Research & Fun – Part Three: San Luis Obispo

I usually drive through San Luis Obispo on my way to Cambria or Paso Robles wine country. This time, I wanted to explore the city itself and what better guide than Shawn who has a knack for spotting interesting and quirky sites. Our first stop was the famous Madonna Inn. I’ve seen it from the road but have never been on the grounds or inside. What a crazy, more than slightly overdone but fun place that is! Now, if you have some extra (lots of extra!) disposable income, you can spend the night at this Californian symbol of craziness, but it’s quite expensive. Looking around, however, is free and the food at the coffee shop is reasonably priced. The food is okay, the coffee somewhat sub-par for my spoiled coffee palate but the scenery is well worth a visit.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of this amazing hotel.

A painted cow seemed a fitting object for this environment.

Our next stop was at the mission of San Luis Obispo, with its beautiful gardens, a lovely museum and those amazing three large bells. The full name is Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and it was founded by Father Serra in 1772 and named after Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, France. It was built with the help of the local Chumash Indians. If you are a mission fan, like Shawn, you can read more about it here:

Below are a few pictures of the mission:

The garden with the three beautiful bells and the small museum were particularly enchanting.

The next stop, an old library converted into a history center, was close-by.

There is a story to these bottles which Shawn describes in his blog (of course completely fictional).

Next, we took a quick break in one of Shawn’s favorite places–a Tiki bar (it’s a long story). I only have a few pictures, but on Shawn’s post, you’ll get more detail (link at the end of the post).

Next, we found a truly amazing place, another one which I’ve never seen nor even heard of. It’s called the BUBBLEGUM ALLEY. That’s right, only in California. It’s an alley where people over many years deposited their chewed bubblegum on the walls and created a truly Californian “work of art” and to this day people still add their own gums to the masterpiece.

Next we headed over to the coast to Cambria to check out the elephant seals and Ragged Point, the entrance to the mountain road to Big Sur, which is still closed.

This odd place in Cambria is called Nit Wit Ridge–there is a story to this as described in the next photo, which you probably won’t be able to read. Ask Shawn!

The last two photos are from Ragged Point, also called the entrance to the mountain road to Big Sur. Since I dealt with this and the elephant seal sanctuary at Piedras Blancs in former blog posts, I didn’t take many pictures this time around. Shawn has a lot more on his blog post.

There is more to come in my next blog post. But don’t forget to check out Shawn’s interpretation of this day–an absolutely fictitious SILLINESS GALORE! Have a good laugh and enjoy some great pictures!

4 Responses to “Research & Fun – Part Three: San Luis Obispo”

  1. Monster A Go-Go Says:

    Well, all I can say is that I have read your sweet, innocent and totally fabricated version of what happened that day. Zowie! I'm just glad you didn't get caught and thrown in prison. Shocking! But this G-rated, Heidi-ish version of the day assures that everyone believes you are a rational and completely "normal" lady. Ha! If they only knew the sordid truth and the horrors I had to endure as you committed one crime after another and I had to race to keep us ahead of the law. Keep the fiction up. You ARE a writer after all. But we did have a swell time. 🙂 CHEERS!

  2. author Christa Polkinhorn Says:


  3. Darlene Says:

    I love this post, especially the cool Madonna Inn. We stayed in a place similar in Liverpool recently. I am a cathedral, mission fan and enjoyed the photos of San Luis Obispo, a place I would love to spend time at. There is a bubblegum wall in Seattle Washington as well. Interesting, but I always feel they are a bit germy. The scenery along the coast is awesome. I am sure some of these fascinating places will show up in some of your future books. A fabulous research trip and always fun to go with someone familiar with the area.

  4. author Christa Polkinhorn Says:

    Thank you Darlene. It was a truly fun trip, particularly together with my comedian friend! I had no idea that Seattle has a bubblegum wall as well. I was in Seattle a few times, but concentrated on more "traditional" sites. I'll have to check it out if I ever make it there again.

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