What comes to mind when you think of Santa Barbara? For me; nothing came to mind, until I had the opportunity to experience it in person. I hadn’t really heard much about Santa Barbara before my visit in early spring of 2010.
Flying out from Vancouver BC, I was oddly surprised there were no direct flights, so I flew into San Francisco with a connecting flight into Santa Barbara. The connector plane was something I would call a “puddle jumper”, a fairly small prop plane that was noisier than I was used to. Upon arrival into the Santa Barbara airport I saw a theme that would be consistent throughout the city – Spanish Colonial architecture with apparent height restrictions. I can’t recall seeing a building in Santa Barbara that was more than 5 or 6 stories tall, which ensured a lovely view from many vantage points. I arrived on a gorgeous sunny Wednesday afternoon with no specific agenda for the next four days, other than the desire to rent a bicycle and ride along the ocean front.
I checked into the lovely Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara and spent some time “chillaxing” on the rooftop terrace after I unpacked. Although the hotel is only a block off of the very busy State Street, you feel quite secluded up on the terrace. I had finally settled into a chilled vibe that I could enjoy for the next four days and decided to check out the local shopping scene.
Oh my, the Canary Hotel is located across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue – trouble. I was only in the store for 15 minutes and came out with my favorite new Prada hand bag and a pair of True Religion jeans, alright, that’s enough shopping for the weekend. I spent the rest of the afternoon strolling up and down State Street which housed a unique mixture of hip, trendy, hippy, artsy, designer and big box stores all on the same street. By early evening I was ready for some much needed happy hour snacks at Coast Restaurant back at my hotel. A must try is the crab cakes with corn salsa – delish!
The next morning I leisurely awoke just in time for my in room massage, which is something I would highly recommend. I am somewhat of a spa aficionado and had never considered an in room treatment before. My massage therapist was truly amazing and arrived with everything to make the environment “spa like” – including the relaxing “bird chirping, waves in the background” music. I literally spent the rest of the day and night in bed, watching in room movies and raiding the mini bar. I felt a tiny bit guilty for not leaving my room, that didn’t last very long – I was on a mini holiday and complete relaxation was in order.
The next day I had a very healthy breakfast at Coast Restaurant and headed straight to the beach, well, Stearns Warf actually. This is a definite tourist attraction that must not be missed. After a delicious clam chowder lunch at Moby Dick restaurant it was time for some sweet’s at Mother Stearns Candy Company. Luckily the sun was shining and it turned out to be a perfect day to stroll along the pier. It was time to burn off some of those lunch calories with a bicycle ride along the beach, there are a number of bike rental shops to choose from near Cabrillo Boulevard.
Friday afternoon I checked into the gorgeous Simpson House Inn, a bed and breakfast originally built in 1874. I must admit, having never experienced a bed and breakfast before and was somewhat apprehensive. I was nervous about being in such close proximity with other guests, strangers, essentially. Now I feel quite silly for having such ignorant thoughts, my experience was truly delightful and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit with the other guests, some visiting all the way from Paris.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted at the back of the ancient house in the stunning gardens and my luggage was promptly taken to my room while I had a tour of the main house. I literally felt like I was at “Grandma’s house”, the smell of fresh baking and the décor of antiques were so inviting. Of course the only polite thing to do was take a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade and cookies back to my room. I was staying in the Weather Vane room, which at one point was the hayloft in a barn, now converted with all the amenities needed. The theme of the room was also very 1874 and so completely cozy, that I couldn’t help but lounge around and read by the fireplace for a few hours. I found myself “hanging” around the main house during the day Saturday afternoon. I spent a few hours getting some work done in the main parlor next to the fireplace with the music softly playing in the background. I am sure the very welcoming Inn staff thought I was about to move in, I felt “at home” instantly.
The Simpson House Inn also has complimentary bicycles for their guests to use, so of course I had to take one and venture out. Although State Street is only a block and half away you truly feel like you are miles away from downtown and the neighborhood feel is fantastic. There is never shortage of homemade snacks and refreshments, evening orderves are served with a variety of Californian wines to sample.
Now what comes to mind when I think of Santa Barbara? Quaint, old town feel, and Spanish colonial architecture with some of the most amazing views, especially from the Court House. The vibe here is very relaxed and no one seems to be in a rush, which was a nice break from the everyday. If you are looking for a quiet weekend getaway with beaches, top notch restaurants and wine touring only minutes away I would highly recommend Santa Barbara. Both the Canary Hotel and Simpson House Inn will guarantee to satisfy a variety of tastes.