February 25 – April 5
It felt like it had been a while. It also felt like it was just yesterday, that we’d been walking the streets of Santa Barbara beneath the Santa Ynez ridge, gazing out over the Channel and distant islands.
It was good to be back, for sure. Again we found ourselves saying “this place isn’t real”.
We settled into our apartment just a few blocks west of State St and the downtown eateries and shops. The apartment itself left much to be desired, but the location was hard to beat. And we planned on spending most of our time out exploring new spots, and revisiting our favorites from last time.
Charley was pumped. What dog wouldn’t like Santa Barbara, with its beaches, parks, and outdoor restaurant seating full of fur-babies.
It felt right to get our bearings on a trail we’d frequented last year- the Cold Springs loop in the Montecito hills, overlooking the coast and Channel beyond. Our friend, Matt, from prior nursing assignments had landed a job at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital same as us, and was in town a few weeks before we got there. We met up and hit the Cold Springs loop for a few miles one evening a couple days after we arrived.
In order to get around, a bike is certainly a good option. The neighborhood is very walkable and bike-friendly, so we found Jamie a sharp-red 7-speed cruiser secondhand online. We were mobile and ready to roll through the streets downtown!
Part of what we love about traveling, after a few years, is the realization that although we’re “alone”, so are a bunch of other folks. We met a Rebecca through work orientation and she and her husband Loran were on their first assignment, having left their hometown in Georgia only weeks prior. We’ve been fortunate to meet so many great friends through our travels, with shared interests of adventuring and getting outside.
We took a trip to Ojai, an inland mountain town about an hour up over Casitas Pass southeast of Santa Barbara. Loran brought their dog Louie (they have three dogs!) and we brought Charley for a hike and lunch in town.
We met up with one of my old coworkers, Nicole, and her fiancee Connor a couple times as well. Nicole worked on my floor at Beth Israel in Boston when we returned there in 2020 for a travel assignment. We linked up a couple times since then, after she and Connor moved out to Ventura last year, about 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara.
They showed us around Ventura for an evening, hitting some trails in Arroyo Verde Park and getting dinner on the pier.
We also took a trip up to Los Olivos with them one afternoon, in the Santa Ynez Valley. Lined with wineries and vineyards, the valley is a great day trip for any wine lover.
We returned to familiar spaces, with unfamiliar feels. For one, the businesses were thriving when we returned this time. Last time Covid had many business reducing their hours, moving to takeout only, or simply closing their doors.
In another sense, everything was more green this time. On our hikes, walks on the bluffs on the mesa, and through town, the flora was healthy and happy. We still can’t seem to figure out the seasons here, as our last stint was Oct-Jan and this one is Feb-May. There’s always some trees or flowers blooming year round, and they all just seem to take their turn.
Last time in town, Lotusland was closed. Rated one of the top gardens in the world, we had to make a trip this time. Located in the hills of Montecito, it took only 10-15 minutes to get there. Everything in this town takes 15 minutes or less to get to.
Reservations are required to enter the grounds, and they last 2 hours. After experiencing the garden, I’m glad they cap the reservations, as it keeps the serenity and calmness of the grounds intact. I could write more about our experience, but I fear I won’t do it justice. Nor do the photos, but here’s a bunch from our stroll through Lotusland.
My momma visited the next week, and we were so excited to show her around. We didn’t get any visitors last year when we were here, as covid travel restriction put a lid on that.
She was a champ. With very little rest time worked into our itinerary, we showed her little Los Olivos, home to 41 wineries, after a pit stop at the Cold Spring Tavern on a Sunday afternoon for some tri-tip sandwiches and live music.
Of course, we had to get her out in nature for a bit as well. We revisited the Cold Spring loop, an excellent spot to bring visitors, as its only a couple hours but really gives the lay of the land, and the scenery is stunning. The islands were a bit too hazy to appreciate, but it sort of made them feel mystical, which was neat.
A bike ride along the waterfront down to Butterfly Beach in Montecito showed Mom the touristy areas, and she rented an e-bike from one of the hubs downtown, so she was zooming pretty effortlessly.
We loved showing her our temporary home, and it was good practice, as Kaivan would be visiting a couple weeks later, and Jed and Moe a couple weeks after that.
Stay tuned for SB: Part 2!