It’s hard work getting up this morning, but I head up to collect my rental car from LAX. I’ve decided since I’m only going to do this drive once, I’m going to bloody well do it right and have therefore reserved myself a Mustang Convertible.The only possible fly in the ointment I can see to this master plan is that I’ve never driven automatic, or on the right hand side of the road; and the stallion is not exactly a small piece of machinery.
I mean, how hard can it be? you may ask. potentially, very hard actually when you are blessed with the hand and eye coordination of a one year old. In fact scratch that; the one year olds would probably be doing this better than I’m about to right now.
I grab my keys and set off. Ok, good, all good, I’m on the correct part of the road-excellent-and it’s only a straight shot up the coast to my first stop, Santa Barbara.
I leave LA going out past Venice, passing the beautiful Getty Villa, and heading through Malibu where surfers are in the water, and exercise enthusiasts are on the sand power yoga-ing in synchronisation.
It’s a gorgeous route and I settle into the drive as I pass Point Mugu State Park.
At Oxnard I flip over to the 101 highway for my final stretch into Santa Barbara.
I hit the centre of downtown and it feels like I’m not in America anymore. Whereas a lot of California has Spanish architecture mixed in with more modern pieces, Santa Barbara is solely Spanish in style retaining the influence of its early European settlers.
All the buildings are traditional with terracotta tiled roofs, and even the plants have changed to the shorter palms and the cacti I know so well.
I park up and go to explore and acquire myself something to eat.
I walk up State Street which is the main drag of restaurants and shops, and by the looks of things, it’s the Abbot Kinney of Santa Barbara. There’s not a chance I can afford anything, so I don’t even window shop.
I arrive at The Public Market, which sells take-home produce, as well as housing various little eateries you can sit in at.
Over faced with choice, and far too hungry, I end up with pretzels and peanut butter ice cream.
I walk back past the County Courthouse-it’s stunning and looks like some sort of mythical exotic palace from Game of Thrones.
I drive up to The Old Mission where Franciscan Monks settled and founded it in 1786. It’s gorgeous, and has a beautiful church attached to it where a wedding has just taken place.
I explore the grounds which consist of cute gardens, a museum, and of course my favourite-a small graveyard.
Next I drive down to East Beach, which is charming with the tide out, and boats are sailing on the salty surf. I walk along the rickety Stearn’s Wharf to where my hunger-unsatisfied earlier-is finally satiated with a whole fresh lobster dripping in lemon butter.
Full and happy, I stumble across ‘Madame Gina’s Fortunes’ and it catches my eye. I get my Tarot cards read and am pleased to learn not only will I be successful in life, love, and my career (of which she failed to note I currently have none); but she did not foresee any mustang related mishaps, so win.
I leave the beach and drive the 20 minutes to the tiny town of Goleta where my Airbnb is for the evening. My host is a touch of crazy but well meaning enough.
Unfortunately, I’m too far to head back into town without a cab and I don’t fancy the drive as it’s definitely wine o’clock.
Instead, I walk to the coast with my tunes blaring as the sun dips low behind the mountains-a glorious fuschia.
I aim for the Bacara Resort and Spa, right on the ocean, and stumbling through some non-pedestrian woods, pop out in a scene from couples retreat. I immediately slip into Hapless Brit mode as it’s actually a bloody expensive private resort. Mission accomplished, and K-Middy and I sit in the gorgeous bar, surrounded by fire pits, looking out to sea; wine in hand.
I’m only a few hours away, but I already feel worlds apart from the throng of LA. California is so varied, and it really is the state that keeps on giving.
I manage to score myself a free golf cart ride back to avoid any scenes from The Hunger Games on the way home, and as I retire I know tomorrow takes me further up the coast- and i’m excited by what new delights I will discover on the way.