I’ve never been a road trip kind of girl. I always prefer to fly. Even though Vegas and San Francisco are an extended car ride away, I have always opted to take an airplane.
I think I have traffic trauma from Los Angeles and assume that I will be bumper to bumper any where I venture by vehicle.
But this Christmas I had a talk with myself and I decided that I was going to start with a small road trip to test the waters. Maybe they aren’t so bad after all. Ive seen all of the dreamy wanderlust photos on instagram and i had some new neckerchiefs and sunglasses to rock to feel glam driving up the coast.
I knew immediately that I wanted to visit The Madonna Inn which is located in San Luis Obispo.
It’s been on my wish list for a while for its “world famous” colorful decor.
My original intention was to attend their New Years Eve party because there is a traditional balloon drop. I can remember the last time I have been under a balloon drop so that idea got me all excited.
Ultimately though, being Jewish you feel a little lost and lonely on Christmas so I decided that was the best time to have an adventure.
It was about a three hour drive up the coast and the first hour and a half was the familiar drive I’ve taken many times to Ojai and then Santa Barbara.
There is a certain point on the Pacific Coast Highway where the trees change and the sea water glints a different color of blue. That is when I know I have left Los Angeles County and entered a mini getaway.
This time I was driving even further and there was more change. The brown stony hills made way for green rolling ones. I saw pastures with cows grazing, and crisp leaves gusting over the highway.
I maintained a comfortable speed driving which put me in a meditative happy state rather than that horrific bumper to bumper mood I often encounter.
The road trip felt good. It was actually pleasant.
First stop was in a quaint little town called Solvang.
It’s a few blocks wide all styled to emulate a Dutch village.
I parked easily and made a beeline for the Solvang specialty… Abelskievers.
Abelskievers are a round puffy pancake that are made in a specialty pan. They are covered in preserves or simply powdered sugar depending on your preference.
I am a sucker for carbs especially hot fresh carbs so these round little treats were short lived in my hands.
After perusing little Dutch tchotchke shops up and down the streets I felt satisfied with my quick visit and got back in the car to head 10 minutes down the road to Ostrich town.
Yes. I said Ostrich Town. It’s a thing.
You pay $2 – $5 depending on your age and are handing a metal dustpan that has a rubber food bowl attached to it. There are pellets inside the bowl for bird consumption.
I immediately figured out that the dustpan was to prevent Ostrich biting because the big birds are quite aggressive.
It was later in the day so they weren’t as famished as the morning but there were still a few giant Ostriches that ran to greet me and peck mercilessly at my dustpan bowl.
After about 15 minutes and a few good belly laughs I headed back to my car to complete my journey.
The last hour the skies became dark and raindrops began to pelt the windshield. I was so excited to be close to the historic hotel I had studied endlessly that I wasn’t bothered, just focused.
Upon arrival, on Christmas eve, I learned that the Madonna Inn opened 60 years ago on that very night. The inn was built by the Madonna family (makes sense) who were prominent builders in the San Luis Obispo area. Mrs. Madonna was an interior designer and I would say she had fun decorating with some serious quirk and color.
The Inn itself is a visual feast.
The carpet throughout the main building is an explosion of pink roses and its complimented by pink pleather booths in the main dining area. The walls are covered in wooden and bronze custom carved creations complimented by a giant stone fireplace when you walk in.
Stained glass is prominent throughout the facility in vibrant colors which play against the colored chairs and tables.
It really is like a life-size dollhouse.
The most unique part of the inn is that every room has a theme.
I had studied the options at home and opted for the Love Nest. It was a bit of a splurge for a shag pink carpet suite complete with a spiral staircase and rainbow turret to gaze at the moon.
The furniture was Baroque in style with lighting that emulated the tiki room at Disneyland. It was utterly delightful.
The hotel is definitely 60 years old. It is not fancy nor does it pretend to be. But it is solid in knowing what it is that it is nothing short of fabulous.
I spent time visiting the excellent coffee shop, sitting amongst regulars drinking non trendy coffee and eating eggs and hash browns. There is not any quinoa, or almond milk or even fresh fruit beyond melon or a grapefruit. The inn doesn’t fold for trends. Instead it celebrates the era it was created in…. glorifying large pieces of custom pink champagne cake and traditional menu items of yesteryear. I bought in. I loved it.
I visited the pool which was warmed to 85 degrees and surrounded by vibrantly colored patio furniture. It was fun to chat with other hotel guests about their unique rooms and compare notes.
I saw the room next door which had a loft and a puffy cloud mural. I also heard about a room that had an entire wall made of a stone fireplace. I wanted to view them all.
Fortunately in the massive gift store above the dining room there is a showcase of each room on a postcard to peruse.
My love nest postcard was sold out which was sad but I think I have it solidly filed in my memory.
The Madonna Inn is a good base for nearby sightseeing like the Hearst Castle or Avila Beach. I didn’t get to see much because it was Christmas but I was happy experiencing the hotel and a quick walk by the sea.
I don’t know that I need to return to the inn again. I know some people stay repeatedly as a tradition. I would definitely stop by and have a drink out of one of their rainbow colored goblets, that I know for sure.
But now that I know road trips aren’t that bad to endure, I am interested in driving even further up North and exploring Big Sur and Carmel. There is so much to see in this beautiful state of California.
Besides I know wherever I go I will bring the color with me.