Santa Barbara - star gazing

Trip Start Apr 05, 2008
Trip End Mar 20, 2009

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, May 24, 2008

90 miles south of the Big Sur, the highlight of the day was our visit to Hearst Castle or as William Randolph Hearst referred to his home as simply 'the ranch'.  The drive to build this amazing home which is set on 250,000 acres and took 28 years to build (Hearst was fond of changing his mind), stemmed from the fact that he was tired of camping on this spot and wanted to build 'a little something'.  The pool is a great example of Hearst's ever changing mind, it had to be rebuilt three times until he was completely happy.  I guess earning $56k per day you have the luxury to do this.  It's nothing short of incredible and as you are shown around the guest houses and Casa Grande (the main house) it's easy to imagine the fun Hearst and his guests had (invitations were highly coverted and included some of Hollywoods biggest stars of the era, guests such as the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable).  Hearst once also housed the world's largest private zoo in which today zebras still roam the ranch amongst the cattle, remenants of Hearst's original collection.  His love of collecting art, something he likely acquired a fondness for from his year and a half European tour with his mother as a young boy, is I'm sure envied by many of the worlds great museums.  He has original roman columns, French walnut ceilings sold by French royalty after the war, original tapestries from Spain, Italy and France, gates from a covent in Thailand and this is just scraping the surface.  The indoor pool is lined with venetian glass and real gold and the outdoor pool with green marble and all of the pools steps are made of marble.  Funnily enough all of these antiquities were acquired by auction houses catalogues.  If he couldn't simply buy originals then he commissioned a copy to be made.  The one hour 45 minute guided tour was one of the best experiences yet, if you're in the area it's well worth the visit.  With approximately 150miles to drive till we arrived in Santa Barbara we made few stops along the way.  The picturesque town of Cambria featured the cutest carwash I've ever seen.  A quick leg stretch at Morro Bay, unmistakable from the three huge smokestocks (part of the powerplant) as well as Morro Rock, a 578ft volcanic peak just off the shoreline.  It was far too windy to venture out of the car for long.  Cruised through San Luis Obispo Bay which is home to a couple of beach towns, Avila Beach and Pismo Beach.  Finally arriving in Santa Barbara just before 8pm (important to note I was tired and extremely hungry after not eating all day, noted by my unusual quietness and system shut down nap), we hit East Beach in search of accommodation.  Having found a hotel that wasn't charging the earth for the Friday night (Memorial weekend this weekend and it seems Santa Barbara is a popular destination) we settled in and went in search of food.  I had seen the 'FisHouse' along the waterfront on the drive in so we headed back there (important to note I'm in a really bad mood and Gareth decides to take a long winded 15minute 'we are lost cruise' around the city, instead of the 5 minute drive down the waterfront - this is not helping).  Finally with a glass of wine in hand and our dinner order placed I began to 'thaw out' and relax (Gareth has the paitence of a saint or he's well practiced at ignoring me and letting me get over myself).  The highlight of the evening was when Kelly Slater and his girlfriend came into dine at the restaurant, this made Gareth's night (gutted that we didn't have the camera with us).  The macadamia crusted sea bast with a lemon buerre blanc was fantastic too.  Waking to a bright sunny day (this has been the norm so far for California) we did some much needed washing and then headed out to walk the beach and check out 'State Street' the main street of Santa Barbara. It's a stunning tree lined street filled with fantastic cafes, restaurants and bars towards the beach end and wicked shops at the upper end.  It's a low key city oozing with style; we could easily imagine living here.  The 'Natural Cafe' is a sure fire winner in the eating stakes, that's also proven by the long queue to order.  I think it actually took longer to order than it did for the food to be served.  Afterwards I had to head to the 'Java House' for a coffee, guess coffee is not natural and wholesome enough for the 'Natural Cafe'. After a bit of much needed retail therapy (think I'm in heaven) we headed back to Stearns Wharf along the pier and then more beach time.  A late dinner at 'Arigato Sushi' ended up in excitement as we sat in the window riveted by movie cameras and burly body guards.  Finally the star was revealed, it was none other than Snoop Dog with his family out for dinner and being filmed as part of his reality TV show, 'Fatherhood'.  I'm sure if we take our camera out tomorrow night there'll be no stars to be spotted.  The sushi was excellent too! Our final day in Santa Barbara was grey and cold so shopping seemed like the best thing to do.  We headed to the outlet mall which were nothing short of torture.  Not only are they already a bargain but with Memorial weekend most stores were offering an additional 30-50% off.  There were a few 'necessary' items purchased followed by a reprieve at the movie theatre.  Really enjoyed our stay in Santa Barabara, could definitely see us returning, especially round sale time/summer ;-) 
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David on

Santa Barbara is the place to be anytime man, great choice in vacationing there! All the pictures of spanish style tile work I absoltuely love. I love walking around and looking at all the buildings. Truly amazing how everything is red tile and coordinated. They really stuck to their roots! If you ever come back (which you should!) you should try doing Urban Wine trail or a walking tour. Great and affordable things to do and you really learn a lot about the city. A great place to stay in town as well is the Sandman Inn ( Cheap and incredibly quaint.

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