Santa Barbara hadn’t originally featured in our California road trip plans but it ended up being the very best sort of surprise. We’d intended to drive down the 1 from Carmel and stay in Big Sur, then straight into LA. However the February storms put pay to that, destroying the bridge and a big chunk of the highway. Big Sur was totally cut off for us, meaning we missed out on the most picturesque part of the drive and – perhaps more depressing – a spa trip to Esalen. Still, we were well aware that this small blip for us was total devastation for the Big Sur businesses, most being closed until July, and it really wasn’t the worst trial in the world to reroute. So we drove seven hours through the Californian wineries before rejoining the coast at Santa Barbara: another gorgeous drive and sweltering hot. Admittedly there was one point, after 100 miles of relentless farmland, where only a dirty Subway could revive us!
We arrived in Santa Barbara in the late afternoon and checked into the fabulous Hotel Indigo; perfectly located near the beach and directly opposite the Funk Zone, a hub of graffiti-covered converted warehouses and the centre of the Urban Wine Trail. There are art galleries, vintage shops, amazing wine (of course) and incredible food (try The Lark or pizza at Lucky Penny). Londoners, the vibe is a lot like the cluster of bars and restaurants around God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow; in other words, totally hipster, laid back and very cool. It helps that – unlike London – it’s permanently warm, so sitting outside only requires a beer jacket if you want one.
Wine tasting was obviously first point-of-call…
Our hotel also had its own library right outside our room; although I think in this pic Pete is far too wasted to read anything!
Even without the boozing, I would’ve fallen in love with Santa Barbara. True to prior Californian form, everybody has a dog; the coast is stunningly beautiful and it’s warm enough to sunbathe even in March. There’s great shopping (including my favourite boutique DIANI) and great vegan/veggie food; see my nauseatingly healthy salad at The Natural Cafe below.
We spent a day and half in Santa Barbara before dragging ourselves away for the final few hours of driving. LA was in sight, but first, a picture perfect stop-off in Malibu for lunch. Malibu Pier is so fresh and white-washed and Instagrammable: the cafe, Malibu Farm, is a wellness blogger’s wet dream. I have a feeling I’m not the first person to ‘gram the vegan peach ice cream.
This is obviously a Tumeric coconut latte. No other acceptable drink.
Full of good non-saturated fats, we hopped back in the car and pressed play on the La La Land soundtrack…