Get Out of Town!
Don't Go Crazy on Valentine's Day, Relax at the Sanitarium
February, 2010 - Issue #64
Each of the rooms are decorated in their own unique style, but the house maintains a soothing white color palette throughout.
Each of the rooms are decorated in their own unique style, but the house maintains a soothing white color palette throughout.
Let's face it guys, Valentine's Day can be one crazy-making holiday.

Stress, pressure, expectations. The quest to create the perfect romantic evening or get-away can lead you down the road to insanity.

Put away the straitjacket this year. I'm not a doctor, but trust me when I tell you how to avoid a psychotic Valentine's Day: Commit yourself to The Sanitarium for a weekend.

The Sanitarium is a bed and breakfast in downtown San Luis Obispo. Its colorful history begins in the 1880s. First used as a place of rest and recuperation (and not a loony bin) it also served as a boarding house, fraternity and sorority house, and private residence.

After an extensive renovation by owner Suzi Kyle, the seven-room inn now welcomes guests looking to soothe body and mind. The main house is painted white inside and out from floor to ceiling. Color comes from surprising sources, whether it's the stained glass in extra-wide doors, or the original art hanging throughout the house.

The aptly named rooms induce a state of Euphoriasm or Tranquilibrium. Sunlight floods through the rippled glass of salvaged antique windows. A high-sided tub brought home from Kyle's travels in Morocco is artfully placed in the middle of the room and beckons you to sit and soak while a wood burning stove offers to keep you warm. The modern conveniences extend to the bathroom, which features a spacious shower with pleasantly-strong water pressure.

And although you won't want to leave the healing confines of your room, a wonderful breakfast cooked by innkeeper Suzanne is a mandatory treatment. Fresh-baked scones, French press coffee, decadent fruit, a hot frittata and delicate china place settings on the farmhouse kitchen table are just what the doctor ordered.

We awoke our first morning with grand plans for an ambitious bike ride along one of our favorite Central Coast trails. But really, what was the hurry? We lingered over breakfast and enjoyed our coffee while the morning sun and the sounds of the trickling fountain in the koi pond floated through the open side door.

Calmer than we've been in months, April and I finally ventured forth from The Sanitarium. We drove south towards Avila Beach and parked at the beginning of the Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail on Ontario Road. Winding 1.5 miles along San Luis Obispo Creek, the trail is a pleasant ride (or walk) beneath shady oaks. It deposits you in downtown Avila Beach, or you can do as we did and continue along the beachfront road to Port San Luis.

The pier provides an opportunity to be entertained by the resident sea lions, who lounge about on a waterside landing like a litter of sleepy puppies. Laying on top of one another, they squirm, fidget, bark, nip and occasionally slide into the water, where they float on their sides, with their flippers standing upright in a symbolic salute to leisure.

Taking their cue, we returned to The Sanitarium. Lounging in our upstairs room, we were content to read, watch the trees blow in the wind, and doze off.

The combination of an invigorating bike ride and lazy afternoon left us hungry for dinner, so we set off on foot to the center of San Luis Obispo's happening downtown area just a few blocks away, where there seems to be a dining option to suit any palate. Barbecue. Organic. Thai. Chinese. Mexican. Take your pick, it's all there, with menus available for virtual salivation at and

Novo ("new" in Brazilian Portuguese), with its blend of Brazilian, Mediterranean and Asian flavors seemed to have the best chance of satisfying our competing cravings. April for something Asian, and me for meat. Seated downstairs in The Cellar, we enjoyed cocktails and a chicken satay appetizer while waiting for our entrees. Flat iron steak with a port wine reduction for me, and the Chow Novo, noodles stir fried with fresh veggies, garlic and lots of ginger, for April.

The following morning found us breakfasting at The Sanitarium on another fabulous spread of food and contemplating the end of our stay. It's safe to say our treatments had been successful. Relaxation had been achieved, and we were cured.
Eric Harnish, who is generally sane, lives in Newhall.

Check it Out
The Sanitarium

1716 Osos Street San Luis Obispo,

Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail
Exit 101 South at San Luis Bay Drive.
Turn right, then left on Ontario Road. Continue south to parking lot on left.
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