Exploring Santa Barbara
Summertime in Texas is brutal. Temperatures above 100 fahrenheit are the norm. The ground gets so dry and cracked, it looks like a road map. By August, I’m more than ready for my annual trip to Santa Barbara, California. I’m not really a beach person but I love the water and sitting in the shade and listening to the waves roll in. I mainly just enjoy the scenery, the great weather, and the clean air - minus the heat and humidity of Dallas.
Another feature of Santa Barbara that I like: you can walk most places. Like many European cities, there’s a central historic area where you can find shops, restaurants, theaters, and cafes...and all of this is within walking distance of the beach. If you find yourself tired of the sun, surf, and clothes full of sand, I found some places that are not on the usual tourist map. You can fulfill your craving for Mexican food, satisfy your sweet tooth, and find bargains on vintage and designer clothes, all within a two mile radius.
One of my favorite finds was a place called The Sheik Boutique. If you’re a fashionista on a budget, you've got to go to the Sheik Boutique. There were lots of great outfits for parties and events, as well as classic everyday finds. What I liked about the store was that everything was very well organized and merchandised. It was Fiesta week in Santa Barbara, so there was also a nice selection of vintage Mexican outfits from the 50’s and 60’s. You can also find a wide array of shoes, hats and accessories. To learn more about Fiesta check the website for OldSpanish Days.org. I also have some photographs from the parade on my travel blog, Adventures of a Carryon.
Trying on clothes makes me hungry, so I headed over to E. Haley Street, where I’d seen some restaurants and cafes that caught my attention on a drive by, though you can easily walk it.
Along the way, I discovered another great consignment store called Cominichi’s. It’s really more like a flea market, with everything from funky 50’s artwork to clothing, dishes, and furniture. If I lived in Santa Barbara, I’d probably have taken home these mint condition club chairs. I visualized myself in a silk dressing gown, sipping a vodka martini while lounging in one these chairs.
Just a couple of doors down I saw what looked like a traditional diner, complete with service at the counter. It was the Rose Café, an authentic Mexican restaurant that’s been in business since 1953. I’m from Texas, so I feel I know a thing or two about good Mexican, but thought I’d give this place a try. It appeared to be full of locals - always a good sign. I went for the traditional chicken enchiladas with rice. I’m not a food critic, but I’ve traveled around Mexico a fair amount, and as I said, I’m from Texas. I have eaten my share of Mexican food: the good, the bad, and the mediocre. If you crave good old school Mexican food, in a cool atmosphere, this is the place for you. The Rose has a full menu online, so you can check it out in advance if you are so inclined.
While I was eating my lunch at the counter, a petite woman with jet black hair walked in. She was greeted by a group of women, “Hi Grandma.” You can’t really tell from this photo but she’s a tiny woman only about 4’10 inches and she just turned 95 years old. I knew when I saw her I had to photograph her. She had an air of authority and ownership about her. I knew she was someone important, at least there at the Rose. Turns out she’s the owner, and her name is Agnes Guevara. If you want to read more about the family and the restaurant there’s a great story online in the Santa Barbara Independent.
Heading back towards State Street, the main drag, I decided I needed a sugar infusion to wake me up after my carb-heavy lunch. I headed over to one of my favorite places, Chocolate Maya. I discovered Chocolate Maya last year, along with salted dark chocolate filled with caramel. It is so decadent, I try to eat it very, very, slowly. It takes willpower. The best I can do is three small bites. They also have a large selection of fair trade chocolate from around the world. And remember, “Chocolate is not an indulgence, it’s a necessity.”
424 E. Haley St.
Santa Barbara, CA966-3773
15 W. Guitierrez
The Sheik Boutique
11 W. Arrellaga Street
410 E. Haley St.
All photos courtesy and copyright Penny Sadler