Living “La Vie en Rose”

Ten years ago, my husband Gregory and I discovered a bed and breakfast on the central coast of California that was so nice, we said that if we ever travelled in the area again, we had to stay there.

So this year when we drove from Huntington Beach to Monterey, we decided to break our journey half way and stay once more at Petit Soleil, “a touch of European charm in the heart of San Luis Obispo.”

Petit Soleil is not a typical bed and breakfast with a couple of rooms in someone’s home. Owners John and Dianne Conner (whose backgrounds include hotel management and wine sales) renovated a former motel over 12 years ago and turned it into what feels more like a family-run inn. It has 15 rooms on two floors, with a breakfast room and patio.

What makes this place so delightful is that even though it is located in a busy city, Petit Soleil feels as if you’ve stepped across the ocean into a charming French country inn in Provence.

The walls are painted a sunny yellow, and the vibrant red, green and blue colours of southern France are all around you. A cobbled courtyard entrance greets visitors with a whimsical bicycle, fountain and handcart; flowers spill over window boxes and grace each of the bistro tables; and classic French songs play quietly in the background.

Each guest room has a French-inspired motif and is decorated in that style. For example, on our last visit, we stayed in the van Gogh room (decorated with details about the artist); this visit we stayed in the Herbes de Provence room (celebrating lavender and gardening). A few days later, on our way back from Monterey, we stayed another night, this time in the Cote d’Azur room (with charming French seaside furnishings).

The Gallic theme is so well executed that it came as a surprise to find out that John and Dianne are not French at all and do not even speak the language. John says the whole idea was dreamed up over several bottles of wine and that Dianne came up with all the decorating concepts. However, he says it has been a wonderful twelve years, and he absolutely loves being a B&B host.

He and his wife are on site in the mornings to help their staff with breakfast and to chat with the guests. You can sit in the sunny breakfast room or on the open-air patio. Breakfast is usually a choice of a savory egg dish or a sweet bread-based dish. The days we were there, we had broccoli and feta quiche, leek and chèvre strata, French toast with blackberries, and banana and pecan pancakes. Gregory and I usually had one of each so we could taste the other dish.

Why did we like this place so much? I think it’s because it was consistent in its theming with great attention to detail and was a great place to look at (I sometimes felt John and Dianne had brought a painting to life, and we were living in it). It also had a great feel and ambiance that made us relax. Ultimately, it was the warm friendliness of the owners and staff who were genuinely glad to make our visit the best ever. As we heard one guest say, “I wish I could live here.”

We felt much the same way, and our one night stay turned into three. Why stay elsewhere when this was so nice?

For more information about Petit Soleil Bed et Breakfast, visit www.petitsoleilslo.com