The end of another great travel year is upon us and it's time to look back and reflect upon the California adventures that have taken us from the sea to the mountains to the valleys...well, let's just say we would have no trouble writing a song and calling it "California, the Beautiful."
In our travels up, down and across the Golden State, we've made many discoveries over the past year. And, like previous years, we are devoting the last column of the year to handing out the coveted Cary Awards -- our picks for the best, most unique and most memorable of our many California getaways during 2005.
So without further delay, may we have the envelopes, please?
The Best Big City Hotel in a Small Town award goes this year to an Atascadero hotel that has been polished up to pass muster with the most discriminating of travelers -- those visiting the many wineries near Paso Robles. The Carlton Hotel is just as upscale as the finest Napa lodgings, yet the town of Atascadero is a simple, laid-back every-day small town with nary a designer clothing store in sight. The Carlton originally opened in 1929 and was a magnet for celebrities such as Jack Benny, Bette Davis, Fred McMurray and Dick Powell. The renovation has created 52 individually designed guestrooms with such features as marble bathrooms, deep whirlpool baths, oversized bath towels, high thread-count cotton sheets. The result: This hotel now feels more like a swank downtown San Francisco hotel than a country inn. Visit www.the-carlton.com.