December is an excellent time to visit Santa Barbara, the skies are clear, the temperatures in the 70’s and there is a festive air. As usual I made my annual trip down from Oregon by plane via San Francisco to spend Christmas with my relatives. Santa Barbara is an expensive place to fly into as it recieves relatively low amounts of traffic. My ticket from Eugene was $315 return including tax. I made my connection in San Francisico without hitch and soon was heading south at 30,000ft admiring the Californian coast.
Its always a pleasure to land at Santa Barbara and as soon as I disembarked the bright sunlight warmed my skin. One thing I would advise travellers to do in small airports is to keep a close watch on the luggage carousel. This airport doesn’t even have a carousel, just an area where the staff pile up the bags and everybody grabs. There’s no security what so ever and it would be easy for a bag to dissappear.
What’s going on in December.
The Santa Barbara Mission and many other churches have Christmas eve services. The Mission has a replica of the stable and crib outside which draws many visitors.
I always meet up with my second cousin Richard and head down to the Fish Enterprise restaurant on lower State St for a couple of pints of amber ale. This restaurant is 2 blocks from the beach and serves grilled seafood dishes as well as mussels and a Thai seafood salad.
Richard and I went to a restaurant that had opened earlier this year called Brigitte’s. The restaurant is located at 1325 State St and is owned by a friend of mine called Tina. The food served is ‘eclectic Californian cuisine’. I had salmon with vegetables in a tasty Thai sauce. We decided to bring our wine in with us and were allowed to pay a corkage fee. The deserts are pretty rich and Richard made sure he got stuck into 2 of them after his pizza.
Brigitte’s has an interesting menu and does lunch Mon-Sat from 11.30 and dinner 7 nights from 5.30pm. Tel : (805) 966. 9676
Most restaurants have lunch weekday specials and it pays to hit these up once in a while. I went Your Place Thai restaurant over on 22N.Milpas St one afternoon. Your Place is a family restaurant that has been going since the mid 80’s. I bumped into Hau La Luk who has been a waitress there for about 10 years. My lunch was garlic pepper squid, rice, spring roll, soup and a Singha beer. The cost was about $8.50.
Santa Barbara boasts 5 cinemas on downtown State St and wishing to take advantage of this I got to see 2 movies. The first was at the Metro on De La Guerra and State and I saw Castaway with my friend Tom. Tom thought the movie was strange and I thought it sucked. Give me a break, put a Boots member on that island and he / she would of built mansion in the time it took that guy to to escape. My second movie was Vertical Limit, the fantasy of climbing K2 lives on. Among the unbelieveable aspects of this one was the 200 person barbeque at the base of the mountain, complete with pints of beer and meat on the spit…………………more like a tailgate party than mountaineering. Also good for a laugh were the scenes of 4-5 people hanging onto one another by a single ice-axe ( how strong does the top one have to be? ). Finally the scene of the folks strolling around in the bottom of a cravasse arguing about who’s right and wrong was Hollywood dreaming.
On my last night in town I accompanied my uncle Jose ( 85 ) to the Rose Cafe on Haley St. I had a chili relleno which is always good along with a couple of Dos Equis ( 2 X’s ) and some chips & salsa. I visited a new bar on lower State that I can’t remember the name of. There was a $3 dollar cover after 9.00pm and a band was warming up. I sat chatting the the bartender who looked bored then left to find a place called the Wildcat Lounge that I had enjoyed before. I thought it was on E.Cota but couldn’t see a sign. Maybe it was Haley St………………..still no sign. I kept moving.
Next morning I got a ride from Richard to the airport. We ordered breakfast…………..a Bloody Mary and a Coors light for him, a Margarita for me. Picking up the Santa Barbara News Press I gazed at the college bowl games being played that day. As my eyes moved down the page I read that the Wildcat Lounge had burned down the previous morning, no wonder I couldn’t see a sign. The paper said there were ignition marks on the inside and outside of the building, added to the fact that this had happened 4 times in 5 years it was to say the least, suspicious.
I boarded my plane content in the knowledge that I had sampled what Santa Barbara had to offer and my only failiar was to miss the Wildcat by one day.