Remnants of the Past in San Luis Obispo

By on September 12, 2012
Remnants of the Past in San Luis Obispo

By Prudence Lay –

There are phrases that are guaranteed to get my attention. Things like “tea is ready”, “want to hear some good news?” and “let’s go shopping” are music to my ears. That last phrase begins my current story. I am an avid bargain/antique/junk shopper. I love old and repurposed items of all kinds and my home is full of treasures.

There is an event that is held in San Luis Obispo CA twice a year called “The Remnants of the Past” Vintage Show and I have been longing to attend for a few years now. Since I live in Sisters, Oregon, that makes a trip to the show about 1,400 miles roundtrip. What’s a girl to do who just knows that there is some wonderful item that has her name on it just waiting for her to show up?

Find an excuse to go – that’s what! It just so happens that my nephew was recently transferred to Vandenberg AFB (about an hour south) and some other work related things to do in California presented themselves so –mission accomplished. Am I clever, or what?

Of course, once the decision to go was made, I started seeing how much else I could fit in to 5 days in San Luis Obispo county and the surrounding area. I quickly learned there was more than I was going to be able to fit in but I was going to give it my best shot. I got my very patient and fun loving husband on board and off we went.

We opted to stay in the delightful town of Paso Robles for one night. What a great surprise that was.  We stayed at the Paso Robles Inn – a most charming hotel that is on the national register of Historic Hotels. There has been an inn on the site since 1864. The current facility was rebuilt in 1942 after a catastrophic fire burned most of the original hotel. The claim to fame around the area is the artesian mineral springs (which seem to be plentiful in this area of CA).

Paso Robles Inn room with tub on patio

We had a room with a hot tub on the patio which you fill with the hot mineral spring water. The smell of sulpher is a bit strong but we got used to it and my body loved it! I slept like a baby (which is rare for me) and I could feel the de-toxifying effects of the “waters” for a couple of days afterward. The inn has a lovely garden setting with huge old oak trees, lovely flowers, pathways and water features. There is also a very nice pool and regular hot tub available which we also enjoyed very much.

One of the greatest features of the Paso Robles Inn is the location. It is across the street from the village green – or town park. The downtown is located around this park and is chock full of great dining spots, wine tasting bars, boutiques, cheese shops, olive oil shops and yes, antiques shops. Should you find yourself in Paso Robles, do not miss “Reminisce”, a beautiful antique mall. Trust me, I have been in many an antique mall and this was one of the finest. I walked out with two large bags and I had not even been to the “show” yet! Yikes! After all the excitement, we made our way back to the Paso Robles Inn and enjoyed a delightful dinner at the Steakhouse next to a burbling outdoor fountain. Altogether, a most enjoyable way to end a most delightful day in Paso Robles.

The next day we wound our way through amazing vineyards to the small beach community of Avila. We spent the afternoon lazing on the beach and walking the quaint shops of this special little town. We were both amazed that over in Paso Robles it is about 90 degrees and in Avila (a short 15 minute drive southwest) it is at least 15 degrees cooler. We had a most wonderful dinner with my nephew, his wife and their baby. Another glorious day gone by and tomorrow is “the show” and the trip has been worth it already!

What can I say about the show? Just this – if you love vintage anything – go. It was fabulous. Not only were there wonderful antiques, there is “repurposed” everything from jewelry (GORGEOUS) to furniture. This show attracts the cream of the crop of vendors – this is not your typical resale shop stuff. A free piece of advice I learned the hard way though – if you see it/love it/want it – buy it!

DO NOT think that you have time to ponder, walk away and make your decision later. I did this with three items, and guess what? I went back to purchase all three of them and they were gone. The hardest part was my husband saying “honey don’t wait, it might be gone” and then realizing he was absolutely right. I actually should listen to him more often. I spoke with many people who had been to the show multiple times and they all said the same thing. This is a show that people attend with the purpose of purchasing – not browsing. So, be prepared to either hand over your cash or leave it behind. Lesson learned for me!

We spend the next day browsing around the San Luis Obispo area. It is a college town (Home of California Polytechnic University) so it has lots going on. What I did notice was that it also has lots going on for those of us who are past the traditional college age. Restaurants, boutiques, cafes, museums, wineries, sightseeing – you can have it all here – a most lovely place to take a brief vacation and find yourself some vintage treasures along the way. All in all, it was a most satisfactory journey. Make your way about 2 hours south and you can visit Santa Barbara and the lovely towns in the surrounding area, but that is a story for another time. Till then…….


With more than three decades of home interior design and international travel experience, Prudence Lay has developed a sharp eye for how to create inviting living environments and adventurous travel experiences. Currently Prudence and her family reside in Sisters, Oregon where she is enjoying her latest adventure as Home and Travel Feature Editor of

Prudence Lay

About Prudence Lay

With more than three decades of home interior design and international travel experience, Prudence Lay has developed a sharp eye for how to create inviting living environments and adventurous travel experiences. Currently Prudence and her family reside in Sisters.

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Remnants of the Past in San Luis Obispo