Our first road trip without Indy was a mellow anniversary get-away to Santa Barbara a few weeks after he passed.Michael and I typically schedule vacation time for our anniversary in early December. This year, we planned a staycation due to Indy’s health. Indy passed away two weeks before Thanksgiving. We didn’t want to be home for the holiday, so we reserved two nights at a Venice Beach hotel overlooking the ocean. Then we both got COVID! After we recovered, we were ready to go away for a few days – somewhere close and easy. We took Indy to Santa Barbara a few years ago and talked about going back one day. It would be a chance to reminisce about fun times with Indy and experience some things we couldn’t do with a dog like whale watching and exploring the art museum and mission.
Old Mission Santa BarbaraOur first stop was the Old Mission Santa Barbara, built in 1786. The museum displays information about the mission’s history along with paintings, photos, old books, and local artifacts. There were several inner courtyards – some with gardens and one with an old cemetery. The cozy church gave me a peaceful vibe.
The Funk ZoneAfter the Mission, we dropped the car at the hotel and walked over to the <a href=”https://www.funkzone.net/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>The Funk Zone – a neighborhood with wine tasting rooms, shops, and restaurants. It was Monday and very quiet – a big difference from our last visit on a lively weekend. The atmosphere kinda fit our moods. We stopped by two tasting rooms – Corks n’ Crowns for a white and red flight and then Paradise Springs Winery for a premium flight. Next, we did some window shopping at The Blue Door, a cool vintage shop we went to last time Then it was time for tapas at Loquita – medjool dates stuffed with blue cheese and smoked almonds, pan con tomate, champiñones, and octopus for Michael – yum (except the octopus).
Santa Barbara Art Museum & DowntownThe next day we went to the Santa Barbara Art Museum and hung out downtown on State Street. The Santa Barbara Art Museum is a swell little museum with a diverse permanent collection and awesome shop (one of the best museum shops I’ve seen). I was really drawn to the statues – the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Guanyin from China, Demon Chanting Buddhist Prayers from Japan, Adorned Buddha from Thailand, and Dancing Ganesha from India.
As we passed by one of the stores, I spotted a yellow Labrador inside. Our eyes met – I smiled and he wagged. I went in and asked his person if I could say hello. I held out my hand to let him sniff, gave him a little pet, and said we recently lost our Labrador. I started to get choked up and didn’t want her to see me cry so I said goodbye. By 2:00 I was hangry, so we stopped at the first restaurant we saw – Joe’s Café, which turned out to be the perfect place to get a hearty turkey burger and fries accompanied by a giant tasty lemon drop martini. I left feeling hanger-free, tipsy, and ready to shop. I really wanted to go to a sound bath at Salt Cave but they only took place on Saturdays (a drawback of mid-week travel). But we had a good time buying all kinds of lotions, scrubs, room sprays, candles, and seasonings. We made sure stop by Lokum to get some fresh, authentic Turkish delight. It reminds us of the giant, beautiful mounds of Turkish delight we frequently saw in Istanbul when we stayed there for a month on the world trip.
Whale WatchingOn the final day, our anniversary, we went on the long-awaited whale watching excursion. A benefit of traveling mid-week was that there were only 15 travelers on the 127-passenger Condor Express. When we set out, the naturalists gave a short talk about whale anatomy and behavior. It was interesting to learn each whale has a unique pattern on its tail. After about an hour we started to see lots of dolphins – a sign that a whale may be nearby. Then we saw the humpback and watched him surface and then go below the water to eat. One time when it blew water out of the blowhole we saw a rainbow. I took it as a sign that Indy was saying hello (like the rainbow in our lobby one morning after Indy passed). We followed the whale for about an hour until it went away. A large group of dolphins came back later and swam with the boat for a while. They looked like they were having so much fun.
Do you see the rainbow?
Evening Strolls by the BeachOne thing I enjoy when we travel is taking a solo walk – especially when there is a beach or good spot to watch the sunset. West Beach in Santa Barbara is a great place to do both. The Santa Ynez Mountains create a soothing backdrop to the small, quiet beach adjacent to the pier. Depending on the time of day, I saw large groups of pelicans or seagulls hanging out on the beach or in the water. One evening, I saw a couple playing fetch with their dog who looked so happy splashing in the water. I thought of Indy – he would have enjoyed making a new friend.
Where We StayedWe thought about staying at one of the fancier hotels downtown but returned to the same hotel and room we stayed with Indy, Casa Del Mar Inn. The rooms are modest, but spacious with a kitchen and fireplace. Yes, it was sad, but it was also comforting to feel like Indy was with us in spirit.
Read a tribute to Indy: Remembering Indy