I intended to use my summers off (I’m a teacher) to travel, but this summer has been a a stay-cation because I just moved back to Southern California after three years in Massachusetts. Yesterday, I soaked in the culture and the sights of Santa Barbara – a beach city with a rich history.
I started at the Old Mission Santa Barbara, which was built by the Spanish Franciscans in 1786 for the Catholic conversion of the Chumash Native Americans and to colonize California territory. I spent $6 and 40 minutes on a self-guided tour, passing through the Sacred Garden, into the Cemetery Garden (which contains the burials sites of early settlers and Native Americans), into the Church (with Mexican art influences), and ending in the Museum and Shop.
There is a magnificent rose garden at the open, grassy park in front of the Mission. It engages all of your senses: I spontaneously pulled over and parked because the sight of it caught my eye as I was driving away. What really got me were the sweet scents wafting through as I walked through I walked through the grassy paths weaving through the several different types of roses. I felt the sunshine on my skin: 80 degrees and clear blue skies – just the beginning of a perfect SoCal summer day.
Then I went to the Karpeles Manuscript Library (free admission!), a true treasure of original manuscripts from history, literature, art, and sciences. I spent about 40 minutes perusing manuscripts from Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, and America’s founding fathers. I also happened to be there while they were putting in Mark Twain’s work (they rotate exhibits every two months, through their eight locations throughout the USA). Fun fact: the man who was changing the exhibits told me that they are kept in 50% humidity — in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, the characters in the archive claim their is 0% humidity to preserve the documents. But that would make the papers too brittle! (I haven’t checked this yet).
Afterwards, I walked State Street – seven miles of shops in Downtown Santa Barbara. There are many galleries and museums to see, plazas and paseos to shop and eat, as well as several theatres for entertainment. My favorite shop, of course, was The Book Den. It is California’s oldest used bookstore, but also has new and out-of-print books. State Street ends at Stearns Wharf – an active pier with a beautiful beach, clear blue water, and a mountain in the background.
I ended my day at 1000 Steps Beach. (A misnomer, if “1000 steps” refers to the 150-step staircase to get there). I unknowingly went at high tide, so the waves came right up to the steps and I had to time it just right to scurry onto the little stretch of beach that was no more than 10 yards between the ocean and the cliffs that provide a mostly secluded atmosphere.
What has been your favorite day trip getaway?
My two worlds have had a tug-of-war on my heart recently:
west coast vs east coast
sun vs snow
palm trees vs powder
old vs new
But that’s not the point. There’s something about this season: the eager anticipation, the over-decorating, the giving and getting, the emphasis on being with the ones you love…It doesn’t matter where I am, Christmas holds a magic all its own.