One of our three guide books we thumb through daily on this trip says something to the effect of: "Santa Barbara--- A town blessed with astonishingly perfect weather, a gorgeous setting and the most beautiful local government building in the country!"
And then we got here and it was blowing, and grey and extremely chill...(maybe 40's or low 50's?)...with the whipping itself into a bitter froth. We hiked from our hotel through the downtown and found the courthouse closed (albeit very pretty on the outside) and did a little high wind browsing of the central shopping area and promenades. But, who cared that we hit our first chilly weather on the trip here in SB and who really had their happiness hung on the interior of the local courthouse anyhow? We were there to eat and see my cousin, the fabulous and incredibly wonderful chef at The Hungry Cat. Wow. We just asked him to throw us his favorites off of the menu and we were seriously blown out of the water. I know that my sentimental clannish feelings color things a tiny bit but, truly people, this will go down as one of the legendary meals of my life in my memories. He sent us wheeling through fresh oysters, chilled prawns, battered artichoke hearts, some of the sweetest crab I've ever tasted, elegant and tender halibut, oyster mushrooms, asparagus and among many others a cheese plate of ultra-stunning quality and a luscious bread pudding/creme brulee. So delicious. And people, truly, words fail me...I am so extremely proud of my clever, knife wielding cousin that I could just burst. He is the American Dream. Reaching for, succeeding, and soaring higher on the wings of his own raw ambition. I aspire, people, I aspire.
Besides our stellar dinner tonight, we've also driven past acres of farm country, carpets of strawberry plants as far as the eye could see and artichokes, lettuce, broccoli to boot. Produce, as far as you can squint. That was Salinas and a few other scattered, dirt black river valleys that we soared through. Lovely places to drive and drive. So green and lush and full of production in the the botanical sense. We toured the Steinbeck museum in Salinas (recommended!) and we both remembered how much we loved his books and how much more there still is to read that he wrote! More tomes for our couple reading list. Steinbeck is wonderful roadtrip reading. Somehow cozy to stand there amongst his personal effects and quotes and think fondly of the man. Note to self: Must make sure A reads Grapes of Wrath. I do like Ma Joad.
We've also been through Big Sur now, that inner artist contemplating, hippy magnet zone of lush redwoods, dripping forest and winding snaky highway, ribboning along the coast. (Not what I was expecting, I thought it'd be much drier and more rolling plains kind of stuff) I did like Big Sur.
We also wandered through our first mission in a lovely little burst of sunshine and warm weather. My idea of what a mission is will probly always reference my experience at Carmel-By-The-Sea. Mmm...wonderful. Missions (or at least this one) are these glorious little cloistered, holy places, with fig trees, rose vines, tumbling nasturtiums, quiet gravel paths and stunning gold leafed silent chapels where candles flicker and you can smell incense from the not so distant past. A and I both wish we could re-create a piece of that in our backyard if/when we get that tudor we're still mulling over.
So, that's the latest...California is still beautiful, still surprising us and our idea of the state is broadening by the moment. Tomorrow we will be hugging my cousins in person and starting our good times with much shoulder rubbing and progeny introducing fun. Am really looking forward to that! Now, I'm off to wake up A and figure out if there's a way to turn on the heat in this hotel room so I can quit sneezing and start snoozing. Sweet dreams all!!!