Hearst Castle is truly enchanted on our evening Christmastime tour.  Photo Credit: Bill Bishoff

Hearst Castle is truly enchanted on our evening Christmastime tour. 
Photo Credit: Bill Bishoff

Including an historic train ride on the Coast Starlight, a special event tour of fully decorated Hearst Caastle, the astonishing Cambria Christmas Market, while staying at the Cambria Pines Lodge

December 14-16, 2018
A Long Weekend Rail Adventure

A Special Three Day/Two Night Getaway Led by Sandy Lydon

Special Holiday Sale! Heavy Discount! 

Fee for two, double occupancy, MSRP - $800

Special January 25% Discount -- $600

Sale price ends January 31, 2018 or when trip is sold out.

Always Sells Out!

A Cure for those Christmas-is-Almost-Here Blues

Come kick-start your Holidays with a weekend adventure to one of those special historic places where the Christmas Spirit still lives. See Central California from the train, and then enjoy a relaxed visit in Cambria and vicinity. Cambria is a great place to do last-minute Holiday shopping – unique arts and crafts (and there's plenty of room to stash your stuff under the bus for the trip home.) 

Brief Itinerary – Tentative

Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to natural and unnatural causes, such as wildfires, State Park closures, etc.

The Coast Starlight as it rolls alongside Elkhorn Slough.  You’ll see the Central Coast in an entirely new way from the train.

The Coast Starlight as it rolls alongside Elkhorn Slough.  You’ll see the Central Coast in an entirely new way from the train.

Friday
Depart Aptos (8:30 AM at Cabrillo College) for San Jose, board the southbound Coast Starlight for the luscious ride through Central California up the Salinas Valley and down the astonishing Cuesta Grade into San Luis Obispo. (c. 3:00 PM)

Re-join our bus (and your luggage) where we'll begin our historical Exploration before driving to Cambria where we will check into The Cambria Pines Lodge for the weekend. We will arrive in time to explore the remarkable Cambria Christmas Market on the hotel grounds. You can begin your Cambria stay with a stroll through a magical lighted wonderland, drink mulled wine and set your Christmas spirit free.

Saturday
Daytime touring in Cambria and environs, including some of those rarely-discussed "secret histories" that Sandy is famous for. And time to wander and explore. (The bus will be available.)

Evening Tour of Hearst Castle in full Christmas regalia. Buffet dinner at the lodge following castle tour. Right after dinner in our private dining room we will have a Costume Contest.

Sunday
Visit Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, lunch (not included in fee) in Paso Robles and then home up Highway 101


Fees and double occupancy

The MSRP – basic costs - $800 for two person double occupancy.
Special January discount of 25% - $600 for two
Special discount ends on January 31 or when trip sells out.

What does one fee double occupancy mean?
This trip is priced at double occupancy. You must register for two.  If you have a partner, that will pose no problem, but if you don’t yet have a roommate, you can register now (and preserve the discount) and get us your roommate’s name later.  

Responsibility to find a Roommate?  We do not have the capabilities nor are willing to assume the responsibility for matchmaking.  Roommate compatibility is a very personal thing and at this discounted price, we feel that responsibility should be yours.  You have until October 1 to find a roommate.  If you wish to travel alone, you’ll have to pay the full fee. 

You must pay for two when you register.
To Register, click here:

Transportation includes: Amtrak's Coast Starlight and deluxe Discovery Charters motorcoach

Designed for double occupancy
This adventure is designed and priced for double occupancy.  There is no single fee possible.  If you must travel alone, you’ll have to pay for two spaces.

Regular Fee: $790 for two ($395 per person.)

Dressed in their finest, our group gets prepared to meet Mr. Hearst.  Well, not actually, but we felt like it.

Dressed in their finest, our group gets prepared to meet Mr. Hearst.  Well, not actually, but we felt like it.

Special Holiday Rate: $600 for two, a savings of $190 per couple. You must register for two, even if you've not determined who you're roommate will be.  Sale price of $600 will stay on until midnight Dec. 31 or the trip fills up.

A note about singles and roommates:
This adventure is designed for two persons per room. The responsibility for your finding a roommate is yours. We do not have the capabilities of being a matchmaker. 

A note about room configurations: 
Rooms have two queen-sized beds, so they're set up for non-married roommates. Some rooms with one king-sized bed might be available .If you wish that arrangement be sure to check that answer when you register.


The fee covers the following:
• Parking fee for secured parking at Cabrillo College for the weekend. 
• Air-conditioned motorcoach with on-board restroom for Aptos-San Jose: San Luis Obispo- Cambria; Cambria to Aptos. Including driver's gratuity.
• Train Fare on Amtrak Coast Starlight, San Jose to SLO.
• Bus touring in Cambria and vicinity.
• Two nights lodging at the Cambria Pines Lodge (double occupancy), including taxes, and gratuities.
• Two buffet breakfasts at Cambria Pines Lodge
• Buffet Dinner at the Lodge Saturday evening
• Admission to the Cambria Christmas Market. 
• Admission to Hearst Castle evening tour
• Printed guide materials
• Personally escorted by Sandy Lydon and his crew
• Donations to local history organizations that spend time with us. 

Not included:
• Meals other than the two breakfasts and Saturday evening dinner noted above. It is recommended that you bring a picnic lunch on the train on Friday, though there is a dining car and snack bar. There will be various stops for meal opportunities during the weekend.
• Personal room charges made while staying at the Cambria Pines Lodge

Note: This adventure is designed for adults. Persons under the age of 21 may not participate.

The entrance to the Cambria Christmas Market is a gentle beginning to a lighted wonderland.

The entrance to the Cambria Christmas Market is a gentle beginning to a lighted wonderland.

Trip Highlights include:
• The Cuesta Grade – One of the railroad engineering marvels in California, as the rails loop though 5 tunnels and many switchbacks down 1,200 feet over an 8 mile distance. 
• 2018 will be the 6th year of the Cambria Christmas Market, and we have watched it grow into one of those spectacular light displays outside of Disneyland, and some who have seen both thinks Cambria has Walt beaten.  Our previous group members have used words like “astonishing!” “breath taking!” “unbelievable!” Stretching over ½ mile on the Cambria Pines Lodge property, the pathways lead to grottoes, and arts and crafts booths, outdoor warming fires, and live music all over the place.  We have experienced it from the beginning and each year it expands adding more lights.  The hotel staff begins work on the extravaganza on August 1, and this past year they told us that there were over 2,000,000 lights. I swear that if there were people on the moon these days, they’d be able to see it. 
• And you have the most convenient access – The cost of admission is included in your fee, but the cool part is that you don’t have to worry about parking, etc., because you step out of your room, and you are THERE.  The Market closes down every evening at 9:00 PM, so all of that which is just outside your room window goes dark and quiet.  
• You can visit early – when it opens.  The Market opens at 5:00, and we plan this trip so that you are already checked into your room and can be in the Market before it gets crowded.  And you can either eat dinner there (they have sandwiches and have added a beer garden this past year) or then take the free market shuttle down into Cambria and dine at any one of the village’s restaurants.
• The Cambria Pines Lodge – Nestled into Cambria's pine forest, the Lodge goes all-out during the Holiday season decorating not only the grounds but also the Lodge itself. One of Cambria's best properties, with plenty of time to explore both the Lodge and the surrounding town.
• Cambria is one of those places you usually drive past on the way to Hearst Castle or Southern California. But, we'll explore this town that's pretty much as it was in the 1860s.
• Hearst Castle –  Most Californians have been to Hearst Castle, but most often during the summer or at daytime.  The Castle is transformed at Christmas as it is decorated in the style true to that of William Randolph Hearst.  Christmas lights adorn the interior walls, and decorated Christmas trees abound.  We enjoy a special Holiday tour together as a group.
• Piedras Blancas – largest coastside elephant seal rookery on Pacific Coast. (Yes, now bigger than Ano Nuevo).
• Surprises and Unscheduled Treats, as always with Lydon adventures 

Out group fresh back from visiting Mr. Hearst poses in front of the Cambria Pines Lodge before venturing inside for a lovely buffet dinner in our private decorated dining room.

Out group fresh back from visiting Mr. Hearst poses in front of the Cambria Pines Lodge before venturing inside for a lovely buffet dinner in our private decorated dining room.


Using only the most scientific methods, the History Dude solicits applause for the contestants.  Actually, the woman dressed in red, Pat Enright, won best female costume and went on to win best in show.  She was delighted.

Using only the most scientific methods, the History Dude solicits applause for the contestants.  Actually, the woman dressed in red, Pat Enright, won best female costume and went on to win best in show.  She was delighted.

Going to Hearst Castle Saturday Night In Style

A Voluntary Costume Gala with Contest
In 2012, we suggested that group members might want to dress in period costumes for the Hearst Saturday evening adventure.  Then, we added a bit of competition to it by having a costume contest after our post-Castle dinner back at the Lodge.  We arrive at the Castle as if we are Mr. Hearst’s guests, and with gowns and overcoats, and antique fashions, we sweep into the Castle in style.  We’ve done this so often that State Parks personnel look forward to what our group members might cook up this time!

Did we mention that there are many booths at the Christmas Market where you can buy LOTS of Christmas stuff.

Did we mention that there are many booths at the Christmas Market where you can buy LOTS of Christmas stuff.

Costume Logistical Notes
• You should put your costumes in garment bags and we’ll load them flat carefully beneath the bus. 
• There will be plenty of time late Saturday afternoon to get all gussied up before we board the bus for the Castle. 
• Many of us living in Santa Cruz County have been utilizing the services and collection at Closet Capers, Santa Cruz’s longest running (32 years) costume shop: 1211 Soquel Avenue (two doors down from the Rio Theater).  The shop’s owner, Rebecka Hawkins knows about our Christmas in Cambria, and she has taken care of us at Christmastime for the past 6 years.  She’s open Tue-Fri Noon to 5:00 and Sat., 11:00 to 4:00.  Their phone is 831-425-7685.  Here’s their website: http://www.closetcapers.com/  I would recommend not waiting until the last minute and set aside some time as it probably will take time to adjust things.  You should consider calling ahead and give Rebecka (or her assistant) some idea about who you’re interested in being.  Obviously, the earlier you set something aside, the more choices you’ll have. 

In 2017, Rebecka and her partner Don joined us for our weekend, and they dressed up – oh, my goodness DID they!  Since it was not fair for them to be in the post-Castle contest, they assisted us in measuring the informal “applause-meter” to identify the most popular.

Costumes are completely voluntary – If you have no interest, desire, energy or inspiration to dress up for the Castle evening, that’s perfectly OK.  You will still be able to express your opinions at dinner that evening. 


Annie Lydon grazing in one of the most extensive Christmas stores at the Cambria Christmas Market.

Annie Lydon grazing in one of the most extensive Christmas stores at the Cambria Christmas Market.

A Note About the Weather: 
Sure, it will be December. And it might rain. We will proceed with this adventure regardless of the weather. What could be more fun than being in a cozy room at the Lodge? 

Warning – cold up on the hill – Regardless of the weather, the Hearst Castle sits up on a 1,600 foot hill, and it is always COLD.  Sometimes colder than that.  This past 2017 visit, it was crystal clear, but it was cold and WINDY.  Many of the group members were a tad underdressed.  As always, I wore long underwear and was pretty warm, but that wind was fairly brisk.  Fortunately the tour focuses on the interior of the Castle, which the State keeps warm for its visitors.

Refunds:
Up to October 1, 2018 – A full refund and it is simple.  Just send me an e-mail (salydon@aol.com), and tell me you wish to cancel your reservation.  We do not reverse credit card charges because fees are involved.  The only way we will provide a refund is by check, and it usually takes us two weeks to process the check.  But, before October 1 you get it all back.

October 1 to November 15, you can get 50% of your money refunded as we will already be making reservations with our vendors.  Or you can substitute someone else in your places, but they must be over 21.  If we’ve maintained a waiting list, and those waiting are still interested, we might be able to transfer the registration to them.  But, no guarantees.

November 15 to Departure – No refunds and no substitutions.  Non-refundable payments will have been made to vendors, and rooming and passenger lists sent.  After November 15, you’re either in or not, but no refund is possible.

To register, click here.