Our hotel, Hotel San Luis Obispo, is in heart of the old town, a two-minute walk to the plaza, Mission San Luis Obispo, and to scores of cafes, restaurants, and shops. Streets are lined with mature ficus trees, whose canopies almost meet. After a wander around town, we returned to soak in the atmosphere of the hotel—airy, spacious, modern, with two restaurants and a small shop stocked with Central Coast wines and beer. Ox and Anchor is a fine dining restaurant, and Piadina, with an enclosed interior patio, is more casual. Both offer seasonal, local fare and classics such as salmon, composed salads, grilled fish, and meats. I found the battered and fried asparagus spears with aioli especially tasty.

After a sumptuous breakfast of bagels and lox at the hotel, we said goodbye and headed on the final leg of our journey, continuing on Highway 101 through the flat, intensely cultivated expanse of the Salinas Valley. It’s always a revelation to me to see the fields stretching for miles in all directions, every inch of land covered in shades of green and red, producing the lettuces, cabbage, broccoli, and greens that feeds the nation. The wide valley, bordered on the east by the Gabilan Mountains and on the west by the Santa Lucia Mountains, produces more than five billion dollars of produce annually.

Closer to home now, we left 101 south of San Jose and took Highway 680 to reach Highway 80 east, having looped, in our short, four-day road trip, down the Central Valley to Los Angeles and coastal Orange County, and back up along the Pacific coast before turning inland to San Luis Obispo, the Salinas Valley and homeward. We came home refreshed and rejuvenated, once again impressed by the diversity, bounty, and beauty of California.

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