Well, I've figured out where I want to retire. On the beach, in Cambria.
It's nice when you go into a trip not really expecting much, and then almost everything about it just blows your socks off.
I'd found a really nice deal online, for an ocean-front room in Cambria for $79 a night. I had few expectations from an establishment that would offer such a rate, but what we got was cottage charm, with a fireplace, and the ocean rolling in a stones' throw from our windows.
A boardwalk parallels the beach and tiny rabbits and ground squirrels abound. The squirrels will run up to you, brazen, wanting a peanut.
I'm sure we caught Cambria at some magical hour. It was warm and quiet. The people were surprisingly friendly. The food was surprisingly good.
If you're interested in going, I must suggest you stay in one of the inns on Moonstone Beach, and eat at the following restaurants: Robin's (order the salmon bisque); Creekside Cafe (best pancakes I've had in California); Redwood Cafe (my husband raved over his ham and cheese omelet. I thought their coffee was excellent and the French toast was delightful, too).
If you happen to pass through Paso Robles, stop downtown and visit the Arroyo Robles tasting room. The pourer is hilariously surly and the wine is delicious. Also try the Ortman tasting room -- great wine and the pourer was very friendly (she's the one who clued me in on the salmon bisque at Robin's). If you're looking for lunch, try Odyssey World Cafe. I had one of the best French dips I've ever eaten, accompanied by a tangy and tasty potato salad and a glass of J. Lohr chardonnay.
Of course, you can't visit Cambria without stopping at Hearst Castle. It was astounding. More on that later ...