If you follow my posts, you may remember I recently escaped for a road trip week to inspect hotels and explore activities moseying down the central coast through the small towns that dot Hwy 101.
In many ways, nothing has changed in the quiet burbs rooted amidst the undulating golden hillsides that sweep to ridges of the California Coastal Mountain Range. Much of the uniform agricultural acres have transformed to grapes and a surprising number of olive farms have been introduced to the bucolic warm valleys. Miles of open road still remain, unfortunately the roadways haven’t been improved, however, the rutted freeway may prevent nodding off in some long stretches of asphalt.
My initial purpose was to rendezvous with high school girlfriends and wander the Bruce Munro- Sensorio, Field of Light exhibit in Paso Robles. The internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro has premiered his largest artwork to date—an enormous multi-acre walk-through installation, and it is well worth visiting. The exhibit ends in January 2021.
To begin – word on the street is that downtown Paso Robles is mask challenged, and I was herding cats – planning and plotting for nine girlfriends – all in the Covid delicate age category! Allegretto Vineyard Resort is minutes from Sensorio and is fashionably plopped right in the middle of a vineyard and rolling countryside. It is not your typical resort, from the Tuscan styles to the museum caliber artwork, it was Paso Robles first full-service hotel. The hotel appearance is unexpected for an unpretentious Central Californian wine country setting: the owner embraced grand Italian architecture, built amid rambling Mediterranean-style grounds and it includes his collection of interesting objects from his personal travels around the world.
Guests can stroll 20 acres through centuries-old grapevines, olive trees and stone fountains in the courtyard — all reminiscent of a villa in the Italian countryside. Bocce ball, pool cabanas nestled below the vineyard, spa and farm to table style Italian dining. At the back edge of the property, the spacious swimming pool and hot tub are surrounded by vineyards and six cabanas with lounges, sofas and tables for snack orders. Reserve a Cabana near the deep end – the kiddos splash and Marco Polo in the shallow end, their exuberance is delightful, from a distance!
Besides charming European flair, Allegretto has many pleasures, the central Piazza is dotted with elegant umbrella tables and comfy chairs – one can safely relax and mingle with your pod. Small cozy areas with fire pits for evening gatherings, an enormous play space for kiddies, bocce ball courts, strolling gardens, olive tree lined paths and secreted art alcoves. One of my property strolls yielded a very unique Sonic Labyrinth amid olive trees. The first of its kind in the world, the Sonic Labyrinth provides guests a tranquil space with a distinctive series of sounds created by wind instruments. Activated by motion sensors, the Sound Circle creates a series of soft, soothing tones that evolve as one walks through the labyrinth, generating a sense of relaxation and focus. A man and his pooch were quietly traversing the circles, pandemic stress reducer for all!
You may be surprised to hear the fallen Catholic girl suggest: don’t miss the French inspired ancient stone Abbey, modeled after rustic European chapels. The GM, Richard Veruni, mentioned the perfect photo op timing – mosey to the chapel in late afternoon and savor shadows of the setting sun filtering through stained-glass windows. Exquisite arrays of color and fractured light dotting the rough stone walls and floor. I popped in earlier in the morning for similar shadow play through the apse Rose window. It reminded me of my Barcelona visit to Sagrada Familia, my dear guide Fabio, perfectly timed our visit to appreciate the sun shadows. Details do matter – we are detail devotees! In the afternoon, head back to the Piazza for cocktails, my friends had seen my Instagram Aviation obsession and the head of the bar complied with a magnificent salver of Aviation cocktails!
Rooms and suites are generous, 14-foot vaulted ceilings, comfy furniture in soft hues. Several second-floor suites have generous balconies with dining area with countryside vistas. There are two second floor connecting suites with common patio for small groups. My other favorite location is the ground level suites with terrazza, hedge enclosed terraces looking out to the vineyard – privacy guaranteed. I prefer those far from the pool. When you are ready to reserve, please ping or call me and I will provide the scoop on my favorites! Second floor suites and rooms are easily accessed by wide lobby staircase if you have developed pandemic elevator phobia. Again, I would avoid weekends in all these locations, Allegretto is a popular weekend party and event location.
Dining – Upscale Cello bar and restaurant specializing in Mediterranean inspired dishes. Northern Italian dishes made from regionally foraged ingredients, an extensive wine list, chef’s garden – inspired meals are yummy and very satisfying. Outdoor dining on a shaded terrace or from your suite patio or pool cabana!
Allegretto is minutes from the Bruce Munro – Sensorio, Field of Light. I recommend early arrival before the sun sets with a VIP ticket in hand. We felt very safe at dusk, as the evening descends, more people walk the winding field. The VIP sitting area has a splendid view of the valley and if you are more comfortable sipping and sitting, it’s a terrific vantage point to enjoy the magical display as twilight descends and the field of lights luminously light the landscape. Even before sunset, Sensorio is visually enchanting. The tiny tendrils that glow in the darkness look lifelike as they arch and reflect the setting sun, little dancing blossoms.
Comprised of an array of over 58,800 stemmed spheres lit by fiber-optics, illuminating the hillsides in subtle blooms of changing color defining the undulating 15-acre landscape. The walk is .5 miles of gently rolling hillside, majestic oaks border the horizon, the rising moon enhanced our stroll. The waving spheres are solar powered and appear to turn on in knots depending on which patches darken first. It’s truly an ethereal experience under the cover of gradual darkness. The summer cricket symphony keeps time with the glow, slowly undulating from green to purple to orange and back again. Magic in the gentle rolling hillsides.
Pandemic Planning – Avoid the weekends in all these locations, the Covid Cocoon has burst, the streets and avenues are packed with people – honestly, Los Olivos crowds suggested a weekend jail break. Weekdays are serene and you can count on delightful fall weather for a few more weeks.There are smaller hotels in downtown Paso Robles that I avoided due to the masking inefficiency.
Highly recommend an escape to Allegretto Vineyard Resort and Bruce Munro Filed of Light at Sensorio. Central Coast Attractions.