Avila Beach: A Little Bit of Heaven

The first time I went to Avila Beach was when my daughter was about 2 years of age.  I always took her to the Central Coast for our vacation because it was only three hours from Los Angeles and was about as long of a car ride as she and I could take. The Central Coast beaches were never overcrowded and I could find very economical, comfortable lodging right on the beach. In the month of July, we could take a short trip up to Paso Robles for the California State Fair and then return to literally cool our heels in the sea.

So many years later, I find myself back here at the same beach that she once searched for shells, played chase with the tide and where we built sand castles together. She loved coming to Avila Beach because it had the “puppy” beach and a very protected feeling because the shoreline embraces the bay like a mother’s arms. As I traced a child’s tiny footprints in the sand with my own steps, I expected to look up and see that beautiful golden brown curly hair blowing in the breeze atop a tan tiny girl in a pink-daisy print swimsuit running ahead of me on the shore with pure, unbridled joy.

These days, my girls are busy with school, sleepovers, drama and art, so I travel up and down the California Coast in search of new treasures in this forever golden land. One of my most pleasurable things to do is to check out different farmer’s markets throughout California.  I was elated to find that Avila Beach not only has a Farmer’s Market on Fridays, but they have a “Seafood and Farmer’s Market.”

Almost everywhere in Avila Beach has a ocean view and as I approached the promenade, I could hear music, smell the grills afire, and see all the colors of spring brightening up the coastline.  It was a warm and festive day and people were casually moving about picking out their fresh produce and many eating Central American-style skewered fruit spiked with lemon juice and chili.  Local olive growers had their artisan olive oils and vinegars to sample. Pint baskets overflowed with flavorful blueberries, sweet strawberries and thirst quenching black berries.  California honey, been pollen and honey comb straight from the apiary were available in many varietals like orange blossom, wildflower, and buckwheat.  The scent of lavender lured me into a stand and I wanted to take home one of everything they had crafted.  They create lavender essential oil, lavender sugar, lavender soap and body scrub, and dried culinary lavender.  I couldn’t resist the dried culinary lavender for making my evening tisane and to blend my own Herb du Provence for cooking.

As I further explored the market, I noticed some beautiful mushrooms. The ample chanterelle mushrooms were golden, firm and quite obviously, recently plucked from the earth.  Farmer’s tables were covered by abundant rainbows of radishes, carrots and beets.  The crucifers were verdant, bright, crisp and fresh.  One grower had an array of fresh herbs to choose from including fragrant rosemary branches and delicate cilantro. Among many things, Cal Poly brought exceptional pomelos, persian cucumbers and Payne Walnuts.  Farm fresh eggs were snuggled into cartons; freshly baked bread warmed the table; the fava beans waited to be shelled.  At this market, there existed a culinary inspiration at my every turn.

I was thrilled to see the selection of bareroot fruit trees available to purchase.  To me the trees embody the best of Central California’s agriculture of apples, peaches, plums, pears and pluots. It was a joyful atmosphere with lively music performed by the Shival Experience.  The Avila Firemen checked people’s blood pressure; I had to pass on that one because I felt my blood pressure raise to a stroke-inducing level simply by being in there presence; I shall say no more than it was a great community service they were providing.

When I finished my farmer’s market visit, I checked into the Sycamore Spring Resort’s Tranquility Suite which is in the nature preserve across the bridge from the original building. The resort rests on hot mineral springs with over 100 acres of forest and meadows great for walking, jogging and biking.  The Gardens of Avila Restaurant is beautiful and uses locally grown, organic produce in their wine country inspired menu by Chef David McWilliam; also, their wine list showcases the best of Central California’s wine producers. Sycamore also has a world class, full-service spa that offers an array of pampering treatments and each spa patron receives a luxurious soak in the hot springs. (http:/www.sycamoresprings.com)

It surely lowered my blood pressure after I saw the beautiful big fluffy bed with crisp white linens and a huge double shower.  Outside my suite, all you could see were trees and stars that I enjoyed from my private hot tub; it was so quiet.  I lit the fireplace and got in my fluffy robe; uncorked the bottle of Curtis Syrah that I had picked up earlier in the day when I visited my friend Chuck Carlson in Los Olivos and served myself some cheese, berries, apples and fresh bread from the market. I settled in for the night and had one of the better sleeps of recent.(http://www.curtiswinery.com)

So when I woke the next day to walk the peaceful, pristine beach of Avila, again I saw those tiny footprints. I remembered my previous visits to Avila Beach when my girl couldn’t bear to be away from me;  when she slept right up against me all night long; however, I didn’t let melancholy overshadow the beautiful experience. I understood that in the present moment more than ever before why “to every thing there is season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

For a peaceful, relaxing and even possibly enlightening experience, I will return to  the Central Coast; go straight away to walk and enjoy Avila Beach and back to that same Tranquility Suite at Sycamore Inn.(http://www.visitavilabeach.com) (http://www.sycamoresprings.com)

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