Following our return from London my friend Maritza and I drove down to Santa Barbara for a couple of days. She let me drive her car so that I could avoid motion sickness. She has a 2010 Mazda 3.5 hatchback and I have to say I was pretty happy with it. The steering handles well and it has some pick-up (once I adjust for the lag in hitting the gas). We tried to tour Hearst Castle on our way down, but it was booked so we decided to try again on our way home.
We arrived at our motel about 7 hours after leaving Walnut Creek. It was a super-cute boutique motel with fun things on the walls. The manager told us that we lucked out on our visit, the next day Santa Barabara would have a big parade for the Summer Solstice Festival. We wondered into town and had dinner and drinks. As we walked through town we discovered that people set out chairs, blankets, and barriers to mark their territory for the parade. It amazed us so much trust was given to all the residents of Santa Barbara. So we messed with a few chairs and switched them with others – that’ll show them!
Saturday was packed with all there is to do in Santa Barbara – which isn’t much. We started with the Old Mission Santa Barbara. While touring the grounds I heard a buzzing sound, a huge buzzing sound. I looked up and saw a gigantic swarm of bees hovering above the trees! I snapped a few pictures and we calmly moved away. Then we went back to see what happened to them. They were all settled and hovering together on a tree branch. I had heard about groups of bees moving and starting over when the colony got too big – I think that’s what this was. Hopefully they found a permanent home there, but who knows how the Mission keepers felt!
After that we wandered around the Festival. Ritz bought a cute veil thing and tried on some fairy wings. We saw cool floats and interesting people. Then we went into town and ate lunch outside. The whole town was abuzz with the festival – it was cool to see the community that way. We ended up getting mani pedi’s at the mall downtown. I was pretty unhappy with mine – the woman wasn’t even paying attention as she scuffed my feet – it did not feel good. The experience made Ritz pretty sleepy so we went back to the motel for a rest before dinner. That night we ate at Opal – really good food!
The next day we headed out early for Hearst Castle (about 2.5 hours away). We made in time for a tour and chose the garden tour. The visitor center is about a 5-10 minute bus ride to the castle itself, which sits high on a hill in the background. We made our way up and met our tour guide – who ended up being the most boring, least informative guide either of us had ever had. He really sucked. And the grounds weren’t that impressive. I expected a lavish garden full of beautiful flowers and statues. But we just walked along pathways that happened to have flowers planted here and there. The guest house was interesting, full of extremely old and expensive things. The decor was so gaudy though – overly elaborate – not at all my style. One thing we did find out from our guide is that the estate belongs to California now, not the Hearsts. They donated it some time ago. A pretty fascinating story if you have the time and interest.