Santa Barbara, Then Home - Part 11 of 10

This post was always in my plan for this series, but I seem to have made a miscalculation en route; I suspect when I split the Huntington visit into 2 posts Perhaps I should have taken the small amount of time needed to change the numbering on the previous 10 posts, but better would have been to show the Huntingtons as 8a and 8b. However, there is a part of me that likes having an eleventh part of a ten part series, just as Douglas Adams' Hitch-hiker's Guide to The Galaxy trilogy comprises five books. If one is going to be inaccurate, then be incontrovertibly inaccurate; stylishly inaccurate, even gloriously inaccurate. This post is not only badly numbered it will contain a couple of spelling mistakes (if my pedantry will permit - I am already recoiling at the thought), as well as a photograph or two I am not entirely happy with.
Of course, the purpose of this blog when I started it was to show some of my personal photographs, although since that time I now have a photography website and blog for that. My fondness for this blog transcends it's original intent and it has become a travel journal of sorts as well as an outlet for thoughts and opinions maybe best kept out of the light.
My need to complete a thing once started has brought me back to this definitely final instalment (for now) of our American trip in 2012/2013, and the opportunity to dwell on some memories of a lovely trip to Santa Barbara. Our newly acquired friend Lori had suggested this visit for our last day before departure and it seemed such a splendid way to round off our holiday.
Accompanied by one of Lori's friends - a lovely lady recovering from cancer - we headed north from Sierra Madre, incorporating a shopping stop en route at one of these enormous American trading parks, which sets Saks of 5th Avenue, Ralph Lauren and innumerable other stores in the middle of a wilderness. They seem to do nicely enough even in the middle of a world recession.
We called in at Eucalyptus Lane Beach and looked out at the oil and gas platforms on the horizon and took in the sight of the higgledy-piggledy string of beach houses arranged along the shoreline; each dwelling expressing something of the owner's personality. Some were patriotic, with stars and stripes fluttering from a flagpole in the eaves; others clinging on to the hippie ideal; still more with the rocking-chair in the front porch.

Our next call was at the old Santa Barbara Mission, the tenth of the California missions established by the Spanish Franciscans. The original purpose of the missions was to bring the Chumash Indians to Christianity. Various churches were built on the site, but the one seen today was dedicated in 1820, replacing the third church which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812.
This was a fascinating experience, seeing so many old artefacts of what was really a monastery; but whereas monasteries were often built with the purpose of seclusion and keeping the world out, this was to bring the world in to spread the faith.
The 'highlight' of the visit was clearly meant to be the cemetery, but I found this dwelling on the wall-memorials covering the place where various friars were entombed a little on the morbid side. The church was something else again. All church buildings have their own unique temperament, which no doubt derives from the spirit of those who have worshipped there. I am not a Roman Catholic, but have visited a number of Catholic Churches over the years and have encountered a few that inspire, but also some that seem gloom-laden and dead. This was very much in the latter category. I know that this was a museum setting today, but the sense was of a place of worship that never produced the life of Christ.
Stearn's Wharf is world-renowned, so it tells us and from the Moby Dick Restaurant to the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company it speaks of a very American seafaring experience.
We had an amazing seafood meal at the Moby Dick, although it was never made clear why it was called that. I always took Melville's whaling tale to be set on the east coast off Nantucket. There is a large portrait of a Sperm Whale on the outer restaurant wall which connects whales with "the forces of nature and the sea", so it is the universal Moby Dick we should be thinking of - perhaps.
Santa Barbara, although wonderfully Californian, also had a very non-American feeling about it. Not sure why, really. Maybe it reminded me of elsewhere, or maybe I'm just havering. Or it could just be because it rained a lot of the time we were there.
I would have to say that Santa Barbara appealed to me more than the great metropolis of Los Angeles. I can only cope with cities in small doses nowadays. Except for Edinburgh, of course, which I love and would cheerfully go back to if circumstances dictated, but then Edinburgh is a very uncity-like city. It is said that the ideal city would be the people of Glasgow living in Edinburgh, but for the likelihood that they would trash the place in an afternoon.
But I digress.
From Stearn's Wharf we went to sample some of the local wines at a district in which Santa Barbara had gathered all its wine bars and wine-tasting houses, most seemingly run by local vinyards.
The idea was to go in for a tasting. For ten dollars you could sample 3 or 4 wines from the vinyard which ran the establishment and you would be poured a few millilitres of vineous liquid, accompanied by a lot of words extolling that particular wines virtues. The hope was that you would be so taken with one of these that you would buy a case of same to take home. In case you didn't purchase, they had several different themed selections to choose from, so that another ten dollars would let you try something else. Maybe forty dollars later one would have run through the entire vinyard's production and consumed the equivalent of a couple of glasses of wine. Naturally, the mixing of so many differing blends and grape varieties would exaggerate the alcoholic effect. A cheerful, if expensive way to pass an afternoon.
Our day nearly over, we stopped off at Carpinteria City Beach and watched the sun go down on a lovely day, and on our holiday too.
On the 7th of January, we headed to Los Angeles International airport and a trouble free journey home. We had await of an hour or two at the airport and had a bite to eat. It was pleasant enough for airport fare, but rather spoiled by being told that my tip was inadequate and should have been more. I can understand the culture of giving a gratuity as standard, but I feel that when the establishment insists that your generous tip is not generous enough for their decidedly average service, then the world has turned upside-down. It ranks alongside the experience of our Venice holiday in the 1980's when 2000 lire - I think that was the amount - was demanded merely for sitting down at a table!
America may lead the world in many things, but sometimes it loses its grip on reality. (See also our Las Vegas adventure).
Text and photographs are copyright G J Stewart MMXV

George John Stewart
Humphreystown, Blessington, Co Wicklow
26th April 2015


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