A couple of weekends ago, I shared a beautiful day in Santa Barbara, with my equally beautiful besties. We were there to celebrate my recent engagement.
Yep, I’m getting married! Donna drove in from wine country, Tracie came up from trendy LA, and I picked up Lisa up near historic Pasadena on our way up to our old stomping grounds. ;-) Santa Barbara is known as The American Riveria®, and it really does live up to its name. We were surrounded by Mediterranean homes, fine shopping, and even finer dining. You know, it’s really sad because as a kid, I had absolutely no idea how pretty the city really was. But now as a “pseudo-tourist” I can really appreciate all that Santa Barbara has to offer.
We started the morning by meeting up at the local Panera. Oh how I love the Hazelnut coffee there! We chatted away for a while, and then crossed the parking lot for a lap around La Cumbre Plaza, which was one of our hangouts when we were growing up.
We breezed around from store to store, gazing at the beautiful surroundings, and wandered through all the welcoming stores, such as Williams Sonoma, and my favorite, Pottery Barn (*sigh*). Our time shopping was filled with lots of laughter, a few giggles, and many references to 80s music ;-)
Then we hopped in the car and drove down State Street to our dining destination. The week before I had checked out Yelp to find the perfect place for lunch. I don’t know about you, but I think I use Yelp more than anything else as far as restaurant recommendations. They’re always spot on! Anyhow, my yelping certainly paid off. We found ourselves at Opal Restaurant and Bar, which is a beautiful little restaurant over near the Arlington Theater. As we were walking in the door, Tracie spotted her friend Adam, who she hadn’t laid eyes on for at least 25 years. That’s one of the things about Santa Barbara: no matter how long you’ve been away, you will always bump into someone you know.
Our lunch was remarkable. Lisa had the Arborio Risotto (with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, Fresh Asparagus and Artichokes), and Tracie and I both had the Oven Roasted Chicken Breast Stuffed with Prosciutto and Smoked Mozzarella on a bed of baby spinach.
Donna ordered the Vegetable Napoleon with a Gorgonzola Potato Cake and Wild Mushrooms. We were all thrilled with not only the delicious combinations of flavors, but also the gorgeous plating, and fantastic customer service.
After our meal, we treated ourselves to a couple of Crème Brûlées: Dark Chocolate with Jack Daniels, and French Vanilla Cream. I loved the chocolate messages our waitress wrote on the plates! I cannot wait to return to that lovely gem of a restaurant next time I’m in town, and I absolutely recommend that you try it too! What a treat :)
We then took a leisurely drive down toward the beach, passing many landmarks, such as Stern’s Wharf, The Fess Parker, and the oddly named “East Beach”. Yes. West Coast… East Beach. We continued along the boulevard until we arrived at the Four Seasons Biltmore. Donna and I began reminiscing about the last time we’d been there at the same time… High School Prom, 1984. Wow – it’s been 30 years! Lisa popped inside a shop within the hotels and emerged a few minutes later with a brand new sparkly sockmonkey for me. We called her “Opal” after the lovely lunch. We continued down the stone walkways of the perfectly designed structure, taking in the beauty. The historic Biltmore is absolutely gorgeous, and the perfectly manicured landscape is SO worth checking out next time you’re in town.
We made our way to the patio of Bella Vista, one of the dining choices within the Biltmore. Donna ordered a Negroni (Campari, gin and vermouth), and Lisa had a Cucumber and Gin Martini. I had a lovely concoction made up of orange juice, sparkling water, ginger syrup, and a splash of gin, and Tracie had a Sparkling Raspberry Shrub with vodka. I leaned back and realized how fortunate I am… Here I was, relaxing on the patio, under a large umbrella, gazing at the sparkling blue ocean, sipping on a perfectly mixed drink, with three absolutely fantastic ladies. Wow!
And, then our very attentive waiter Zachary surprised me with a little congratulatory plate of yummies. How sweet!
Our last stop was a trek up to the Riviera, to visit the old Santa Barbara Mission. It’s called the Queen of the Missions, since it’s the only one with two bell towers. There is also a gorgeous rose garden amongst the hills of grass, waiting for tourists and locals alike to picnic. We were delighted to find the artworks from the annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival , still there from the weekend before. It’s an amazing sight to see, with nearly 150 works in pastel chalk each year, and the artists are unbelievably talented. After walking through the gallery on the pavement, we said our goodbyes and we headed back to our homes.
My celebration was a success, and it made me feel so very special! I can’t wait to do another day trip with them again!
So, what have you done to celebrate with your friends?