November 13, 2009

Warm up this fall – take a trip to Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara’s gorgeous and very relaxing scenery is easy on an eye. Even South Californians appreciate the subtle aura of a laid back town, surrounded by mountains and wineries to north and Pacific Ocean on west, with a bit of everything in between.

What’s about this town?

Some might say it’s an “old people” town, but that’s because they don’t know that Santa Barbara is the home for about eight various college, institutes and universities, one of which is University of California Santa Barbara, which means – there is enough of night life and college bikini and surfer crowd. And of course, there are families and retirees, not to mention that one of the most powerful women in the country chose to have the estate she calls home in the suburbs of Santa Barbara. That would be Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Montecito is the place she calls home, when she is not filming The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago. Oprah paid $52 million for the 23,000+ sq.ft. Montecito California home in 2001, and it ain't devaluing.

Getting to Santa Barbara by car:

Santa Barbara is only about two hours away from Los Angeles to the north-west, and you can avoid the hassle of Los Angeles traffic - notorious to be the worst in the country – you don’t have to worry about your work clothes anymore. Santa Barbara is all about very casual outfits – flip flops, shorts and tank-top would do just fine. Even patrons at five-star restaurants overlook the fact that a man could wear no socks and a woman could have her hair loose, wet and sandy from the beach.

Even pedestrians are so relaxed that they don’t feel the need to rush through streets and j-walk on completely empty streets of the town. They just wait for the green light – “whenever it turns green, there is no hurry.”

As I’ve mentioned above, besides the fun crowds of very laid back people of all ages, Santa Barbara is the home of some of the well-known people in the country. Oprah Winfrey has her estate just north of Santa Barbara, in the suburbs – Montecito. If even she chooses to commute to this part of California, then it means the place is worth it.

At first glance the town is not as happening as you would expect, except for a few boutique stores and restaurants, but being the home to the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), Santa Barbara offers quite a few entertainment venues.

In the summer it becomes alive and loud during continuous Cinco de Mayo festivities (do not mind that it is officially a May holiday). The bars stay open all night to serve all you can eat tortilla chips with mean salsa and drinks that a chicana is happy to share with a gringo.

During the day, blissfully clean beaches and brave-to-the-point-of-arrogance seagulls are the main attractions for the locals – families with very blond kids, old couples with fancy walkers and students.

Santa Barbara accommodations:

I’d strongly suggest a bed and breakfast place. Check out for the listings here.

Santa Barbara “Must-Dos”:

- Explore the suburbs of Santa Barbara, which offer the views of very private multi-million homes.

- Take a surfing lessons from a local pro.

- Spend an afternoon at one of the local beaches watching seagulls, dolphins and happy families.

- Enjoy a seafood platter at one of the popular local spots - The Hungry Cat. The seafood is so fresh and delicious that it can even make your cat jealous.

- Take a stroll around the town's downtown, and do some window-shopping.

- Play golf.

- Fish, and feed the pelicans, who'd be eagerly watching you catch fish.

- Rent a bike and take a ride along the beach and in the neighborhoods - you won't be alone.

And one more thing – leave stress and all your means to communicate with the civilization – gadgets, at home, and treat this few-day trip as a getaway to a place where people speak the “surfer’s” language.

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