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The amazing thing about California is its sheer size and the resulting diversity of landscapes and mindsets. A great example of this diversity can be found in the two classic landmarks that I stayed in this past week.

In what is quickly becoming a Thanksgiving tradition, I headed down to Pasadena for the holiday. Last year, I flew down early and had a marvelous side trip to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. This year, I decided to take a few days off and drive leisurely down 101 (or I guess “the 101” being that I was visiting Southern California).

I have driven along the coast twice since moving here, with the focal point of both trips being Hearst Castle, when I stayed at the Sand Pebbles Inn on Moonstone Beach in Cambria. This time, I stayed at two iconic places along the route: Asilomar and the Madonna Inn.

Asilomar boardwalk and dunes at sunset

I had longed to stay at both for some time: Asilomar, because it was designed by Julia Morgan, architect of my beloved Hearst Castle, and the Madonna Inn because I had heard so many crazy things about it.

Asilomar Room



While both high on my list of landmark lodgings, these two places couldn’t be more opposite, with Asilomar representing a sort of East Coast, old money rusticity, and the Madonna Inn (named after its original owner, Alex Madonna, not the pop star), representing classic American roadside kitsch. And yet it made perfect sense to me that I loved them equally and that they were both terrific representations of my new home state.

The Traveler’s Yacht room at the Madonna Inn



You can read about these incredible places in more detail at my new travel blog, Worth the Detour.

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