The drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara is typically a 5 hour journey, but we decided to take the scenic route along the Central Coast Highway 1 and spread the journey over two days.
Leaving the city behind we headed south west and hit the coast at Monterey. After taking a stroll through this seaside town to admire the restored Mexican and Spanish architecture we jumped back in the car and headed onto the ‘17 Mile Drive’. We paid our $10 entry fee to drive the private road and cruised along admiring the perfectly manicured golf courses (the US open was held here this year) and the mansions of Pebble Beach.
After leaving the 17 Mile Drive the journey continued through Carmel (a very quaint seaside town) and onto the most spectacular coastal highway. Winding along the cliff-top edge high above the sea; the familiar fog lingered like a big fluffy blanket folded back over the sparkly blue ocean. We were completely blown away and stopped at least half a dozen times to take in this phenomenal sight.
We had intended to visit Hearst Castle but unfortunately ran out of time and stopped to pitch the tent in a lovely primitive campground close to the sea. Rising very early the next morning we had hoped to catch the sunrise as we continued our journey down to Santa Barbara, but the fog was thick and did not clear until we arrived at our destination midmorning.
We were staying with another host family of Geoff’s, Laura and her father Bob, in their spacious home in the hills of Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara was far more beautiful than we had anticipated. With palm tree lined streets, stunning Mediterranean architecture and gorgeous white sand beaches this place was divine!
Laura kindly drove us around the city showing us the sights; this included some history of the architecture, a drive through the neighbourhood where the rich and famous live (including Oprah) and a lunch of fish and chips on the long jetty at the beach.
On Sunday the fog had completely cleared (at last!) from the beach so we made the most by slowly walking the main street and lazing on the beach in the sun for the afternoon. We toured the lovely Santa Barbara Mission which was founded in 1786 by Native Americans and also visited the County Courthouse; a spectacular Spanish-Moorish building complete with an open-top clock tower that provides views over the city. The courtrooms have painted scenes of early battles in the region, stunning tiled floors and incredible tropical grounds; a ridiculously beautiful place to be on trial.
On Sunday evening we joined Laura in a neighbourhood potluck BBQ, tasting the unique local cut of meat known as ‘tri-tip’ steak and learnt how to play ‘bunko’ an exciting dice game. We felt incredibly welcome and enjoyed meeting more great people. It was lovely to spend time with both Laura and Bob, thank you for your generous hospitality - we just loved the home grown avocadoes too!
Monday morning we leave Santa Barbara and head south to Los Angles; a two hour journey (traffic dependent!!).