By: Paul Rogers
Though nestled next to Highway 101 in the heart of California’s wine country, Los Alamos (pop. 1,374) can feel oddly isolated. Its main drag, Bell Street, is an unlikely mélange of tourist traps (trendy antique stores, art galleries and eateries) and truck stops (18-wheelers overnight at its south end), punctuated by a brace of almost adjacent follies: the Union Hotel, a refurbished stagecoach stop; and the Victorian Mansion, an externally Psycho-esque historic bed & breakfast.
It was to the Victorian Mansion that my fiancée whisked me for a surprise overnight trip last month. Even as we arrived in bright afternoon sunlight the elegantly angular, pale three-story building looked like it could be keeping secrets. And it was.
See, the Victorian Mansion is a “theme” B&B, housing six suites inspired by everything from drive-in era 1950s to ancient Rome. The Vick, as it’s known, was built in nearby Nipomo in 1864 and moved plank by plank to its current location in 1980. Over 200 craftsmen were employed over the following decade to create its imaginative innards. It had fallen into disrepair when current proprietor Rod Rigole bought it in 2007, but he has restored The Vick to its former splendor while adding contemporary touches like flat screen TVs.
We were in the second floor Egyptian Suite: a gold-themed den with a sunken hot tub, four-poster harem bed, desert murals and gas fireplace. Our favorite features were the bathroom “hidden” behind a sliding sarcophagus, and the balcony that led off it (where we ate the simple but classy breakfast discreetly delivered at our chosen time).
Despite the suite’s outlandish appearance, everything functioned perfectly, right down to the adjustable multicolored mood lighting. Though the TV was all but unwatchable from the bed (obscured by one of its posts), we made ample use of the deep tub while taking in some of the Egyptian-themed movies provided.
If The Vick is your destination, one night should suffice. If you plan to explore the nearby Santa Ynez Valley (made famous in the movie Sideways), it makes a fun yet functional base for a longer sojourn.
Los Alamos is 155 miles north of Los Angeles and 57 miles north of Santa Barbara on US Highway 101. There are regular flights into Santa Barbara airport from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and Denver. Multiple car rental companies service the airport.
Paul Rogers is a freelance writer based in Hollywood, CA
Photos courtesy of the Victorian Mansion