Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Freeway-Free in California – San Luis Obispo side streets

Moms&Kids fountainSan Luis Obispo is more than Higueroa Street and the Cal Poly Campus. Here are some of the highlights we discovered as we explored the side streets.

  • The San Luis mission – we visited  just as it opened. A mother with three toddlers in tow was inspecting the kid-friendly fountain in the plaza which shows a mother bear with two cubs and a little girl playing together. The mission is one of the more humble in the California String of Missions, but with lovingly painted interior decoration including fool-the-eye columns, and a dormant mission garden which must be lovely when the arbors and trellises are in bloom.Fremont theatre - day
  •  The flamboyant old Fremont theatre, an art-deco mashup that looks like it was assembled from carousel leftovers.  At night, the vintage neon lights up the whole street.Fremont  Theatre - night
  • Phoenix Books – this labyrinth  of used books is organized eccentrically – e.g. the historical novels of Bernard Cornwell can be found in the Mystery section, snuggled  next to the crime novels written by Patricia Cornwelll. Why? “Because they are married, don’t you think they should be together?” explains the owner. Bernard’s wife is named Judy, but that  is beside the point – The oddities of categorization only encourage browsing for the perfect book to be reading by the fire in our cosy B&B.
  • The upscale pedestrian mall which is tucked unobtrusively in between Monterey and Higueroa Streets.  The architecture is designed to blend in unobtrusively with  the mission and all those 1890’s buildings, but it includes a movie multiplex,  Chico’s, California Pizza Kitchen, and of course a Peet’s coffee on one corner and a Starbuck’s on the other, if you’ve had enough of organic and artisan for awhile.
  • Tiny Bubble Gum Alley off Higueroa between Garden Street and Broad Street. Someone stuck a piece of chewed bubble gum on the wall of this narrow walkway – then others copied this action about one million times – and there it is.Crossing the tracks in SLO
  •  .Tthe  elaborate trusses of the pedestrian overcrossing at the Railway Station which allows you to hike from downtown to one of the friendly rounded hills over looking the town and the campus without having to dodge cars or trains.
  • Down at the foot of Higueroa Street at the other end from the mall, you will see a family waving at you from the balcony of a homely 50’s motel… but wait!  that’s a mural!the Two-D Motel

Feeling hungry?  We liked:

  • the Big Sky Café – wonderful local produce, seafood, dairy, in a large, informal, bustling, and friendly  space – we ate here twice and didn’t run out of items we wished we still had room to try.
  • Ciopinot :   Definitely not the college hangout – mostly graying couples like us, or groups of thirty-somethings celebrating.  Excellent sea food, including “No Work Cioppino”  (that means pre-shelled clams and crabs – no bibs required!)
  • Novo :  if weather permits, opt for dining outside next to meandering San Luis Obispo creek, under trees hung with lanterns,  and walls decked with bougainvillea in bloom.
  • House of Bread (on Marsh Street at the foot of downtown) – the perfect place to buy bread to go with that artisanal cheese you bought at the Farmer’s Market.

NOTE:  I will be setting off on another adventure next week, so there will be a hiatus.  Read some past posts and stand by for further freeway-free travel!

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