Bienvenue chez Petit Soleil… (California ’11 – #5)


Would I enjoy San Luis Obispo as much if we weren’t staying at Petit Soleil ? Probably. Still, after driving several hours along Highway 1 and then Highway 101, it was truly special to unpack our bags in… Provence!

When I booked our room over the Internet a few weeks ago, I thought I would surprise and entertain Le Husband and Junior. I was not planning to travel back to France in the heart of San Luis Obispo. Petit Soleil is one of the hotels sitting on the side of busy Monterey Street, the main access road into SLO. There is a lot of traffic on that road, but as soon as you park your car and step into the cobblestone courtyard, you are in for a pleasant surprise!

Follow me inside. The gurgling sound of a pretty fountain welcomes you. Walk a few steps to the main entrance signaled by the sign “Accueil” (Information). Push the front door. The reception desk stands on the left, and  you are greeted by a friendly hostess. Check in is fast and efficient. There are 15 rooms and 1 suite chez Petit Soleil, and each room has a different theme and color. “Tournesol” (sunflower) is our room. Other names include “Chocolat“, “Van Gogh“, “Joie de Vivre” and my personal favorite, “Cochon” (pig)!

Tournesol” is located on the second floor of the main building, and has two queen-size beds. Owners John and Dianne Conner have traveled extensively in Europe and they have worked very hard at recreating a feeling of European comfort in the heart of SLO. Dianne knows all the local wine tasting rooms and she was more than happy to recommend a few wine makers in the Paso Robles area, 30 minutes away from here.


Main entrance
The enamel sign on our bedroom door

The rooms seem authentic because like a lot of French hotel rooms, they are on the small side. Not to worry. They  come with two very comfortable queen beds (“Best beds on this trip so far, said Le Husband, and that includes the Westin Saint Francis“), with colorful bed linens in Provençal fabric, and an antique dresser for storage.

The attention to detail in “Tournesol“, and I suspect in all the other rooms, is in-cro-ya-ble. The walls are painted a bright green and yellow, and the sunflower motif is everywhere, on the bedspread, on the heavy drapes, on the paintings adorning the walls, in the bathroom. I can’t imagine how much effort went into decorating each room! Talking about the bathroom, it comes with a generous supply of French bath products by L’Occitane.

At night, turn down is a special treat: The pillow sitting on each bed said: “Bonjour” when we arrived. When we return to the room after dinner, it has been flipped over to read “Bonne Nuit” (good night). A little (French?) elf also left three enormous chocolate truffles on the bed.

We go to bed listening to French music (several CDs sit on the bedside table). Next to the  CD player, I found a well-used guest book where American and foreign visitors have left enthusiastic comments since 2003. A French guest wrote: “We expected corny and even worse, tacky – the Provençal style can be so overdone – but we felt right at home chez Petit Soleil. Merci.” My sentiment exactement.

Life in Provence is spent outdoors and Petit Soleil offers a relaxing patio in the back of the building. Every evening, from 5:00pm to 6:30pm, guests are treated to some amuse-bouches (appetizers) and wine tasting. The friendly staff is happy to recommend local restaurants for dinner. Junior had a great time taking pictures of the patio for me. It turns out he is a much better photographer than I am. Looking at some of his photos, I notice once again the pride of ownership and attention to detail prevalent chez Petit Soleil.


Le Patio
Apéritif is served daily on the charming patio
Breakfast includes a buffet, and a choice of two daily entrées made with local products

Blue window boxes overflow with bright geraniums

Petit Soleil is not a luxury property. It sits by a busy street and I could hear cars zooming by on and off last night. It is not for everyone, but I know a few francophiles out there (you know who you are!) who would love staying here for a few nights. At just under $200 a night (including late afternoon appetizers/wine tasting and a very generous breakfast), it is a lot cheaper to stay chez Petit  Soleil than to fly to Provence… and San Luis Obispo is right outside your door!

Bonne journée!

Véronique - France with Véro
Véronique of France with Véro

Véronique of France with Véro

Vero shares her homeland weekly on social media with virtual tours, photo essays, live events and other publications at France with Vero. Learn more.

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