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Cambria Christmas Market

November 30 - December 1, 2016
Written December 1+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Thanksgiving is over and now is the time to get into the Christmas spirit. 

d161130_01_where.jpgd161130_03_plains.jpg This year, we decided to start with a trip down to the coast, to Cambria, our new favorite beach getaway.  It is only two or three hours away, across the flat central valley.  Near Fresno, the valley is irrigated and filled with orchards.  As the coastal hills approach, the desert nature of this part of California shows through.   On the other side of these hills, the climate shifts again, toward coastal green. In the summer, this shift between climates is more striking, but even in early winter California shows many flavors.

d161130_06_linnslunh.jpgd161130_08_windmill.jpgAfter our Wednesday drive, our first order of business was lunch.  We got a recommendation to try "The Cafe" on Bridge Street,  but we misunderstood and ended up at "Linn's Cafe", also on Bridge Street.  The back patio was very pleasant and the food was good.  However, tomorrow we need to try its competitor, since it has now been recommended by everyone we have asked about lunch preferences.  Stay tuned.

Killing time before hotel check-in, we stopped by a pair of art studios, also our new favorites.  The first, Patrick Gallery, features three artists, each with their own contemporary style. We like them all, even though I failed to take any pictures to show WHY we like them.  Trust me, we do.

d161130_10_mandroberto.jpgd161130_12_onewing.jpgd161130_14_withshadow.jpgOur other stop was the gallery/studio/workshop of Riccardo Spizzamiglio, a charming artist who offers kinetic sculptures whose shadows perform part of the show.  Normally, I am adverse to "installations", but Riccardo's work is an exception since the effects really are special.  And, did I say he was a charmer?  He talked with us for a good half-hour and, as usual, we learned more about him, his work, and the whole process of bronze sculpture.  Fun.
By now, it was time to check into our chosen bed and breakfast.  In past stays, we have enjoyed the Cambria Pines Lodge, but they were full this week, so we opted to go across the street to J. Patrick House, Cambria's oldest B&B.  Good decision.  It will become our new favorite, for sure!

Our room: "Galway"

Home-made cookies at all times and a wonderful wine and appetizer spread in the evening.  This is not a place for dieters.

Christmas decorations everywhere!


d161130_50_startlights.jpgOur main goal for this visit was the Christmas Market and Light Show at Cambria Pines Lodge and Nursery.  Months earlier, we had seen preparations underway on the Lodge grounds and promised ourselves to come back to see how well the German Christmas market spirit could be created in coastal California.  Our conclusion:  It is pretty darn good and as authentic as we could hope.  A recommendation and, perhaps, another favorite standard for us every year.  After all, annual traditions start with the first year.

Two true German traditions: a birth-of-Christ manger scene, and a cup of glühwein.  We assure you that the spiced wine was perfectly acceptable and put us in Christmas spirit.
Lights.  Lights everywhere!  Not really German tradition, but impressive nonetheless.
More California Christmas traditions, including Surfer Santa.(Can you see the little boy next to the lighted penguin?)
The Market itself was quite well done.  In Germany, the markets in large cities tend to sell imported (Chinese) and German goods, but small towns feature local work.  Here, in Cambria, all the vendors seemed to come from no more than a few miles away.

We really didn't know what our Thursday would hold.  That's the way we travel. 

After a very pleasant J. Patrick House breakfast, we decided we needed to walk off some calories so we headed to Moonstone Beach.
The Moonstone Beach boardwalk is a great place to stroll.

Over the edge is a continuously changing scene of cliffs, waves, and birds.

Hidden among the late fall vegetation around the boardwalk are little gems, mostly less than an inch across. Photography, however, forces me to stop and shoot the flowers.

This guy flew up from behind me and tested my photography technique.  I waved the camera in his direction and squeezed off a burst of three shots.  Picture one was blank, picture three had just a smudge.  But, this shot in the middle would be my best bird picture of the weekend, even though at the time I did not even know I had caught anything!

d161201_34_lunch.jpgI'm not sure we walked enough to really work up an appetite, but it was time for lunch.  This time we made it to the recommended Cafe and sampled the recommended pastrami sandwich.  It was ok enough, but may have just been a tie with competitor Linn's Cafe. 

d161201_00_where.jpg Now full, we went on a quick drive up to San Simeon, the town not the Hearst Castle.  Again, this had been a recommendation to see the "cute little town".  Well, the southern part of town was nothing but a collection of motels and definitely not picture-worthy.  The little northern piece, while old, held just the old Sebastian Store, a school house, the castle pier, and a few buildings for the Hearst folks.  Pretty enough, but another recommendation we did not fully appreciate.


Driving back, we stopped and I tried my hand at more coast and bird pictures. I tried several dozen shots of the birds flying overhead and got mostly pictures of blue sky.  Those guys move faster than I do!  But, as with all time spent watching the ocean, it was worthwhile.  This would be a never-fail recommendation.

And that was our day, except for a short nap and a replay of the B&B evening wine and appetizers.  Once again, we were thoroughly impressed with hosts Linda and Ron's friendliness and ability to weave their clients into a party.  The German word is "gemütlichkeit" and it was a perfect ending to get us into the Christmas spirit.  Thanks.

d161202_02_breakfast.jpgFriday morning started slowly, as all mornings should.  B&B coffee was good and the blueberry custard "pancake" was even better!  I think the J. Patrick House needs to set stay limits, because too many breakfasts will lead us down an eating trail we need to avoid.  This time, two days was about right, but there will be another time.
Our plan was to add an extra hour or so to our return trip to stop at our current favorite valley winery.  First, we just had to stop a minute or two and look again out at the Pacific by Cayucos: wonderful green hills and sparkling ocean.  For sure, we need to come back.
d161202_18_pomegranates.jpgAfter leaving the coastal hills, the scenery gradually dried out, until it was essentially a desert, except where water had been brought in transforming the sand into vast orchards.   In these times of limited water, several orchards were being torn out, but even more were being planted.  I don't understand the valley farming business, other than land does not matter, only water.

d161202_14_raisins.jpgAfter two hours of driving, we finally turned off to the Cardella winery.  The vineyard and winery are out in the middle of mixed-use farmland in the western San Joaquin Valley, not far from Interstate 5.  The fields are not the romantic hilly patches of the more famous California wine regions like Napa.  Nonetheless, the Cardella folks have done a nice job of creating a Tuscan-flavored oasis.  Our mission was to restock our white wine supplies and we walked out with enough Prosecco, Moscat, Pinot Grigio, and Rose to make it through the Christmas and New Years celebrations -- and then some I hope!
The road back home was another hour of flat, straight, two-lane valley back road driving; farms, orchards, nice farmer homes, and not-so-nice farm-help settlements.  Along the way we passed an almond "hulling" operation that proclaimed their readiness to help with the two-billion-pound 2016 crop.  I can not even begin to imagine that many nuts!
To help our imagination I guess, we did stop at Schaad's Store, a cute little nut house nestled next to a huge, nondescript almond processing plant.  They were busy preparing Christmas gift packages, but took time to explain all their various almond specialties.  One can buy garlic almonds, salted almonds, mixed spice almonds, roasted almonds, plain almonds, and a seasonal special: pomegranate-yogurt-coated almonds.  This last is to die for.  Another nail in our diet coffin.

Then it was back to Fresno and our own seasonal work and our healthy diet and exercise routines.  I just hope there is enough time to be healthy before the real Christmas celebrations start!

Take care and send us a card.

John and Marianne

d161128_04_planted.jpgd161128_02_planting.jpgps:  For our own history, we also need to keep track of house and garden developments.  This week we had crepe myrtle street trees planted.  Now we just need to wait for five to ten years.  Stay tuned!


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