photos we headed off through the expensive looking Hope Ranch suburb past La Cumbra Country Club and onto the highway.
Highway 1 and 101 intersect each other and become the same road so the next 50 or so miles were spent on a mixture of dual carriageway and single lane highways which seemed to pass through the Californian fruit fields. For as far as the eye could see the field on either side of the road were full of workers picking fruit with various pickup trucks, tractors and agricultural vehicles lining the roads and dirt tracks that snaked off the main highway.
We drove through Lompac before deciding to head in land towards the Danish village of Solvang.
Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled west from Illinois and Minnesota to establish a Danish colony far from the midwestern winters.The architecture of many of the façades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. There is a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen, as well as one featuring the bust of writer Hans Christian Andersen. A replica of Copenhagen’s Rundetårn was finished in 1991 and can be seen in the town centre.
Its a nice little town with some great bakeries and well worth a trip off the main Highway 101 to go to, however, as with most towns like this we couldn’t get past the Disneyfication ( i know thats not a real word lol) of it. By this i mean that as original and historic as it is it just felt false. The buildings looked like they had been made by Disney Imagineers and everything was so perfect and clean that it didn’t feel lived in as proper community.
From Solvang we headed back through the forests and onto the 101 again and travelled passed the Vandenberg Air Force base, through Orcutt, Guadaloup and Oceana before stopping for a short while at the very windy Grover Beach.
We then drove through the Avillo bay golf resort and down to Port San Luis Obispo where we had a some lunch and watched the world go by before heading back the way we came and onto our destination of the Madonna Inn at San Luis Obispo.
The Madonna Inn at San Luis Obispo – WOW, theres not a lot more you can say about it ! Imagine Disney mixed in with the Flintstones Bedrock, add some Italian Renaissance some 1920’s US Ranch and a huge dollop of good old American candy floss and you will still be know where near describing the Madonna Inn ! You enter via what can only be described as an entrance to a theme park that gives you a slight hint of whats in store.
The main reception and building look like bedrock from the outside but as you enter through the big wooden double doors you are hit by a mish mash of themes and elegance with huge rock fireplaces, fairy light every where, massive victorian style paintings and so on and so forth. Each room at the Madonna Inn is individually styled and you can stay in everything from an English Country Club room to a Yosemite styled room complete with rocks and waterfall. We had chosen to stay in the Italian room which was subdued compared with some but still madly over the top with huge golden mirrors, ghastly flocked wall paper and the most over the top lights you’ve seen. Having said that it was very comfortable and my only complaint was the door let in to much light through the blinds over night.
You can see all the rooms on the website here http://www.madonnainn.com/
That evening we ate in the cafe, it was ok but nothing more than ok. We both got the feeling that the cafe and restaurant were living on its past reputation and was out of date. It reminded us of a 70s Berni inn.
The following morning we headed into San Luis Obispo to take a look around. The town was ok, some good shopping and it had a Shoe palace so i was happy. We took a look at the (in)famous Bubble Gum Alley, which as the name implies is an alley where people have made a sort of art exhibition by sticking Gum all over the walls – its a gross as it sounds ! We took a walk up to the cathedral and then after a couple of hours we headed back to the Madonna Inn and spent the afternoon by the pool and ate in the restaurant again as we couldn’t be bothered to head out in the car.