When Shane and I received a wedding invitation from an old friend of mine, stating that she would be getting married in San Luis Obispo at the end of February, we looked at each other and said, “Do you think we should go?” Approximately 2.5 seconds later, we both nodded our heads with an emphatic “HECK YES.” It would be a great chance to celebrate with several old and dear friends, to revisit my old stompin’ grounds (I hadn’t been back to SLO since I graduated a few years ago), and to enjoy a romantic little weekend getaway. And so we bought our tickets, packed our flip-flops and sunglasses, and we were off.

We flew into Santa Barbara and decided that we would spend Thursday night there, before joining our friends in SLO on Friday. Neither one of us had spent any time in Santa Barbara, and we were looking forward to checking out the beaches, the food, and the wine country. Our plane arrived at Santa Barbara airport at 4:15 p.m., and Shane, being the stellar planner that he is, had already picked out a place nearby where we could grab a couple of drinks and catch the 5:51 p.m. sunset. We hopped in our rental car and were off to Hendry’s Beach. The second I stepped out of the car, smelled the salt of the ocean, heard the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, and saw the sun glinting off the expanse of water, I was smitten. It was then that I realized how much I’d been missing the Central Coast. After a margarita and a sunset walk on the sand, I was ready to call up my office and let them know that I would not be returning to work anytime in the near future – I was in the midst of some serious beach lust (as in, lusting after the beach, in case that came out wrong).

We spent the rest of the evening on State Street, enjoying tacos at Lilly’s, then drinks and dessert at Pascucci and then Palazzio. From the novelty of the labio tacos (translation: lip – Shane was bolder than I in ordering this one) at Lilly’s, to the decadence of the creme brulee at Pascucci, to the richness of the wine that we shared at Palazzio, it was a perfect night.

Friday morning we took advantage of the free bikes that our hotel had for check-out and hopped on a couple of beach-cruisers to head down to the water for breakfast. There can’t be anything more Californian than riding a bike down State Street in your flip-flops, zipping past palm trees and trendy little boutiques, loving the feel of the sun on your face and that cool, coastal breeze in your hair. Heaven. After a 3-mile ride, we arrived at East Beach Grill, where I ordered a heap of wheatgerm banana pancakes (an ode to Jack Johnson), settled into my chair just inches from the sandy beach, and chowed down. Again, heaven.

After breakfast, we headed back to the hotel, packed up our things, and pointed our car north, in search of the perfect glass of Santa Barbara wine. The hills northwest of Santa Barbara are scattered with tons of wineries, big and small, and without a real agenda in hand, we decided we’d just head in the direction of Los Olivos and see what struck our fancy. We hit five wineries and tasted over 30 wines that afternoon – my favorite was the Zaca Mesa Estate Roussanne, and Shane loved the Merlot from Curtis. The landscape was absolutely beautiful, with its rolling green hills and small, rocky mountains.

Once our tongues were sufficiently coated with tannins and our teeth disturbingly purple, we decided it was time to make the rest of the trek up to San Luis Obispo. However, many of you know that no visit to California is complete without a stop at In-N-Out burger, so a pitstop in Santa Maria for some quality fast-food goodness was in order. You can see Shane eyeing me with that “Let me just eat my burger” look:

We arrived in SLO on Friday evening, but I will save our adventures there for another post – I am wiped out tonight, still recovering from the bliss of such a perfect weekend…