Wednesday 16 March 2016

Road Trip Diary: Stars and Stripes and Santa Barbara

Day 61
San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara
Friday 3rd July 2015

On our way out of SLO we stopped at Ruby Rose, a beautiful vintage shop full of carefully handpicked goodies and The Antique Center, a large vintage mall (basically lots of different sellers in one place) both on the main road, Monterey Street. Both are definitely worth a stop if you’re of the thrifty persuasion- I bought the black cheesecloth dress I’m wearing in the photo below for $20 and I hardly took it off for the rest of the holiday.

We drove along the coast to Pismo Beach but it was heaving and we couldn’t spot any where to park so we made the decision to drive on to Santa Barbara and enjoy our early arrival there by getting drunk on happy hour wine- hoorah!

Santa Barbara is a much more pedestrian friendly town than others we had visited on this trip so we made the most of it and walked everywhere whilst we were there. Our Airbnb, perched on the top of a hill overlooking the pretty suburbs and the ocean in the distance, was a retro caravan in the garden of the owner’s main house. It was an excellent location and we were only a short walk down the hill to State Street, a wide main high street designed in the Spanish Colonial revival style that SB is so famous for.

It’s modern though and very laid back, there’s a Forever 21, a J Crew, an Apple store and various other chains, restaurants and bars scattered all the way along the main stretch until it reaches the promenade and the beach.

As I’ve already mentioned, our excellent but accidental timing meant it was happy hour and boy, do they go hard for happy hour over here. We took full advantage at a little Italian bar on State Street, watching people finishing work for the long holiday weekend and lapping up the cheap wine.

We had no idea where to go for food so had a quick search online for the best places to eat, a quick scan at some Tripadvisor reviews and found an amazing Mexican restaurant- Los Arroyos- down a quiet side street. Apparently it’s where the locals choose and for 6pm on a Friday that was evident. It was busy but we found a couple of vacant stools by the door. It was our first proper Mexican food of the trip and it was SO good. We ate steak burritos, chicken quesadillas and drank Pacifico until we were stuffed.

Day 62
Santa Barbara
Saturday 4th July 2015

I truly had no idea what to expect from Independence Day. It’s such a major holiday for Americans that I was worried it would all be slightly baffling to a pair of Brits, but it was truly one of the best days of the trip. We’d looked up what was going on locally beforehand so we knew about a main parade, a huge beach party and a fair, so decided to spend the day wandering around, taking in as much as we could.

Firstly, the parade. People had essentially camped out for it- blankets and chairs and tables were all laid out on the sidewalk hours and hours before it was due to start and people just waited. It’s obviously a big deal for a lot of people which made it feel quite special. We somehow found a spot to sit on the kerb and watched the whole thing like genuine citizens, float after float of charitable groups with banners, historical re-enactment troupes with guns, all sorts of classic cars and the most amount of stars and stripes I have ever seen. The enthusiasm was infectious; this wasn’t some sort of damp UK affair where everyone looks a bit embarrassed to be there. People were cheering and smiling and their cheer didn’t waiver until the last musket blank rung out and people moved away to their next holiday party.

I definitely underestimated how busy it would be- we were starving after the parade and couldn’t find anywhere with a short enough queue so ended up with a crappy Starbucks Panini and a serious crowd headache. We walked down to the beach where the crowds dispersed out slightly and spent some time at the skate park, watching little kids trying not to be wiped out by bigger kids and then some time on the sand, listening to local bands play and sitting in the sun amongst big family groups barbecuing and playing games.

I’d seen an advert for a free concert in the grounds of a historical house on the way back to our Airbnb so we stopped off, sat under some huge palm trees and listened to a classical recital and ate some food from a local. We stopped off for booze on the walk home, deciding that trying to find somewhere to go for drinks that night might be too much of a challenge, plus we already had the perfect hilltop firework watching spot. We watched the sun go down and the sky light up again as hundreds of fireworks went off across the city.

Day 63
Santa Barbara
Sunday 5th July 2015

Everyone and their Mother was out for brunch, likely all nursing hangovers from the revelry the night before, so we queued with the best of them at Tupelo Junction and ate our weight in avocado and eggs. Well I did, Ed had a morning burger which was very odd, but needs must and all that.The rest of the day was spent shopping and relaxing and nothing much of note. In summary, I loved Santa Barbara. I can't tell if it was partly due to the holiday atmosphere, seeing everyone enjoying themselves and taking part in the celebrations complimented our time there but it's such a chilled city, with everything you could need within easy (walkable!) reach. Go, eat Mexican food, watch the skaters and soak up the sun.
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