By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer
One of the closest and most beautiful weekend jaunts from Los Angeles is Santa Barbara, CA. If there isn’t any traffic, and there never is in Los Angeles, the drive up the 101 will take you just about an hour. Once you arrive it is sunshine and fun all around. A couple of years back my lady and I became enamored with the bed and breakfast experience and discovered that Santa Barbara has some of the best around.
We recently enjoyed a stay at the Secret Garden Inn and Cottages. It’s an exceptional B&B within walking distance of State Street. The proprietor, Dominique, is a wonderfully nice lady originally from France who does a great job making you feel right at home. In fact, in the main living room are some of her paintings, and believe me, they will inspire you to paint. At the very least, you will want to break out the easel and recreate the Santa Barbara sunset, or a pretty bush you saw at the botanical gardens. Our home for the weekend was the Nightingale Cottage, which included a shady backyard patio with our very own Jacuzzi, which was absolutely lovely and extremely private. After a tough day of golfing at Glen Annie, my travel companion and I took a long soak, and it was just what the doctor ordered.
The two-room cottage — cozy, light-filled and beautifully furnished with antiques and unique art — also had an LCD-screen television and a fireplace, so after the therapeutic spa session we sat around with some of Santa Barbara’s finest wine and discussed our next day’s plans. There is so much to do in Santa Barbara, so going up for just one weekend will not give you enough time. Of course you will have to come back and visit again. The grounds and the property at the Secret Garden Inn are gorgeous, and if you decide to just sit outside on the patio and read a book, that would be ideal as well. As part of our trip, we did just that, enjoying coffee while watching the bees buzz and the hummingbirds dart around the beautiful blooming flowers. However, the weather is always so nice in Santa Barbara, so that could only last so long without us wanting to get up and go.
The mission in town has been crowned “Queen Of The Missions,” and once you see her, you will understand why. There is also a top-notch Natural History Museum close to the mission. Some of the exhibits in there are downright cool, especially the full skeleton or a blue whale that greets you at the entrance. Boy are those marine mammals large! The great thing about staying at B&Bs is that they cook you breakfast. How wonderful is it to not have to worry about that? Well Dominique must have brought some good recipes with her from France, because the breakfast is excellent. We had a tasty broccoli quiche which surprised me at first, because one does not think of broccoli as breakfast food. The toast and muffins were also delicious, and the perfect start to the day to give you enough energy to go tackle all the fun in Santa Barbara. If you have the time, and I suggest you make the time, definitely take a trip on a boat. There is a variety of companies and excursions to choose from depending on what you want to do.
We went whale watching with Sea Landing on the Condor Express, which took us out well past San Miguel and the other Channel Islands. The voyage was about five hours long, and we saw all sorts of marine mammals, including a “megapod” of dolphins that included new babies. There must have been thousands of them, a sight that I will always remember. We also took the time to go out on a sunset cruise on the Double Dolphin. We filmed the trip so we could show my family. Actually the hours and hours of footage have yet to be viewed, maybe we’ll have a showing this Thanksgiving. There are also charter boats for sport fishing in Santa Barbara, so definitely look into that. (www.secretgarden.com)