This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting my mother during her birthday weekend. I must say that although I was looking forward to the time well spent with my fabulous matriarch, I was anxious about traveling during the middle of the continued COVID pandemic. These last past months I remained bunkered down in my Los Angeles chateau only venturing outside when absolutely essential and of course masked up. This trip not only would be my first time traveling outside L.A., it would also serve as my first time back on a plane since the Coronavirus reared its ugly head in the U.S. I, being the experienced traveler that I am, made sure to stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 traveler requirements for myself and the airlines. I was also weary about all the fires along the West Coast and how that would affect my travel plans as well as my allergies. I booked my ticket, got my masks cleaned and packed, secured my Flonase and prepared for a wonderful and safe adventure in central California.
Where I stayed:
Carmel, CA- A quick 20 minute drive from the Monterey Airport and nestled inside Monterey County lines off the coast of California is the small city of Carmel. Fun fact, Clint Eastwood once was the major of Carmel. Another fun fact, my mother being born and raised in San Francisco always wanted to retire in this naturally beautiful city. Although she may not be retired just yet she bravely moved here a few years ago and loves her community every day. Carmel is naturally picturesque with views of 100+ year old evergreens on the mountainsides and the beauty of the world renown California coastline just a short five minute drive away. What she and I also love about Carmel is the sincerity that comes with its quaintness. People are indeed friendly to not only each other, but the environment and definitely dogs. There are also some great natural hiking trails intertwined into the Carmel Valley landscape. On Sunday, my mother and I went for a nice hike along a trail by the Carmel Valley River.
What we did:
Paso Robles- About an hour and half drive away from Carmel is the valley laid city of Paso Robles. This was my first visit to this city and it definitely won’t be my last. Paso Robles is home to several well known wineries including JUSTIN and Halter Ranch Vineyards to name a few. This particular visit to Paso Robles was for another venture so we saved the wine tours for a different time. My mother and I happened to stumble upon the downtown area after I looked up a dinner choice on Yelp. I enjoyed the small town vibe, but there were also tons of good food options with outdoor dining and excellent wine selections. I must also say that this city was on top of their COVID safety practices. Everyone outside was wearing masks, all of the restaurants had only outdoor dining available and were cleaned well. There was also social distancing being upheld in the large park located in the heart of downtown.
Sensorio- Honestly this place has been on my radar for longer than I can remember. My mother and I were discussing, and I can’t recall how I originally found out about this experience, but I am so thankful that I did. I originally had plans to visit Sensorio last year but couldn’t fit it into my busy physician schedule. Sensorio was also temporarily closed during the beginning of this year, of course related to the pandemic. It is now open and rightfully so. If you are unfamiliar with this place, imagine Willy Wonka meets National Geographic in this intersection of art, technology and nature. Its an outdoor exhibit filled with colors and wonderment. I purchased two general admission tickets about a month prior to our visit as there are limited amount of entries daily to allow for social distancing. I honestly don’t think the VIP tickets are necessary. From what I observed, VIP status allowed for a 5 minute head start upon entry and a patio to observe the Lights. Luckily if you arrive at least 15 minutes before 7pm, you will have front line access to entry to the Field of Lights. There is also plenty of seating inside the exhibit. My mother and I found a large bench and sat in the middle, so we could have the perfect view to watch the Lights come on. The exhibit also has strict COVID guidelines. Everyone was required to wear masks at all times inside the exhibit, except for when eating or drinking. Upon entry to the exhibit everyone underwent thermal temperature checks as well. Social Distancing was observed also in the food truck dining areas not only the exhibit. The Field of Lights is definitely a must see to anyone who enjoys art, nature and chromaticism.
Carmel Beach- Although this natural treasure is technically located in the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel holds the fame of the name. This beach is renowned for its good surf and breathtaking sunsets. This beach is also surrounded by the architectural and unique homes of Carmel-by-the-Sea which makes for a great backdrop and walking views. This beach does have limited parking so get here early. I like this beach because it not as busy and known as beaches frequently visited in Big Sur, CA, which is about a 20 minute drive away.
What we ate:
TASTE! Craft Eatery located in downtown Paso Robles.
I discovered this place after searching for some nutritious vittles on Yelp nearing the end of our car ride. I made the right choice and would definitely recommend this place to anyone planning a trip to Paso Robles. TASTE! Is located in the heart of downtown and directly across the street from the park. There was plenty of available outdoor seating with social distancing in mind. I loved that all the staff was masked up as well. The staff also cleaned every table throughout each dining experience, which was reassuring. The food at this place was also very satisfying. This place offered a variety of healthy and vegetarian food options, from their sliders to their salads. It was also my cheat day, so I also indulged in some local red wine and garlic fries.
I am continuing to send my thoughts and prayers to all those in California and along the entire West Coast directly affected by the continuing wildfires. I pray also for all the fire fighters throughout the state and country on the front lines of these catastrophic natural disasters. Climate change is real! Do your part to decrease your carbon footprint.