A Day in Paso Robles

When we were driving to Cambria last summer, we passed through the vineyards of the Paso Robles wine region. Now we like wine, but stopping was pretty much out of the question because even though it was 65-70 degrees in Cambria that week, it was 100+ over the hill Paso — and with Penny in the car, that was obviously a non-starter.

Of course, in winter, it’s a completely different scenario. Temps in both Cambria and Paso Robles were working to break 60 last week, so it was easy to imagine partaking in couple of tastings while Penny relaxed in the car (and by relax I mean stare out the window for us until we return). And in some places, she might not even have to stay IN the car because there are even several dog-friendly wineries in the region.

The drive over the hills separating the two areas (along CA-46) was beautiful and provided some gorgeous views of both green hillsides (that were decidedly brown in August) and back to the ocean and Morro Bay in the distance.

Morro Bay from the pass over to Paso Robles

Morro Bay from the pass over to Paso Robles

We’d thought we might do several tastings, but the first place we stopped (Opolo) was so inviting and treated us so well that we were there for almost 90 minutes. After that, we took a drive up to the hilltop winery, Calcareous. We chose that one because friends had gone there and said it was dog-friendly, so the Beloved and I enjoyed their wines, but we all got to have a walk around the grounds and see the stunning vistas from their grounds.

On the grounds of Calcareous Winery, above Paso Robles

On the grounds of Calcareous Winery, above Paso Robles

Calcareous, looking east

Calcareous, looking east

After grabbing lunch, we decided to switch gears and head up “the 101” to the Mission San Miguel Arcangel. We both really love visiting the Missions of California. Growing up on the East Coast, they were barely mentioned in my education, but this string of 21 outpost churches created the foundation of European settlement along the West Coast.

Arcade and grounds at San Miguel

Arcade and grounds at San Miguel

I’d never heard of the Mission San Miguel Arcangel in particular, so I had zero expectations. Unlike some Missions which are now more historical sites, San Miguel is still an active parish and portions of the grounds are off-limits because the Church uses the it as a training site for Franciscan novitiates.

Pretty. And the arcade and fountain are nice, too.

Pretty. And the arcade and fountain are nice, too.

The grounds are simple, but clean and pretty, with a long and distinctive arcade (with different sized arches). But I think what’s probably most impressive about the Mission is that the chapel and its artwork are all originals from the colonial period (because of that, it’s now a National Historic Site) — most Missions have been refurbished/repainted at various points, several had fallen into ruin in the post-colonial period.

Early 1800s altar

Early 1800s altar

Mission Bells

Mission Bells

All the Missions I’ve visited are different — some simple, some grand — but this one was a real unexpected treat.

Campanile

Campanile

Well worth sacrificing the chance for a couple glasses of wine the next time you’re in the area.

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14 thoughts on “A Day in Paso Robles

  1. Love tagging along on your adventures with you!

    And the mere mention of Mission Bells … and now I am singing “Hotel California …”

    Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
    My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
    I had to stop for the night
    There she stood in the doorway;
    I heard the mission bell
    And I was thinking to myself,
    “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”
    Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
    There were voices down the corridor,
    I thought I heard them say…
    Welcome to the Hotel California

    • MJ — I ALWAYS think of “Hotel California” when I’m at a Mission. And I’ll tell you, thinking back to your last post, it’s hard not to imagine the spirits of centuries being around them.

    • SS — they’re fascinating. As the first European outposts in California, they’re significant, but their forced conversion of native peoples and what came from that is also an importan, albeit less laudable, legacy.

  2. I’ve been turning on the TV since mum’s last hospital deal in October and they have a commercial for that ‘come back, it’s don’t ask, don’t tell…I mean, free Confessional for everybody!’

  3. The last time I drove by San Miguel Arcangel, it was closed on account of severe earthquake damage. I was told the buildings were unsafe to enter as the ceilings were cracked and could cave in at any moment. Now it appears the place has been beautifully restored. I’ll have to visit.

    By the way, did you hear anything about the place being haunted? At the same time I was in the area, I was told there had been a horrific massacre of the family that lived there in the 1840s, after bandits were told the owner had buried gold on the Mission’s grounds. Since then people have claimed to see strange lights drifting through the grounds and a woman in white, among other apparitions. Then I saw this dreadful “reality show” on cable where amateur ghosthunters ran around the Mission shrieking because they claimed to see ghosts approaching them. I was surprised that they were allowed to carry on like that in a working church. Regardless of whether one believes that the spirits of the dead can be seen in such places or not, it seemed horribly disrespectful.

    • HG — we’d only read about the big earthquake at San Simeon and the years that the MIssion was closed after we got home. It must have been really something. I’m glad that it’s still standing.

      It’s very easy to imagine the Mission being haunted, if you let yourself give into those ideas for a bit (though there was nothing in any of the Mission visitor materials that suggested it). It was bright and cold the day we went there and I can imagine it on darker and stormier night! Also, there are literally thousands of Chumash tribespeople buried there.

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