Santa Barbara, California

Photo: Montecito Inn
Photo: Montecito Inn

Good morning, Santa Barbara. After grabbing the newspaper left in front of your door and pulling back the drapes, you returned to your very comfortable bed. But now you’re having trouble focusing on the news given your beautiful surroundings. Your room, with soft pastels and black-and-white photographs, is both cozy and stylish. Warm sunlight is streaming through large corner windows. Red-tiled roofs, overflowing flower boxes, and fat bumblebees are just outside. Plus the steep Santa Ynez Mountains are in the distance. Politics can wait.

You’re staying in Montecito, the most upscale neighborhood in Santa Barbara. The downtown area is just three miles to the west. The beach is only a few blocks away. While you are staying at the Montecito Inn, a boutique hotel seeped in history. The whitewashed building was constructed in 1928 by Charlie Chaplin. The Hollywood legend, needing an escape from show business, found beauty and solitude 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles along the Pacific coast. He must have picked the right spot, because you certainly agree.

So go enjoy the Mediterranean-like weather already. Find hot coffee among the fresh flowers and the movie posters in the lobby. A light breakfast is served next to the light-filled windows. Swim in the pool and sit in the hot tub by the palm trees outside as you try to decide how to spend the day. You could check out the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, the museums, and the theaters downtown. You could drive along the coast, known as the American Riviera, and taste Pinot Noirs at nearby vineyards. Or you could hang out at Stearns Wharf, which was the largest deep-water pier on the West Coast when it was built in 1872, and board a boat in search of killer whales and sea lions.

Photo: Montecito Inn
Photo: Montecito Inn

Santa Barbara, as you quickly discover, is one of the most beautiful places in California. The city sits along a south-facing coastline between the mountains and the sea. Spanish missionaries first arrived here in 1782 and built the Presidio of Santa Barbara, the last military post built by Spain in the New World. The land was only Spanish until the Mexican War of Independence in 1822, though, to this day, many street names still reflect this time period. By 1848, Santa Barbara became part of the rapidly expanding United States.

By late in the afternoon, you find yourself drifting back toward Montecito and the beach. Butterfly Beach, to be exact. This palm-lined beach isn’t full of water activities like West Beach or families like East Beach. It’s gorgeous, peaceful, and, if possible for a beach, elegant. The silhouettes of a few joggers are up ahead. A happy goldendoodle bounces toward the small waves. The remains of a little sandcastle are being flooded by the incoming tide. Plus the tables at a beachfront café are starting to fill up with people hoping for a perfect sunset. Given the way the day started, you have no doubt what’s ahead.

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