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      22.07.2002 18:53
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      Santa Maria is located about half way between San Francisco and San Diego. We chose to stay here as a mid way point between the two. You can get to it from the two main roads which run down the coast, Highways 1 and 101. I will give a quick overview of the town and the immediate area and the hotel we stayed in. Santa Maria itself is about 250 miles south of San Francisco and about 150 miles north of LA. It is located in the heart of wine county and there are many vineyards you can visit within the area, 37 in total covering 20,000 acres. It has several museums to visit such as a motorcycle, flight, historical and history museums. It also has many art galleries and theatres. There are county parks, picnic areas and nature reserves to visit. Although Santa Maria itself is inland, the coast is only a few miles away with many state beaches including Pismo, Avila, Shell and Guadalupe. If shopping is your thing then the only real option is Santa Maria Town Centre which is an indoor shopping centre. The building is quite new and when we visited quite a few of the shops had yet to be opened, but there were still quite a few to visit. If you are expecting to spend lots of money here though, you my want to travel further such as Santa Barbara or even LA. There are quite a few hotels and restaurants to choose from ranging in comfort and price. We stayed at the Historic Santa Maria Inn which offers 164 guest rooms and suites. The hotel is split into two main areas, the historic side an the tower side. The tower was added some years ago to increase the size of the hotel. The tower is, I think, 6 floors tall so it is not too imposing. The rooms here are a little larger than the ones in the historic part, but have less character. The suites are located on the top floor. The lower floor of the tower has a selection of small shops and a beauty parlour. We has a deluxe room in the historic part which although not a huge room, was perfectl y adequate and nicely decorated. We had a large queen bed, table & chairs, wardrobe and dresser. The TV had satellite connection so we had loads of channels and could have pay per view movies etc. The bathroom was clean and they supplied shampoo, body lotion, shaving foam etc in dispensers in the bath/shower and the basin. Breakfast can be taken either in your room (from the room service menu) or in the dining room. We chose the dining room as this offered a buffet arrangement. They offered cereal, fruit, yoghurt, bacon, sausage, eggs etc with fresh juices, tea and coffee etc. We paid approx $20 (£14) per day for two for breakfasts, which wasn’t too bad as you could have as much as you wanted. I would definitely recommend the hotel. Rooms cost from $85 to $200 for a large suite per night. Breakfast is extra, although they do offer specials on their website www.santamariainn.com from time to time. We found a restaurant in the Town Centre Shopping Centre called Red Robin which is basically a glorified burger joint. They offer, chicken, fish, pasta, meat and of course burger dishes. They also have a good range of cocktails including non-alcohol. I had one which was lemonade, kiwi and strawberry, but is came in a glass that was about 18 inches tall and my husband had a good laugh watching me drink it. It was lovely though! If you just want a no frills, good food restaurant then Red Robin is fine. Hearst Castle is approx 100 miles to the north, but is a very easy drive an worth doing. Santa Barbara is also about 100 miles to the south and again is worth a visit.

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