Hi there, guys and dolls! Today, I’m California Dreaming. I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite places and things to do in the Santa Barbara region. Andrea and Heather, the two behind yours truly, Barbara Jean Coast, have spent many a time in the area over the past fifteen or so years, and have discovered some favorite haunts that have inspired and thrilled them, and in turn, gave me a sense of place. Now, they’ve visited the modern day region, and that’s what I’m going to chat about today, but sitting on the beaches and strolling through the neighborhoods gave their minds time to breathe and create, giving life to the fictional Santa Lucia of the 50’s/60’s which makes up the Poppy Cove series.
Our trip today is basically a love letter to the entire region and I’m sure to those of you who live and/or visit there, you have your own affection for certain events and places. I’ve got more to mention than I have time and place to do here, but I hope you do enjoy some of the vignettes I have a yearning to give to you.
On quite a few of their stays, the girls (Andrea and Heather, that is) have lodged at the Carpinteria Inn. It’s modest, but lovely. The inner courtyard has a fountain, terracotta tiles, balconies, garden, perfect for a glass of wine or two. The beach in Carpinteria is one of the cleanest and safest in the region, with just enough population to make people watching interesting and fun without over crowding. Be sure to catch the breakfast surfer crowd at Esau’s and the old school steakhouse dining at Clementine’s — it’ll make you think vintage era with delicious homemade food and ginormous servings. Take the time to wander about the town. Linden Avenue has lots to offer and gives you that old small town feel.
Whenever possible, take the secondary routes, bypassing the freeway. The PCH will take you past some lovely beaches that you can just park your ride and hit the sand, wandering for hours. Also the scenic routes such as Santa Claus and Padero Lanes will take you by some dreamy estates that will make you swoon. On the other side of the highway, there’s Summerland, with some delightfully quaint antique and curio shops that’ll make you wonder where the time went.
Santa Barbara itself is a jewel. The lovely east and west beaches, bucolic and peaceful climate, with the Spanish/Mediterranean inspired architecture is sigh-worthy. Be sure to visit on a Sunday and take in the Arts and Crafts Show along West Beach. Set against nature’s backdrop, it is a true joy to wander around and see beautiful artwork and talk to talented artists and creators. More than one or two works have gone home with the girls, which keeps them dreaming and planning till their next visit. Also the Italian Pottery Outlet has some great pieces and sets — so colorful and lively! There are so many wonderful places to mention, but a great day can be had by picking up a gourmet sandwich or two with sides and a beverage from Pierre Lafond up on State, strolling down and around Stearns Wharf, then sitting down on the sand or at the Botanic Garden for an alfresco meal.
Another fun adventure is to take State Route 154, the San Marcos Pass, that winds up into the mountains, by Lake Cachuma. The dramatic scenery and challenging turns make it a fun ride! Hang a left and swing into Solvang, a fun little Danish village. They’ve got a great bookstore called The Book Loft right on Mission Drive and terrific kitschy shops of souvenirs, sweets and memorabilia that can absorb an afternoon like nobody’s business. Book yourself overnight and return to Santa Ynez, about 4 miles away, and do yourself a big “good for me!” A gem of a restaurant called Trattoria Grappolo is there and they make Italian food in their own rustic tradition. Homemade pastas, sauces, everything from scratch and the owners, Daniele Serra and Leonardo Curti (who is also the Chef) are delightfully charming and easy on the eyes 😉 — sorry can’t resist!
So there you have it, folks! A delightful insight to some of the places to be when in the Santa Barbara and surrounds. I know, there is so much more to tell, but a girl has to keep some secrets and give you just a little info to hopefully inspire you all to make your own adventures in the real Santa Barbara area.