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By Jane Cassie
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)

A blanket of fog cloaks the Pacific in 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.

#1 Rincon Surfer. Photo by MarkWeber

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.

#2 Santa Barbara Courthouse exterior. Photo by JaySinclair

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 a hundred artists display their wealth of talents in the form of pottery, paintings, weavings, carvings, and sculptures.

#3 Artists along Cabrillo Blvd. Photo by Jay Sinclair Santa Barbara Visitors Bureau

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 have paid exorbitant taxes for their multi million dollar mansions there.

#4 Santa Barbara Harbor boats. Photo by Mark Weber

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 alluring features include the Santa Ynez Mountains backdrop, year-round sunshine, and Spanish Colonial architecture that imbibes its colorful past.

My view stretches east, to a historical hallmark that has been deemed ‘the soul of the city.’ The twin-towered Mission Santa Barbara proudly hovers on the hill, flaunting a combination of Roman and Spanish mission styles. It was founded in 1786 to protect and convert local Chumash Indians into Catholics and is still used by the Franciscan order today.

#5 Old Mission Santa Barbara. Photo by Jay Sinclair

Other cultural jewels integrate with the city’s modern day gems, and though I enjoy viewing them from above, the twelve-block Red Tile Walking Tour is a self-guided trek that later provides me with an up close and personal view. 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 libations that flows from the regional wineries.

#6 Vineyard View. Photo by Jay Sinclair

#7 State Street Downtown Santa Barbara. Photo by Mark Weber

Sterns Warf provides a natural anchor at the end of this high-energy strip. In the 1930’s, this popular pier had been used as a floating casino and during WWII it had operated as a naval base. Today, it’s the oldest functioning wharf in California and hosts over six million visitors annually. The boardwalks are bordered by quaint shops, cozy cafes and intriguing markets that 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. Santa Barbara -it’s an energized city with sophistication, yet feels so relaxed and laid back. And by the end of my visit, I can truly relate to why it acquired its beloved moniker, The American Riviera.

#8 Stearns Wharf biking. Photo by Jay Sinclair



For more information about Santa Barbara:

PHOTOS as accredited below

#1 Rincon_Surfer_Photo by MarkWeber

#2 Santa Barbara Courthouse_exterior_Photo by JaySinclair

#3 Artists along Cabrillo Blvd photo by Jay Sinclair Santa Barbara Visitors Bureau

#4 Santa BarbaraHarbor_boats_Photo by MarkWeber

#5 OldMissionSantaBarbara_Photo by JaySinclair

#6 VineyardView_Photo by JaySinclair

#7 StateStreet_downtownSB_Photo by MarkWeber

#8 StearnsWharf_biking_Photo by JaySinclair

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