Rediscovering Santa Barbara, Part II

IMG_0218

Santa Barbara is so much fun. We enjoyed the food, the surf, the history, the shopping, and the sunshine. When my friend UK Sarah chose it for our USA adventure I was not sure there was enough to do. It had been a few years since I last visited. I need not have wasted a moment worrying about getting bored.

One morning we drove up to Lake Cachuma and saw the terrifying impact of the lingering drought on the lake levels. Otherwise we found plenty to occupy ourselves right in Santa Barbara–almost all within a few miles from our lodgings at the uber comfortable Harbor House Inn.

IMG-20160527-WA0006

The person checking us in recommended we make a reservation at Toma Restaurant and Bar. We are so glad we did. We dressed for dinner and walked the short 2 blocks to the restaurant. We were quickly seated and met our waiter Stephen. He noticed Sarah’s accent and began teasing her and she dished it right back. The food was wonderful but the highlight was when he sprinkled rose petals across the white table cloth and served a dish to “the Queen.’ We were all broad smiles by the time we finished our after dinner coffee. The food is Mediterranean inspired and one of the most elegant and delicious meals I have enjoyed anywhere in California. At the time I am writing this post, Toma is the number 1 rated restaurant in Santa Barbara on TripAdvisor.

We also enjoyed authentic spicy tacos at Lilly’s Taqueria and coffee more than once at Santa Barbara Roasting Company. On the final night we decided to drive up the coastline a mile or so to the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. I devoured the most delicious crab legs. I only dare eat seafood (and then just crab) once a year as I often get hives. When I saw an order going by I knew I had to have them tonight. We dined outside and enjoyed the million dollar view of the sea and the beach.

We found time to explore a premium stationery shop and a used bookstore, to read and to nap. With the Inn’s bicycles we had more freedom to explore independently. We also cycled together to the trail’s end at the shore. We could have kept going away from the coastline but chose to turn around and explore the pier instead.

I can easily imagine spending a week in Santa Barbara. Our king room at the Inn had a kitchen so we could prep some meals at home for a change of pace. Everything, except getting there, is so easy. In fact, Santa Barbara epitomizes relaxed elegance.

Rediscovering Santa Barbara, Part I

IMG_0219Santa Barbara is a great place to visit but because it is awkward to get there from Sacramento I had not visited in years. Until UK Sarah selected it as our destination for our US adventure this year. It was an absolute joy from the food to the lodging to the variety of activities available. Then this is always a beach if you just want to veg.

The hardest part was navigating to and from LAX for the all important pick up and drop off to Air New Zealand. LA traffic. Need I expound?

It took us a little over 3 hours to drive north from our breakfast stop in Santa Monica. We were not in a hurry and the views are at times lovely. We were there before fire season thankfully. The sky was gray in the morning followed by a lovely blue in the afternoon. The temperature was perfect for walking in the botanic gardens and cycling along the waterfront.

IMG_0220
We stayed at the Harbor House Inn conveniently located with bicycles for guests.

We stayed at the Harbor House Inn and found it easy to walk almost everywhere we wanted to go or to use the guest cycles to pedal to the downtown shopping or along the shore. The first night we walked to the harbor and enjoyed amazing chowder and seafood at Brophy’s. The next morning we walked around the corner to the only remaining (and original) Sambo’s restaurant. I have so many memories of breakfast and lunch with my grandparents Olson at the Santa Rosa Sambos. I had to relive this experience. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has changed… menu, decor, and politically incorrect name.

On our first full day we checked out the Old Mission Santa Barbara somewhat of a misnomer since it is still an active Catholic church. It is a great way to get grounded in the history of Santa Barbara.

After a refreshing break at the Daily Grind, we visited the beautiful Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The warm afternoon had us seeking the shadier walks and moving just a little slower. There is an interesting early water irrigation system and some beautiful old trees.

IMG_0280

You may also reach Santa Barbara by train. One of the other group of guests at our Inn had walked a couple of blocks from the train station with their luggage. Almost everything is walkable or biking distance from the Inn so it makes a completely viable car-free option.