We have just returned from a mini-trip. Dave had a print in the “Beautiful My Desire” show at Wallspace Gallery and wanted to head down to Santa Barbara to attend the opening. So we packed up the Rav4 instead of the Lazy Daze, a nice change, and headed south on a beautiful day. We had lunch at the Paso Robles Inn in Paso Robles and stretched our legs afterwards, walking around the koi pond and the nicely landscaped grounds.
Dave had booked Hotel Indigo as our 2-day abode in Santa Barbara. It’s a new, European-style hotel, sleek and glossy. European-style means really tiny rooms with about 2 feet of space around the king-size bed. In the bathroom, a glass door lay against the middle of the open shower area. When it was time for the daily ablutions, you pulled it out against the toilet to enclose the shower. Interesting. Our room looked directly out at the railroad station. We thought that might be a problem but the windows kept out most of the noise and there were no trains going by during the night. If you choose to come to Santa Barbara by train, Hotel Indigo is as convenient as you can get.
Although the room was tiny, the hotel has created several public spaces that are wonderful for relaxing and meeting other people. Some of the amenities really impressed me. On the second floor landing, a vertical wall of greenery sucks CO2 out of the area. There is a library area with two comfortable chairs, good lighting and two bookshelves filled with art books. There are also are two small outdoor patios, outfitted with comfortable couches, pillows and tables; great places to enjoy afternoon coffee or a glass of wine. We enjoyed these hotel extras. If I sound like I’m gushing, I am. I love our Lazy Daze motorhome, but it is very nice to experience a different environment now and then.
After exporing Hotel Indigo, we walked over to Wallspace Gallery, 3 blocks away. Crista Dix is the gallery founder and director. We found her, surrounded by large boxes, hanging the show. We left her to mull over what goes where and went exploring. Hotel Indigo is on State Street, the main drag in Santa Barbara. It happened to be the First Thursday Artwalk that night, with many art galleries staying open late and offering tastes of Santa Barbara wines. The first gallery we visited was about a mile up from the hotel. And the shopping area just continued on for at least another mile. We sailed past Saks Fifth Avenue, Old Navy, Macy’s, Forever 21 and dozens of restaurants. The Museum of Art was also open for Artwalk and we perused a couple of galleries in there, enjoying a selection of Impressionist works collected by Armand Hammer. We decided on dinner at Tupelo Junction Café. I had Pecan-Crusted Trout with Sweet Potato-Crab Hash and crisp wonderful Haricot Verts. After walking back to the hotel in the crisp air, we had dessert in our room: selections from our second box of Christmas See’s Candy.
On Friday, we set off on our own idiosyncratic tour of Santa Barbara. First off was the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. We saw few birds but quite a few homeless men getting ready for the day. We then went to the Santa Barbara Cemetery with some of the best ocean views around. We could hear sea lions barking and saw the oil rigs out in the channel. Next was Frog Alley on Paterna Road, one of those casual creations where people leave toy frogs of all kinds along a wall. We then went downhill to the Santa Barbara Mission, reconstructed after a big earthquake, but beautifully painted. Tired out, we returned to the hotel and read and relaxed for a couple of hours.
We attended the opening at Wallspace Gallery and talked awhile with Ann Jastrab, the curator of the show. Then Crista gave us a great suggestion – get dinner at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. It’s a small casual place at the tail-end of Stearns Wharf with heavenly crab cakes. And only a short 3-block walk from the hotel. Walking back along the pier after dinner, the lights on the water were lovely.
Our final meal in Santa Barbara was breakfast at the original Sambo’s Restaurant, a nice little place with outside seating looking over the palms and beach. They still bring a carafe of coffee to your table to pour at your own convenience. I spent many hours at Sambo’s in Lafayette, CA with some of my college friends.
After loading everything back into the car, we blundered our way out of Santa Barbara and headed north. We stopped at Pismo Beach at the Monach Butterfly Grove. The grove had several large trees but only one contained all the butterflies. Because it wasn’t sunny, they hung on the trees with their wings closed and brown. So huddled together – it was a strange sight.
After that we walked to the beach, quite busy considering the weather wasn’t that nice. There was a huge ring around the sun and we tried to photograph that. The light was wonderful.
The weather got grayer as we continued up to Morro Bay. We checked into a much less interesting motel with the dreariest patio I’ve ever seen, with high gray walls and one plastic chair, topped with a slate gray sky. We had a late lunch and drove over to Morro Rock, a huge formation that isn’t photographable except from a distance. Surfers were trying to catch waves but weren’t too impressive. The weather got chillier and darker so we returned back to the hotel to veg.
Dinner time rolled around and it was raining when we went in search of the restaurant we had picked out. It was no longer functional so we tried another place that had a long wait and ended up at a little fish place. We had calamari, crab cakes and ahi salad. Very fishy!
Rain was still pouring down the next morning, but started to clear as we left. The first 20 miles took us 3 hours to traverse. We stopped at Cambria for a couple of sandwiches to take out and then found Moonstone Beach, a long beautiful beach fronted by a boardwalk. As we connected back onto 101, Dave noticed zebras grazing alongside cattle. I surmised they were part of the zoo that William Randolph Hearst had created years ago.
Our next stop was Point Piedras Blancas where Sea Lions come to mate and pup in the winter. What a sight! Almost every female was about to pup or already had a small black pup close to her. We would have been there a lot longer but the stiff chilly wind convinced us to move on. After another stop to eat lunch and another stop to go to the bathroom, we were ready to zoom up to Monterey. Well, not exactly. We made quite a few stops to photograph the spectacular coastal scenery. We got into Monterey around 4:30, having taken 6 hours to go 120 miles. Our typical type of travel day. We were tired and there was no very helpful information on where to get dinner. We opted for P.F. Chang’s, a nearby Chinese restaurant. Good enough.
Monday we got up and out quickly to reach the Monterey Bay Aquarium at opening time. It was great: sparsely populated, we could wander and photograph at will. Our first stop was the jellyfish – magical, other-worldly creatures. Then onto the Seahorses. Such variety and colors. Docents are full of interesting facts, such as that seahorses do elaborate courting dances and that it is the male that carries and “gives birth to” the young. Weird…. The fish were also fascinating in their swimming patterns, particularly sardines and anchovies. My sparkly black scarf fascinated a puffin, who swam back and forth so fast I couldn’t get a good shot. When we tired out, we ate lunch at the café and then headed home on Highway 1. It was a great trip.