5 Senses CulinaryTours
The Sparkling Cobalt Drive
One of the most spectacular drives on the West Coast is the 90 plus miles along Highway 1 from Cambria to Carmel Highlands past San Simeon going north. This awesome highway travels through rugged Big Sur and is designated as both National and California Scenic Byways. The picturesque qualities and the natural grandeur of this coast has attained a worldwide reputation, actually there are very few places in the world that can boost a better stretch of blacktop. It’s winding isolated curves along this ravaged coastline and massive cliffs makes it difficult to keep your eyes on the road. The scenery is constantly changing by the ocean mists blowing up against the Santa Lucia Mountains, tall grasses waving in the winds, plus whales migrating so close to shore that you actually hear the blows before seeing them.
In 1937, the present highway was completed by convict labor after 18 years of construction. And electricity did not arrive until the early 1950’s and still does not exist in extended lengths of the highway and into the remote part of the mountains. So you want to be there for those amazing sunsets but not in the dark, because it is densely black, so plan accordingly.
One of the most photographed symbols of Big Sur along the highway is the Bixby Creek Bridge, highlighted by the staggering natural backdrop… I was so enamored by it, I pulled over and jumped out of the car with camera in hand to immortalize the scene. Unfortunately I didn’t have the car in park, but neutral…..need I say there was a lot of screaming before that was rectified. This 1932 art deco bridge called open-spandrel with a single arch spanning more than 700 feet and dropping 342 feet to the base linking two steep canyon walls. Long way to drop!
The region has been captured, romanticized, and publicized worldwide for decades for a place to go off the grid and breathe in nature. There are three places along this way that epitomize that; Nepenthe is like an old cabin in the woods going strong since 1949, a perfect place for burger, adult beverage and magnificent coastal views. Another is the ultra-chic Post Ranch Inn built partially into the landscape with hiking trails, uninterrupted coastal views and the marvelous award winning Sierra Mar restaurant. But for me, my heart belongs to magical Ventana Big Sur. Memories pull at my heart. One cannot travel this road without going and definitely staying at this resort perched high over the Pacific coast and surrounded by towering redwood trees. With 160 acres of pristine wilderness, Ventana Big Sur has grown and evolved over the years from its opening in 1975 to its latest renovations, luckily they have kept a supportive, sustainable and nurturing environment.
It is a unique place that draws you out of doors whether it is to your balcony or hiking trails or a hidden location in the redwoods or even the huge expansive terraces at the restaurant you want to be in nature. Though your rooms are spacious, have soothing earth tones, skylights to enhance views of the stars and most have wood-burning fireplaces some still call it rustic, hardly, I call it sophisticated nature. And favorite is the immersive soaks into the Japanese hot baths especially after coastal exploration or hiking the many trails.
They have an award winning wine cellar and always have prided themselves on being top of the line in both food and wine, I’ve never been disappointed. Plus within an hour of two driving you are in one or more of the top ten wine regions; Camel, Monterey and Paso Robles. There is the Smokehouse at the bottom of the hill, in the historic old Post family homestead built in 1867 and now meticulously restored for casual smoky temptations.
One of the most exciting offerings is their “Glamping” experiences with safari-style tents with deep comfortable mattresses, electricity, coolers, picnic kits and fire pits. I’m heading back, I could use a big bowl of forest breathing right now.