Through Unusual Channels Part I
Although Jas and I will be going on a more glamorous vacation later this summer, we couldn’t let our anniversary pass without some sort of excursion. As it was his turn to plan our anniversary celebrations, Jason arranged a getaway to Santa Barbara, somewhere neither of us had been. It was a trip of some noteworthiness, with all the beauty and danger that trees and rocks can provide. Plus, it offered plentiful opportunities to partake of mankind’s architectural and culinary achievements.
I was up past 3:00 AM the night before we left for Santa Barbara working on my last paper of the semester but I still managed to get ready for our departure on time. The universe took pity on me in my weary state and we got upgraded to first class on our flight out. Thanks universe!
If you don’t know Santa Barbara from Santa Bill, Santa Barbara is located about two hours up the coast from Los Angeles. It’s famous for its Mediterranean vibe and distinctive architecture. On our first day there, we sought out some of that cool construction.
Visiting a courthouse while on vacation may sound about on par with studying government regulations for kicks but the Santa Barbara Courthouse is not your typical law and order. Built in 1929, this historic structure was designed extravagantly in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. We explored its bell tower, which afforded 360-degree views of the town’s urban sprawl and marine splendor, and went on a guided tour of the entire complex.
We next stopped by the Old Mission. The Old Mission was founded in 1786 and is still home to a group of Franciscan friars. Sadly, we were just a couple minutes too late to do a self-guided tour of the building and grounds but we made ourselves feel better by wandering along Butterfly Beach. As far as consolation prizes go, Butterfly Beach was pretty fantastic.
The next day, we boated out to Channel Islands National Park and kayaked around Santa Cruz Island. The events of that adventure deserve separate attention, which they will get next week. So, for now, I will move forward in time and back to land.
Our final day in Santa Barbara, Jason and I went on a 90-minute tour of Lotusland, a charming 37-acre garden with unique ambiance. It was once the personal park of Madame Walska, an opera singer from Europe, and therefore exhibits more drama than one usually gets from flora. Lotusland is famous for its cycads. It has over 900 specimens of these rare evergreens, which are the dinosaurs of the plant world. But the cycads weren’t the only vegetation that wowed us. Lotusland was exotic, striking, and serene. We loved it!
The Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, a private beach club, was where we spent the rest of our afternoon. I must admit, it was rather uppity but, pretentiously posh or not, it was the perfect place to be on the beach without being subject to the wind’s whims. Panes of glass, which blocked the little-too-enthusiastic breeze, were the only things between us and the enormity of the ocean. And I actually got to read words in a book that weren’t assigned to me while we lounged. Yippee!
My favorite aspect of traveling is experiencing new things, including new food. So I was thrilled that Santa Barbara did not disappoint our taste buds. We ate at an unpresumptuous Mexican joint called Los Agaves and got served the best mole enchiladas we’ve ever eaten. At The Palace Grill, a place with Mardi Gras pizazz, I consumed more crawfish in one meal than I’ve devoured the rest of my life combined. At Bouchon, we sampled French cuisine with local flair. The strawberry mouse and blueberry-lemon upside-down cake were our favorite parts of that meal. On our actual anniversary, we dined alfresco at Bella Vista and stuffed ourselves to the rhythmic incursions of the ocean.
Santa Barbara was peaceful, classy, tasty, and… completely nuts. I will get to the nutty side of our trip next week. Try not to explode with anticipation before then. I hate having to pick up the pieces of too-eager readers.