Monday, January 19, 2015

Roadtripping California's Central Coast: stop for seals in Carpinteria, danishes in Solvang, and wine in Santa Barbara

About a year ago I took a day trip by myself to Santa Barbara. I may be a Gemini and an extrovert according to some, but there are times i just need to be alone with my iPhone (no calls, lots of pics, maybe a few texts). On last year's trip, I stopped off the PCH at the Carpinteria Bluffs to see some birds and pregnant harbor seals and soothe/save my soul. It was fantastic.

This past weekend I visited again what I just learned is known as the Central Coast. (I debated with my friend Casey whether Santa Barbara was Southern or Central California on our two-hour drive.) Instead of stopping at the bluffs, we kept going, past Carpinteria, past Montecito, past SB to Solvang

Velkommen, literally, to the most boring city in all of California! I'd heard a lot of good things about the place, but we were pretty disappointed. Most of it was overrun with Asian tourists and their selfie sticks, and the rest of it was weirdly abandoned-seeming and not in a cool, creepy ghost town kind of way. There was not a soul in Hans Christian Andersen Square and it was unclear if the museum of the same name was open at that time (noon on Saturday) or not ever anymore. From the looks of it, most people visit Solvang and park themselves in wine tasting rooms for the duration of their stay. It was a little too early for that, for us, so we went to two so-so bakeries, Danish Mill and Mortensen's, that sold the exact same pastries (the cheese Danish was yummy), then my phone died and that was the full extent of our trip to the Danish City. 

Back in the car, we made two stops on our way out: the Mission Santa Ines and then Lake Cachuma. Both super lush and green and Ireland-like, but strangely, not photogenic at all. Starving, cranky and close to crashing from all the sugar, we retraced our steps, precisely 24 mile-steps, back to Santa Barbara.

I once said that downtown Charleston reminded me of a bigger, better version of downtown Savannah. Well, I went to Charleston again after that. And then I went to Santa Barbara. I went to Santa Barbara again and I want to amend my previous statement, made when I didn't know any better. Savannah is a magical place all its own that I hold very dear to my heart for various reasons. But I'm now certain that downtown SB is more closely related to Charleston, its West Coast sister or childhood friend.

I like everything about SB, but don't try to have lunch there at or around 3 p.m. Almost every restaurant is closed/prepping for dinner. I did find a place open that Zagat named one of "10 hottest restaurants in Santa Barbara" last year. Finch & Fork in the Canary Hotel was serving a partial menu, which was great, but how great, I'm not sure. After all the sugary shit in Solvang, I had a skewed perception of "good" and "great" and just needed something salty/substantial to balance me out. Cocktails were fresh, flatbread and tacos were filling.

If you've ever been to Moonshadows in Malibu, Deep Sea Tasting Room on the Santa Barbara Pier has kind of a similar feel. Except the patrons at Deep Sea seem to be less tacky, more laid back (I think, in general, Malibu is just tackier than SB, but I still love going there) and Deep Sea only serves wine--no cocktails, no food. Get there in time for SB's incredible sunset and bring snacks; you will thank me. There is nothing to eat at the winery except Pirate's Booty. 

On both of my visits to SB, I closed out the night at Sushi Teri. Tiny place, nice servers, fast sushi. In and out, and when you're done--if LA is home--you're a quick hour or so from your shower and your bed. 

HighlightsI met a bartender at Finch & Fork named Smiley. It is his real name, and because my 9th grade History teacher nicknamed me Smiley back in 2001, I felt an instant kinship with him. Will have to go back and visit, though I don't think I'll be taking Smiley's advice of sleeping on the beach instead of at a hotel. We'll see.
Song: All of Sunday Morning radio on Pandora (Is there a Saturday Morning radio, I wonder?)


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