Before I went to San Luis Obispo I had no idea what I wanted out of life. I was young and open to anything. My education was in full swing and I didn't know where to go with it. It was only after a day in SLO that I realized that it was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I gave up trying to go into a career that bored me, and concentrated on my geography. Had it not been for this little coastal town, I never would have found my calling. Now, I'm 18 years old and have had all my offers to study geography in university next year. Whenever my workload gets me down, or I think I can't do it, I just think of how this place makes me feel and I push myself. I hope it all pays off in the end.
1039 Chorro St San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, United States
+1 (805) 781-2777
Google map: bit.ly/weP0fv
I'd been in Morro Bay for less than a day when I realized it was the place I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
The three best things about Morro Bay are very easy to list. The first has to be the people. No matter who you are, what you look like or what you enjoy, they will love you. I have never had a bad day here and I've spent plenty. No one will ever put you down in this place. If you need to find somewhere, something or someone you can be sure they'll make sure you do. Never have I been anywhere more friendly.
The second has to be the weather. Here, you can escape the blistering heat of SLO town and find a cool ocean breeze but still wander around in shorts and a t-shirt. Even out whale watching, all you need is a light jacket.
Finally, you cannot fault the food. Top Dog cafe does the best coffee and cakes in the whole county and the staff will remember your name and your face even if you come back ten years later. My favourite restaurant is Taco Temple, a five minute drive towards Cayucos. The food is fresh and never fails to be the most flavoursome I've ever eaten in California. It's perfect for an evening meal but make sure you get there early otherwise you'll be waiting for a table all night! Of course, the little pizza place just down from Top Dog is awesome for lunch. The owner, a formidable woman, collects foreign coins and will always make sure you get something in return if you happen to throw one her way. I got a free slice of their excellent made-to-order pizza from their fantastic chef.
I'm seventeen now and I'm doing everything I can to ensure that Morro Bay is my home one day in the near future. It's safe to say that it is the only place I truly love.
Hopelessly lost in San Luis Obispo, we call the Inn. "How do we find you?"
"You need to get on the 1 South and exit at the junction with the 227" comes the answer. The phone goes dead.
"And then what?"
Finding the 1 South is easy enough. The 227 exit road curls us slowly around 180 degrees and into a night sky lit garishly pink by a huge sign that instantly dwarfs us. "MADONNA INN" it screams.
And without a doubt, this is one of the kitschiest of US kitsch examples. Built in the mid 20th century, it's story goes something like this. At the time a deserty rocky outcrop in the middle of nowhere and bereft of any decent accommodation, a couple hit on the idea of building a motel incorporating those pesky rocks into its construction (no doubt cheaper than moving them away.) When it came to deciding on room decoration however, they couldn't agree on what to do. So in the pursuit of marital harmony, the couple hit on another idea. They would each be allocated rooms to decorate as they wished.
And from this was borne the 100 plus room tourist destination that this Inn has become. Each themed room is uniquely - indeed, often bizarrely - different. We stayed in the "Caveman". Described by the Inn as a "...rustic den of solid rock", we slept surrounded by tigers and showered in a cave under a rushing rock waterfall. Or something like that ...
The on-site restaurant is an assault on the senses and yet a strangely comforting nostalgic trip back in time to the 1950/60s. Huge pink leather booths, pink tablecloths, pink carpets and gilded gold chandeliers and lights wrestle for your attention with plants and a childlike doll with rosy pink cheeks that rocks eerily backwards and forwards above you on a swing hanging from the ceiling. Old time music plays on weekends, as aging couples - dressed in vintage as if for a Saturday night school dance - jive on a dance floor behind you, seemingly blissfully unaware that they are no longer teenage childhood sweethearts. Huge slices of multi-layer cream cakes (including Black Forrest available with or without the cherries?!) piled high with colourfully decorated frostings accompanied by an ice cream soda complete your step back in time.
Then there's the similarly decorated on-site bar, coffee shop, bakery, souvenir shop...
It's quirky and kitsch and odd and very probably not the best value for money, but it's fun nevertheless. A Californian institution that's worth a detour if you're in the area.
Without a doubt a destination hotel, the Madonna Inn embodies the glorious wackiness of California like no other, but does so with immense style and heart. Even if you're just passing through, take the time to pull off route 101 to gaze in awe at the ornate (and very pink) dining room (be sure to marvel at the pink sugar) and be impressed by the waterfall in the gents' toilets upstairs (ladies - knock and peep!). If you do stay you just have to decide which of the 110 individually and imaginately themed rooms you want - Yosemite Rock, Captain's Bridge, Paris Violets, Caveman. One night will not be enough!
Truly scary palace of kitsch - bright pink sparkly lobby, themed rooms and a waterfall in the men's toilets. Definitely worth a stop for a drink even if you can't face staying here!
These guys have a walking tour of San Luis Obispo that includes the disgusting (but must see) Bubble Gum Alley, the old Mission and historic Chinatown.
And the guide was great about suggesting local places to eat that tourists might not normally find.
A beautiful family-owned winery (the oldest in the region, I believe) and a great place to stop in this wine region. The wine tasting included 12 wines, many of them award-winning. The staff are incredibly friendly and very patient in explaining the wines. Keep your eye out for the adorable three-legged cat (he likes to sit on the visitors' book!). Great wine and a great little spot.
The Madonna Inn is on Route 1, the spectacular Californian coastal highway, and is the most unusual wacky motel we found on it.
It has themed rooms that have to be seen to be believed and which are not sparing on detail, public toilets that are like waterfalls and staff who are dressed as if they have escaped from a Disney cartoon film.
The food in the restaurant is equally over the top and fantastic, and the next day you can travel up to Hearst castle for more surreal experiences.
If Dali had run a motel this would have been it!
100 Madonna Road
San Luis Obispo
805 543 3000
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org