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Once upon a time, I lived in Santa Barbara. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful, romantic, places in the United States.
I love everything about the town, even it's faults (and there aren't many). I love it when the weather is crystal clear with the mountains jutting up barely inland from the beach. I love it when I wake up and the coast is socked in with heavy "beach fog" and I know it will be a cozy sweater morning with a hot cup of coffee beside me.
Santa Barbara is home to the exceptionally wealthy (Oprah and countless other celebrities). It is also, with it's mild weather, a haven for the homeless.
It is a very difficult to afford to live in Santa Barbara if you are, financially, between those two extremes.
Downtown State Street is irresistible, bustling with tourists and locals alike. The shops are expensive and exclusive for the most part, but so charming it's difficult not to indulge at least a little bit. Purchasing a coffee at the Santa Barbara Roasting Company while perusing the shops in Paseo Nuevo is a treat in itself. Delectable aromas emanate from a large variety of superb, local eateries.
Sigh! I love the town. Can you tell?
For those of you who have read Twenty Four At Heart even for a short period of time, you know I need the beach. I truly need to walk the sand, smell the salt air, hear the waves crashing, etc. in order to refresh my spirit. Over the years I've found when nothing else will do the trick, it's time for me to head up the coast for a weekend in Santa Barbara. No matter what is going on in my life, I always return feeling renewed, centered, and at peace.
Last weekend I enjoyed a leisurely drive up the coast. I stopped along the way to visit with family and arrived mid-afternoon in Santa Barbara. Wandering the shops downtown was first on the agenda. It was a beautiful afternoon and the outdoor mall was crowded. I am in town frequently enough to notice when new shops arrive or old favorites disappear. My friends and I were quickly assaulted by the pungent odor of cheese as we strolled past the new Cheese Shop.
Having digested little beyond coffee the entire day, we were quickly lured inside. The owner of the shop (he also owns the original store in Carmel) immediately took us under his wing. We spent an hour in the store "cheese tasting." (They also offer wine tasting but I needed to drive so I passed on the wine.) When we left, we were carrying a bag of seven small wedges of assorted cheeses from all over the world, a new cheese knife, two varieties of salami, a bottle of wine, wine glasses, crackers, and a wine opener.
We headed straight for the beach.
Honestly, what could be better than throwing a blanket down and relaxing by the ocean? The day was spectacular, the company was fantastic, the assortment of snacks delicious. It was my perfect late afternoon/early evening. (Well, no sex, but other than that!)
Adding to the enchantment, a wedding took place right on the beach as we sat there. The bride was beautiful in a breathtaking dress and bare feet.
When the wine was depleted we stayed and enjoyed the sunset. Eventually we packed up the snacks and went into town to meet friends for dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful Italian meal at Pascucci. The entire day was fantastic.
Every Sunday morning there is an arts and crafts fair along the beach in Santa Barbara. The mornings are often foggy and cool. I love to grab a coffee and walk for miles in the cool morning air. Enjoying the artists wares in booth after booth makes for a relaxing, entertaining morning.
Along with observing the art, the people watching is also fantastic. Santa Barbara is an eclectic community. I love when I run into some of the 60's folks who came to Santa Barbara many decades ago and never left.
Before ending my weekend, I made a point of walking out on Stearns Wharf. The pier holds an assortment of shops and restaurants. I love to stroll the pier because a visit to Santa Barbara isn't complete unless I've had a chance to spend a little time with my favorite birds. I always seem to find a few pelicans hanging out at the end of the pier.
Pelicans are sweet, endearing animals (unless you're trying to fish). Once I spent a little time visiting with the pelicans, I knew I couldn't procrastinate any longer. It was time to return home. Sigh!