Friday, April 8, 2011

Merci, Weather-Gods! (California '11 - #8)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what palm trees
 and a California sky are supposed to look like!

I knew that rainy weather could not last. This is Santa Barbara after all. Thank you, Weather-Gods, for hearing my prayer last night. Mind you, you could have worked a little harder and warmed up temperatures too (56F at 11:00am hardly qualifies as Santa Barbara weather), but, hey, the sun is good enough. I'm from Seattle. I'm not that picky. 

We made the most of today, wearing fun new sweatshirts purchased at the local surf shop to fight off the chill in the air. The sweatshirts are very cozy and have fleece inside-- a fabric we are very familiar with in the Pacific Northwest. We tried to pick colors that would not look totally out of place in Seattle. How many people buy these fun Hawaiian prints on vacation only to realize later they have no place to wear them?

Anyhow, the day started in a small town near Santa Barbara, Carpinteria. We found a pristine beach, lined up by quaint little bungalows. Les Boys had fun playing Frisbee in the nearby park. 

I loved looking at the trees! We saw some of the tallest palm trees we have met on this trip. It turns out Carpinteria is well known for its giant palm trees! 

We walked around peaceful streets, lined up with beautiful parasol pine trees... 

There were also a few interesting homes... Look at this specimen. A famous actor was looking down on us from the second floor. Do you recognize him? There were also ceramic animals looking out each window, cats, dogs, owls... a real ménagerie

After a quick lunch in posh Montecito, we headed back to our home base, Santa Barbara. Before we left Montecito, I stepped in a boutique wearing my nicest denim jacket (adorned with a denim flower), jeans, a matching scarf, and still felt like "Pretty Woman" a.k.a. Julia Roberts when she goes shopping on Rodeo Drive and meets snotty sales people who give her the once-over. First time on this trip I ever felt so out of place. The only reason I got into the boutique was the name, "Maison K". Nothing in that store was French, and least of all the shopkeeper and her two customers. They would have looked overdressed even on Les Champs-Elysées! An interesting encounter with "Les Montecito Betties", certainly (better to stick to surf shops while I am down here).

Early afternoon, we braved the wind and took a long walk on the Santa Barbara pier where things were more laid-back.

Junior had fun looking at sailboats, the occasional seal, seagulls, and whatever it is that little boys enjoy looking at when they walk by the ocean...

"A cannon! Jackpot!"

Learning about that J. P. Stearns guy

"Where did that darn seagull go?"
La voilà!
We spent the rest of the day enjoying Santa Barbara. Some fun time in the hotel (outdoor) pool for Les Boys; some strolling downtown for moi.

For dinner, we could not resist and had to pick a local French bistro. The name is adorable : "Le Petit Valentien". They do not have a website, so I could not check their menus beforehand.  I was comforted by the fact that most online reviews of the place were promising.

1114 State Street and Figueroa - Santa Barbara
The restaurant is tucked away in a charming alleyway off of State Street, La Arcada. It is a very small room and reservations are highly recommended. The food is "fusion French", or French dishes with a creative twist! They gave us one of the two tables upstairs, overlooking the room. From there, we could watch the old Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall classic, "The Big Sleep", projected on the wall. Next to us was a guy playing the piano... Wonderful atmosphere. 

Le Petit Valentien (courtesy of Le Husband's iPhone)

Ah, Bogart!
Our friendly and efficient waiter was a Will Turner look-alike (that's Orlando Bloom, for the non-movie fans), lucky moi! The food was spectacular and prices more than fair for the neighborhood. I ordered frogs legs (lightly fried and served on a red pepper coulis), and an escargot-filled crêpeA French girl's got to do what a French girl's got to do, after all. 

Cuisses de grenouille - Crêpe aux escargots

Dessert came too early. So did the check. We could have all stayed longer. Le Husband and I decided that if we lived in Santa Barbara, le Petit Valentien would become our "cantina", an easy thing to do since menus change daily. 

We will be sad to leave California in the morning. This has been an excellent week, with visits to some old hunting grounds, but also surprises and discoveries along the way. Tomorrow, we will drive along the Coast towards Los Angeles, and will probably make a stop in Malibu. There is a mall there, and a playground, where Junior has played several times since he was born. It's become a family tradition and he will probably refuse to go back after this trip. He is getting older, you see. 

One last note to thank all our friends, in Seattle and elsewhere, who have emailed, called, or Facebook-ed (if that's a verb) their suggestions along the way. This trip was made all the more entertaining thanks to you. As for me, I have had a wonderful time telling the story of our travels along the California Coast. Several posts will be used, and edited, and (no doubt) improved during the travel writing class I am currently taking. 

Merci et à bientôt...

Au revoir, Californie!


  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed your trip to CA. You have given me ideas should Steve and I venture south. I'm glad you had such warm weather while it rained everyday in the NW! Alas...

  2. I lived in Santa Barbara and Montecito....thanks for the pleasant little trip back! ;)


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