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Scenic Santa Barbara…
Alias, The American Riviera

By Jane Cassie
Photos by Brent Cassie

A blanket of fog cloaks the Pacific with a mystical veil and permeates the palms that line the sandy beach-boulevard. As soon as the morning mist dissipates, the distant powder playground will become a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts and bikini-clad sun worshippers. Surfers and sailors will skim the oncoming waves, while fishermen search for habitants beneath. And while volleyballs rally over sugar fine sand, the paralleling pathway will become a thoroughfare for cyclists, in-line skaters, and those out for a casual stroll.

Santa Barbara's scalloped coastline is just one of the many splendid vistas offered from the lookout tower of the city's courthouse. In fact, from this heaven-bound podium I'm privy to a three hundred and sixty degree view that zooms in on the many tourist treasures.

Pearl Chase Park is one of these gems. This luscious green belt is sandwiched between Cabrillo Boulevard and the pounding Pacific, and every Sunday beneath swaying palms the verdant strip becomes a bustling hub for art lovers. Over one hundred artists display their wealth of talents in the form of pottery, paintings, weavings, carvings, and sculptures.

A fortune of a different kind waits a short distance to the south. Even though the landmark looks just like an elevated bluff from my skyscraper stance, a nearby onlooker claims there's enough money in the hill to sink a ship. "The translation of Montecito is small mound," he informs, "but ironically you need large mounds to live there. So large, that the locals call it Moneycito." I discover that Julia Roberts, John Travolta, and Oprah are just a few of the superstars who pay the exorbitant taxes for their multi million dollar mansions.

Although the price of most homes doesn't compare to those on Montecito's turf, Santa Barbara is ranked one of the top ten most expensive American cities in which to live. Nestled between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it's a destination that's rich in diverse pleasures and attractions. As well as the miles of sun-drenched shoreline, its natural beauty stems from the Santa Ynez Mountains backdrop, year-round sunshine, and Spanish Colonial architecture that imbibes its colorful past.

The décor of the courthouse where I'm perched truly epitomizes the term Spanish California. A trail of terra cotta leads the way through its main floor halls that flaunt giant murals, hand painted ceilings and closed doors where active courts are in session. Sunken lawns and lush tropical plants encircle its perimeter and provide a picturesque setting for concerts, festivals and weddings.

My view stretches beyond these manicured gardens to the east, where rolling hills are topped with adobe homes. Their whitewashed exteriors and red tiled roofs glisten beneath the sun, and thriving courtyards brim with a profusion of hibiscus and bougainvillea. Touches of wrought iron embellish archway facades, citrus trees unite with sprawled out figs, and all reside under the dominance of the auspicious palm.

Firmly planted on higher ground is the historical hallmark that has been deemed 'the soul of the city.' The twin-towered beauty of Mission Santa Barbara proudly hovers on the hill, flaunting a combination of Roman and Spanish mission styles. It was founded in 1746 to protect and convert local Chumash Indians into Catholics and is still used by the Franciscan order today. A rose garden hosting over 1500 blooms flourishes in its foreground and an adjacent cemetery pays homage to the several thousand native Americans whose labor made the original mission possible.

Other cultural jewels integrate with the city's modern day gems, and although I enjoy viewing them from above, many check them out on a trolley tour or on foot. The twelve-block Red Tile Walking Tour is a self-guided trek that provides a blast from the past. It trails by numerous heritage landmarks, including the Museum of Art, that boasts the impressive works of German and French expressionists, the Lobero Theater, where the Grand Opera Association shares its talent, and El Presidio, that has existed on the premises since 1782. Bisecting this step back in time is the pulsating hub of State Street where the modern day bustle pumps like percolating adrenaline. Red tiles pave the way down this lush tree-lined lane to unite upscale shops with a generous share of the town's five hundred restaurants and bars. Dining options range from informal to fine cuisine, and mouth-watering specialties are paired up with vintages that flow from more than sixty regional wineries.

My eye stretches to the end of this high-energy strip where the Sterns Warf provides a natural anchor. In the 1930's, this popular pier had been used as a floating casino. Then during WWII it had operated as a naval base. Today, it's the oldest functioning wharf in California and hosts over five million annual visitors. I visualize the busy boardwalk where quaint shops, seafood cafes and overflowing markets sell everything from souvenirs to sizzling shrimp. Gulls soar above, sea lions splash below, and when the clouds clear, the neighboring sandy strip, magically transforms into a beehive of activity. It's an energized city with sophistication and class, yet the feel is relaxed and laid back. And from my promontory perch, I can appreciate why scenic Santa Barbara has been coined the American Riviera.

Where To stay:
Inn of the Spanish Garden
915 Garden Street
Santa Barbara, California, USA 93101
Phone: 805-564-4700
Toll Free: 866-564-4700
Fax: 805-564-4701
Web site:

For more information about Santa Barbara:

Getting to Santa Barbara:
Horizon Air links the Pacific Northwest to Santa Barbara by offering its daily nonstop service on their 70-seat Bombardier CRJ-700 jet from Seattle and Portland.
Read more about it: and

Jane and Brent freelance for a number of publications Jane is president of BC Association Of Travel Writers and can be contacted at

Jane and Brent Cassie are a travel writer/photographer team. Follow their other adventures on their website -