Couch Surf in SLO

What could be a better way to stay than a way to stay for free? That’s right, nothing! Unless sleeping on a stranger’s couch isn’t exactly your idea of a good night’s sleep.

I know what you’re thinking, “Why on earth would I ever want to do that?” But trust me when I say, it’s not as “sketch” as it may seem. And if you’re a carefree wanderer who craves adventure and the opportunity to meet new people, this option could revolutionize your travel experience.

“At first I thought that I could never sleep on a strangers couch, but then I met someone who did it once and they told me how great it was, so they had me convinced…”– Daniel Merrisol, Couch surfer in SLO

Photo by ooh_food

But hold your horses! Before you get ahead of yourself and hop on any old couch, there are a few things you should consider.

  • Join the conversation
  • Know your host
  • Know what you’re sleeping on
  • Know where you’re staying
  • Better safe than sorry

Join the Conversation

The best way to find a host who has a couch is to join the conversation on, a nonprofit site that provides a network of people who offer free couches for people to stay on. Wait, a social network for couch surfing? You better believe it!

Make an account on this site and get full access to the profiles of couch surfers and hosts from all over the world. Once you generate a search for your destination you can message all the hosts and surfers in that specified area. Add them to your friends list and make connections through other people.

An example of a profile on

“Networking is key for finding the perfect host. The more you talk to people and learn about people, the more you can start to weed out the weirdos and the people who you think could work out.”– Christine Martinez, Couch surfer in SLO

The profiles on provide a full background on the user including photos, interests and other useful information that will help you customize your stay.

Know Your Host

before choosing a host, you want to make sure that you know them and can trust them.  Now you could go off of your own instincts, but probably the best way to make sure you’re not bunking with a creeper is to find out about what other people say and think about him/her.

Talk to that person’s friends who show up on their friend list and ask past surfers who’ve stayed  with that host how their experience was. Also, make sure you contact the host and get to know him/her either through phone calls, email, video chat, or Facebook. You can never be too concerned about who you are staying with.

“I’ve couch surfed about five times now and I’ve never had a bad experience…you get to choose who you stay with, you know, and it’s not like you show up and you’ve never met the dude before. If you didn’t that would be pretty dumb though.”– Collin Herstein, Couch surfer in SLO

Know What You’re Sleeping On

Now, don’t kid yourself. You know that you sure as heck do not want to end up on a couch that looks like it just got pulled out of the dump. The point of a trip is to enjoy yourself, and that won’t happen if you wake up feeling like your spine went through a garbage disposal overnight.

Photo by Janet Lackey Schmalfeldt

So don’t be afraid to ask your host for photos of their home and the couch you will be sleeping on.  Make sure you will feel comfortable there for the time you will be staying. And remember, there are hundreds of other options, so don’t take less for yourself if you don’t have to.

Know Where You’re Staying

Proximity is important when fining a place to stay.  You don’t want to stay somewhere that is nowhere near the places you want to explore. If you’re visiting SLO County, try to find a vacant couch somewhere near the beach, downtown, Hearst Castle or Morro Bay.

If you’ve never been before, these spots are popular tourist destinations. So do some research and figure out what you plan on doing while you visit. Then find a couch in close proximity to the destinations on your itinerary.

You may also want to make sure that the neighborhood you will be staying in is safe and clean. A little research on the area won’t hurt and will only take a few minutes if you use Google Earth.

Better Safe than Sorry

You can never be too safe when it comes to staying in a strange place with someone you don’t know very well. So be smart and use these tips to help ensure your safety.

  • Tell friends and family when and where you’re going and where you will be staying
  • Leave contact information of the host and the address of where you will be staying with several friends and family members
  • Try not to travel alone. Bring a friend!
  • Check in frequently with people back at home, so they know your whereabouts at all times

March 14, 2011 at 3:05 am Leave a comment

Surf and Sleep in Pismo Beach

Pismo beach is one of the top surf destinations in California. Which is why it’s a perfect place to stay if you like to ride the waves by day and listen to the ocean while you snooze at night.  Several beachfront inns and restaurants that are just steps away from the sand make visitors want to surf on over to this beach town.  Watch this video to see what the locals and visitors have to say about it!

March 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm 3 comments

Stay in Avila Beach

Spring is finally here! So what better way to celebrate than spending a few nights in Avila Beach? The warm weather, clean beach, oceanfront inns and many restaurants are just a few reasons tourists love this newly renovated town. Play around with this interactive feature and see how Avila Beach could be a great way to stay next time you visit SLO County. View it full screen.

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Five Reasons to stay in Avila Beach, posted with vodpod
View Full Screen

March 3, 2011 at 11:47 am 2 comments

Cambria’s Best Kept Secret: El Colibri Boutique Hotel and Spa

Tucked away in the middle of the quaint town of Cambria is the El Colibri Boutique Hotel and Spa.  A modern twist on the standard bed and breakfasts, this inn’s contemporary decor makes for a luxurious stay while guests explore the many wonders of Cambria. Looking for all the amenities of a large-scale hotel paired with the serenity of a typical bed and breakfast? Then perhaps El Colibri is the way you ought to stay next time you take a trip to Cambria.

“For that guest who is looking for more of a modern type of hotel I think they would prefer staying with us as opposed to other hotels [in Cambria].”– Cesar Lopez, Employee

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(805) 924-3003

One of the “20 Best Coastal Vacations”

El Colibri is just over two years old and has already made an impression on Sunset Magazine. It was featured in the September 2010 issue as one of the 20 Best Coastal Vacations in the West. Read on to see why.

“it breaks out of the town’s famous cutesiness for something that’s a more Tuscany-meets-SoCal flavor of luxury.”– Peter Fish, Sunset Magazine


Rates: From $189 per night

All of the 34 rooms at El Colibri include the following:

  • Gas Fireplace
  • Pillow top mattresses and Duvet Comforter
  • Flat screen HD LCD satellite TV
  • Free Wifi internet access
  • Clock radio CD player
  • Ceiling fans
  • Soaking Tubs (some with jacuzzi jets)
  • Bathroom
  • Pharmacopia Natural and Organic Bodycare Bath Amenities
  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee maker
  • Hair dryer
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Essential travel items (in-case you forgot them)
  • Some pet-friendly rooms (upon request) for pets that weigh 15 lbs. or under


The spa at El Colibri currently offers six different massages that you can choose from to relax and rejuvenate your body. A co-ed steam room, changing rooms and a jacuzzi are also available to guests who wish to use them.

Wine Event

Every Saturday El Colibri opens its doors to the public for their “Wine Event.” Anyone is welcome to drop by to have wine and appetizers and listen to live music performed by local artists.

Jill knight plays here and she’s very well-known.”– Melanie Geske, Employee

Sights and Activities

Hearst Castle – Cambria is home to one of California’s top destinations, Hearst Castle, which is just a six-mile drive from El Colibri. Hop on Highway 1 and arrive at the infamous tourism hot-spot in minutes.

Ocean Views – A boardwalk right outside the inn escorts you to Moonstone Beach where you can take in the view or walk on the sand. Whatever you choose to do, there’s no chance you won’t catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife that like to roam the area.

Art Galleries – This town is an art-lovers fantasy. With hundreds of different galleries and shops that are filled with diverse works, visitors are given a creative experience unique from many other destinations.

Elephant Seals – One of the most popular sites in Cambria are the noisy elephant seals who migrate to the shores of Cambria in the winter time. During the month of January and February hundreds of them can be seen (and heard) from the boardwalks.

Other Amenities

  • Events, receptions and weddings for up to 50 people
  • Board room for up to 12 people
  • Complimentary continental breakfast
  • Wine bar offering tastings of local wines and olive oils


March 1, 2011 at 12:22 am 6 comments

My Paso Robles Adventure: The making of a Google map

My previous post, “Booze and Snooze in Paso Robles”  features an interactive map of selected inns and bed and breakfasts that are attached to wineries: A convenient guide to your overnight wine tasting excursion!

As simple as this post appears, the making of it was more frustrating and complicated than I could have ever imagined.  And with the help of my Garmin GPS, it took me on a lost and wild adventure all over Paso Robles in the pouring rain.

It turned out that neither the universe nor Miss Garmin had any sympathy for my 8:00 a.m. deadline for this assignment. However, despite the frustration from all the horrible luck I was having that day, I somehow ended up in a really lucky situation.

Late and Lost

I arrived in Paso Robles at 12:00 p.m. It was 30 minutes before I would have to appear in front  of a judge in traffic court to ask for second offender traffic school since I wasn’t eligible for regular traffic school.  I wasn’t expecting it to take longer than an hour, but to my surprise, I didn’t end up getting out of there until 3:00 p.m.!

Realizing that it would be getting dark in a few hours and I was now running late,  I was finally on my way to my first stop, Zenaida Cellars which, according to my GPS, is a big grassy hill in the middle of nowhere! And by the way, this wasn’t the only time I was foolishly led to the wrong place by the woman speaking from my GPS.

In fact, it turns out that Miss Garmin GPS has NO idea what she is talking about when she tells you to turn right on a road that isn’t even there! Apparently, she doesn’t know the Paso Robles area very well considering she made me go off-roading in my tiny Volkswagon Beetle in the pouring rain just to find that I was at the wrong place AGAIN!

The Turkey Vulture-Saurs

Not only that, it was already getting dark and all the wineries were closing as I was traveling two miles per hour behind a family of birds from a species I have never seen before. I’m not really sure what they were, but I had a lot of time to analyze them since they wouldn’t let me pass them on the one-car dirt road. So I came up with the explanation that they were turkey vulture-saurs since they looked like an awkward mix between a turkey, a vulture, and a small dinosaur.

The turkey vulture-saurs finally moved out of my way!

Whatever they were, they could care less that I was in a hurry, or that I could run them all over if I wanted to. However, I think all the animals in Paso Robles are stupidly fearless, judging by the 15 dead rodents I saw squashed  on Highway 46 and the family of deer who assumed I would stop for them as they all crossed the street right in front of me.

The bravest family of deer I have ever seen!

A Fortunate Encounter

Regardless of all these frustrating delays, I still had to get to one more winery.  At 7:30 p.m. I arrived at Justin Vineyards.  It was dark, and I was praying that it would still be open so I could get one more interview before I would head home.

The sign on the door said “closed,” but at this point I didn’t care and I needed that last interview before I could go home, so I walked in anyways. And to my surprise, I was greeted by three men who were all enjoying a glass of wine in the front room.  Their names were Dan, Greg and Steve, three brothers visiting from upstate, New York to explore wine tasting for the first time on the California Central Coast.

“We did the Sideways tour yesterday,” Greg said.

The three of them were initially visiting San Diego for an orthopedic surgeon conference and decided to make their way to the Central Coast after being inspired by the 2004 film Sideways, in which two friends take a week-long wine tour through California’s Wine Country.

“We even went to The Hitching Post,”Dan said.

(The Hitching Post is a barbecue restaurant on California’s Central Coast that was visited by the characters of Sideways.)

After chatting with them for a little while the waiter who would be serving them dinner that night walked in to ask them if they were ready to be seated when Dan all of a sudden announced, ” We have a fourth.”

Suddenly I was asked by the waiter, “Are you going to stay for dinner?” I was ready to refuse the request when they all answered for me saying yes!

And thank goodness they did, because I got an eventful experience out of it. I received a five-course meal and for the first time in my life I tried oyster and foie gras.  If you don’t know what foie gras is, I didn’t either until Steve said,

“[Foie gras] is duck liver.”

It sounds disgusting, but it definitely doesn’t taste like liver. I couldn’t believe that after a long day of delays and bad luck I got lucky enough to sit down, have a five-course meal at a winery and enjoy great conversation with three great people.

The Dining Room at Justin Vineyards where I ate a five-course meal

The 5:00 a.m. Ending

However, my night wasn’t over yet. I still had to drive 40 minutes back home to San Luis Obispo and start my blog post that was due at 8:00 a.m. the next morning.

After nearly running out of gas, I drove my muddy car home at midnight and submitted my completed blog post at 4:30 a.m. Finally, I got in to bed at 5:00 a.m. I guess you can say it was a really long day, but how could I complain when I got a free meal that made me dream of foie gras, poached salmon, and chocolate cake.

Who knew all this would happen in the making of one Google Map?

February 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm 1 comment

Booze and Snooze in Paso Robles: Inns at wineries

Take advantage of Wine Country while you’re visiting the Central Coast by taking a trip up to Paso Robles where there are numerous tasting rooms and acres, and acres of sprawling vineyards. Better yet, stay for a night or two! Why not? After all, it is more convenient than driving home after all the drinking you’ll be doing. This map is your guide to some Inns at wineries all over Paso Robles where you can comfortably and conveniently booze and snooze.

Taste and be safe!

The best way to avoid drinking and driving while still having fun exploring Wine Country is to get a shuttle or limousine service to take your group from place to place.  The Wine Line is a local shuttle service that will take you and your group on a fun, safe and “green”adventure through Wine Country aboard their bio diesel van for $59.95 per person. (805) 610-8267

My map

February 17, 2011 at 4:54 am Leave a comment

The Sanitarium Bed and Breakfast

Check in at the Sanitarium and leave feeling better than ever.  This white-walled inn that was once a real sanitarium for patients seeking wellness and recovery has transformed into a sanctuary for those who desire tranquility amidst their normally busy lives.

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(805) 544-4124

Although you no longer need to be ill to check in at the Sanitarium , it appropriately maintains a sanitary theme and caters to anyone needing relaxation and healing from the everyday stress and consequences of life.

“It’s peaceful here. Everybody who comes here doesn’t want to leave.”– Inn-keeper Vincent Bernardy

Guest Rooms

There are seven guest rooms at the Sanitarium. Six of them have their own Moroccan soaking tub and wood burning stove/fire place. All of them have a private bathroom and a queen sized bed. The names of the rooms resemble names of chemicals that coincide with the theme of the Sanitarium.

The Sanitarium (Main Guest House)

Guest Rooms:

Sunday – Thursday $190.00

Friday – Saturday $290.00

Entire Front House:

Sunday – Thursday $1,000.00

Friday – Saturday $1,500.00


Private Deck
Moroccan soaking tub
Wood burning stove/fireplace


Private front balcony
Moroccan soaking tub
Wood burning stove/fireplace


Large bathroom with steam shower
Private balcony
Moroccan soaking tub
Wood burning stove/fireplace


Private deck
Moroccan soaking tub
Wood burning stove/fireplace
Dressing Hall


Adjustable massage bed
Wheelchair accessible
7′ projection screen
DVD/CD player with Dolby Digital Surround Sound


Outpatient Ward (Rear House)

Sunday – Thursday $290.00

Friday – Saturday $390.00


Double fireplace
Living room
Private balconies
Moroccan soaking tub

Music and Art

In-house artist, musician and inn-keeper Vincent Bernardy contributes to the artistic vibe of the Sanitarium by working with owner, Suzie Bliss, on the paintings – which add splashes of color on the stark white walls of the inn – and by sharing his musical talent with guests. Bernardy’s tunes regularly fill the air in the downstairs living area of the inn.

“It is kind of an art gallery where we also rent out rooms.”– Owner, Suzi Bliss

Music Nights

On the first and third Wednesdays of every month some of the Central Coast’s best singers and song-writers, as well as certain international musicians, come to perform in honor of the monthly Music Nights at the Sanitarium which are open to the public.

For more information about music nights:

Vincent Bernardi

(805) 215-9305

The Sanitarium Facebook Page posts regularly about music nights and other events being held at the Sanitarium.



Breakfast at the Sanitarium ranges from a variety of different dishes and vegan and vegetarian options are available upon request.

Scone Sunday

On the first Sunday of every month, the Sanitarium provides a spread of freshly baked gourmet scones to the public. Baked by Suzanne Lindell, four to five different flavored scones are served with coffee, fruit and several spreads with which you can smother your scone. A fee of $3.00 allows you to eat and drink as much as you want.

“Scone Sunday is one of my favorite events in SLO because I get to share delicious homemade pastries and fresh coffee with beautiful people.”– Alison Cebulla,(Grover Beach, Calif.)

Spa Services

Achieve ultimate wellness with an in-room spa treatment during your stay.  Massages, facials, salt baths and other treatments are provided upon request either in your room or in the private spa room in the front house of the Sanitarium.

February 15, 2011 at 2:19 am 2 comments

The Ideal Inn

What defines an ideal inn? Some would say it is one with luxurious feather beds and only the finest decor, while others would say that a homey country inn is the perfect home away from home. So I talked to some visitors of San Luis Obispo about what they define as a perfect inn.

Sources (in order): Sherri Honig (Santa Maria, Calif.), Jeff Johnson (El Segundo, Calif.), Parker Dominguez (Santa Clarita, Calif.), Kate Cranz (Los Angeles, Calif.)

While interviewing these visitors I simply asked them to describe what they consider a perfect experience at an inn. Surprisingly, my sources discussed a lot of the same things. According to my sources, some common things to consider before choosing a place to stay are:

  • Beds – Are they comfortable?
  • Food – Does the inn have good food/restaurants?
  • Location – Is it located in a nice area?
  • Cleanliness – Are the rooms and facilities well-kept?
  • Decor – Is it nicely decorated and furnished to create ambiance?
  • Price – Is it worth all that money?

These are some points that all of my sources said they consider when choosing a place to stay.  An inn that adequately fulfills these expectations qualifies as a perfect overnight stay, according to them.  Try taking their advice next time you begin your search for a perfect stay on your next vacation.

Where to stay?

If you are anything like me, you probably know that making the crucial decision of where to stay on vacation is no easy process. You can spend days trying to figure out what places best suit your needs and desires for a perfect vacation. That is why I am here to help.

First Step: What qualifies?

Your first step to narrowing down your search is deciding what is important to you. Do you like feather down beds, homestyle food, a beachfront location?  You must start by taking the above categories and determine what your expectations are for those categories.

  • What do you think qualifies as a “comfortable” bed?
  • What kind of food do you like?
  • What do you consider to be a “nice” location?
  • How clean is clean enough?
  • What style of decor creates the ambiance that you are looking for?
  • Does the price match its worth?

“The main thing [a bed and breakfast] has to offer is that it is homey.” – Parker Dominguez (Santa Clarita, Calif.)

Second Step: Start searching

Once you have decided what your personal expectations are for these categories it is helpful to search your options according to your expectations by using a website like that publishes real-life reviews of public places.

Example of a rating

Example of a rating.

By using a review site, you can see what other people have to say about the inn, making it easier for you to explore your options based off of what others say.  If you are looking for a really clean place to say  and the reviews say that the facilities of a particular inn are dirty you can exclude that inn from your list of options.

Third Step: Narrowing it down

Once you have a list of options you can narrow them down by deciding which aspects of an inn are most important to you. In other words, number your list of important things to consider from most important to least. For example, if you are not picky about how comfortable the beds are, but you feel like the location is crucial for your enjoyment then you can prioritize your list accordingly:

  1. Location by the beach
  2. Very clean facilities
  3. Inexpensive price range
  4. Modern decor
  5. Homestyle food
  6. Feather down beds

Then it is time to narrow down your search by eliminating all of the places that don’t meet your expectations for your number one priority.  Once you have done that, then you start eliminating those that do not meet your second priority expectations. Then your third, then fourth, and so on until you have narrowed down your search to your top two or three choices.

“Another thing I find very important is the food! I love, love, love to go to a place that has a really unique muffin or coffee cake in the morning that they’ve prepared.”– Sherri Honig (Santa Maria, Calif.) allows you to bookmark your favorite places.

Final Step: Choosing the one

The toughest part is choosing between your final choices. You can make the final decision a number of ways, but the easiest way to make a decision if your are completely stuck is to decide which place will end up being less money for about the same worth as the other(s).

No matter what way you put it, price will always become an important factor in the decision-making process. The less you spend on lodging, the more you have to spend on other things during your vacation (i.e. spa treatments perhaps?), or to save for more important things later on.

“You really want to make sure that you have all the necessary amenities to really get out there and get involved and go experience the environment.”– Jeff Johnson (El Segundo, Calif.)

Once you’ve made your decision, go on the website of the inn and call or reserve online right away! It is crucial to reserve your room in advance before the vacancy runs out (especially over holidays and busy times of the year). Once you make your reservation you are ready for your perfect vacation stay at an inn.

Most websites will have a form like this that can be filled out online to reserve a room.

If you plan to travel to San Luis Obispo be sure to check out some of the featured inns on this blog. Websites of these inns are available on the “Resources” page.

February 8, 2011 at 12:19 am 1 comment

Visit the Madonna Inn…and look younger while you’re at it!

The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo is well-known for its gaudy decor and themed rooms with rock showers, but the Spa at the Madonna Inn now carries its best kept secret: Intraceuticals, a treatment that not only relaxes and rejuvenates, but also makes you look younger! How is this possible? The slideshow below reveals how it’s done.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Madonna Inn Spa, posted with vodpod

(805) 543-3000

January 31, 2011 at 7:41 pm 4 comments

Travel Through Time at The Victorian Mansion, Los Alamos

Who says time travel doesn’t exist? It does at the Victorian Mansion in Los Alamos anyway. Six suites representing a different era allow guests at the bed and breakfast to experience a time other than their own. Whether they go back to ancient Egypt or to America in the 1950s, guests are transported into a whole new world when they walk in to their rooms at the Victorian Mansion.

“It takes you away from reality…it’s like stepping into a fairytale.”– Rod Rigole, Proprietor of the Victorian Mansion

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1(805) 344-1300

A Brief History of The Victorian Mansion

1864: It was originally built in Nipomo by a Russian Immigrant family.

1980: The mansion was moved to Los Alamos and renovated by Dick Langdon who created the idea of The Victorian Mansion B&B. Over 200 artisans, craftsmen, and artists worked to bring Langdon’s vision to life.

Present: The Victorian Mansion is now owned by Rod Rigole, a former guest at the mansion.

The Rooms

The Victorian Mansion, located in Los Alamos in the Santa Ynez wine country, has six themed suites:

  • Fifties
  • Roman
  • Egyptian
  • Gypsy
  • Pirate
  • French (currently being renovated and opening back up around April 2011)

Each one takes you back to the time of the theme that it holds. With hand painted Murals (by Joyce Ortner) and decorative touches, such as a 1956 Cadillac convertible bed, a treasure chest and a sarcophagus, the rooms reflect the era to which you will escape for the night.

All six suites include:

  • themed hot soaking tub and bubble bath
  • private, hidden bathroom
  • T.V. and DVD player with movies of the themed era
  • CD player
  • A game that represents the theme
  • Mini Fridge
  • Closet
  • WiFi internet connection
  • Fireplace
  • In-suite breakfast for two (Quiche, strata, fresh fruit, muffins,croissants with coffee or juice)
  • Bottle of wine upon arrival
  • In-room massage upon request
  • Hair dryer
  • Two bath robes
  • Queen-size bed
  • Background noise appropriate to the era

Fifties Suite

With a real 1956 Cadillac car bed, drive-in movie screen, graffitied bathroom and neon lights, this suite Rocks ‘n Rolls you back to the 1950s.

Roman Suite

Live the life of a Roman emperor for the night in the Roman Suite. A chariot bed, mural of the Colosseum and Corinthian columns make this room your empire during your stay.

“My wife and I had such a great, romantic night in the Roman room. We can’t wait to come back.” – Michael Delma, (Santa Maria, Calif.)

Egyptian Suite

Spend a night in a sheik’s tent in this ancient Egyptian-inspired suite where a gold sarcophagus serves as a secret passage door to your bathroom that resembles King Tut’s tomb.

“We went to the Victorian Mansion with very high expectations after reading a number of positive reviews and the Egyptian Suite more than exceeded those expectations.  The attention to detail was incredible, including the hand painted murals throughout the suite, Egyptian background music, theme-related DVD’s and wonderful scents.”– Ron Makita, (Sunland, Calif.)

Gypsy Suite

A caravan wagon bed and forest mural let you experience the nomadic lifestyle of a gypsy.  A Tarot card game even allows you to reveal your fortune.

Pirate Suite

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for you! This suite resembles a captain’s bunk with a treasure chest, map and swinging lanterns that give the effect of a real pirate ship rocking at sea.

January 31, 2011 at 7:13 pm 3 comments

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