Hello! Happy September everyone! Hope you are all enjoying the tail end of your summer. At this moment I am sitting in my rented apartment in Paris while I wait for a taxi to the airport to go back home after a month long European vacation. I have been to Germany, the U.K., Italy and France and can't wait to share my adventures with you but for now it's California Dreaming! :) Enjoy!
Recently I headed down to southern California for a much needed break in the sun. We stayed two nights in Santa Monica and two in Santa Barbara for a mix of both the eclectic city vibe and luxurious relaxation. Highlights included eating at the very hip Gjelina in Venice, as well as a yoga class with the amazing Travis Eliot at Bryan Kest's Power Yoga in Santa Monica. Santa Barbara was all about relaxation and a beautiful dinner on the terrace of the newly re-opened El Encanto hotel. I must say that I am thoroughly head over heels for this state. It felt so good to be "home".
Santa Monica and Venice
Last time I visited LA, I stayed right in the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. I quite enjoy this area too but there is something special about the coastal neighbourhoods of the L.A. metropolis. The laid back beachy vibe and anything goes attitude is right up my alley. One could quite easily get used to the calm and cool attitude which was apparent our whole trip.
Based on the AirBnB hosts recommendations and my own personal research here are some of the places (mostly restaurants) we visited and some that I still want to get to in the area. For simplicity, I have only included those in Venice and Santa Monica.
EAT and DRINK
Espresso Cielo 3101 Main Street, Santa Monica 310.314.9999
There was a Starbucks closer to where we were but on holidays I do my best to steer clear of the familiar and our AirBnb host Paul said this was the place to get a good coffee. I agreed. Great vibe, friendly staff. $
Rose Café 220 Rose Avenue, Venice 310.399.0711
Another recommendation from our hosts, this was a great place for breakfast or lunch. Very casual, with an option to take out or sit in the bright and sunny covered patio. I was very happy with my fish tacos here. So simple, but so fresh and delicious. $
Café Gratitude 512 Rose Avenue, Venice 424.231.8000
Unfortunately, we didn't get to eat at this stellar raw food veggie restaurant but I still made point of going inside and checking it out. This location is brand new and beautifully designed and the menu sounded excellent. I will definitely go here on my next visit! Whole food amazing-ness and more happy people. Count me in. $
Gjelina 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice 310.450.1429
This restaurant was top on my list to visit and I was certainly not disappointed. Gjelina rocks and I will definitely be back for more in the near future. The squash blossom pizza was outstanding, both of us were equally impressed. Also top notch was the butterscotch pot de crème. Oh lala. So good. You must make a reservation for this place, especially if you want to sit outside on their beautiful courtyard patio. Otherwise the line up for the communal inside tables starts at 5pm. $$
The Tasting Kitchen 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice 310.392.6644
On our second night we had planned to check out Carolyn Styne & Suzanne Goin's newly re-opened A.O.C in west L.A. but we decided to keep things easy and avoid the car. Instead we ventured back to Abbot Kinney Boulevard where we were lucky to get a spot at The Tasting Kitchen. What a fun and energetic place! Delicious food, fun wine list, and great service. Favorites of mine were the burrata with basil, oven-dried tomatoes and brown butter (I know, burrata..again..) and the banana semifreddo dessert was perfect! $$
Moon Juice 507 Rose Avenue, Venice 310.299.3939
While I didn't get to go to Moon Juice, we walked right past it and it looked great. Fresh juices and happy people all around, I read that it is pricier than Main Squeeze just a few blocks away, but I think they might make up for it in smiles. $
Main Squeeze 2727 Main Street, Santa Monica 310.399.9914
I really liked this juice bar for their extensive menu and location to where we were staying which made it easy to pick up a freshly pressed green juice and a delicious raw oatmeal after a run along the beach. What I didn't like was how unfriendly and blasé the staff were. $
Still on the list to try:
SHOP - Due to time, I didn't manage to get any shopping in but our hosts recommended Santa Monica Place. I also passed many great boutiques along Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice.
Now on to Santa Barbara...
I absolutely adored Santa Barbara and its surrounding towns such as Carpinteria and Montecito. Because time was limited we decided against making the forty five minute drive into wine country to Los Olivos and instead focused on R&R and getting the most out of our lovely terrace suite at The Simpson House Inn.
On the first day we had a lovely welcome from Barbara at the Inn, then went for a walk down State Street. Lucky for us there was the most beautiful farmer's market going on and I fell sad with envy at the beauty and variety of the produce. By the time our stroll was done it was time for happy hour at the inn where Barbara had prepared a variety of hors d'oeuvres with three different kinds of local wine to choose from. It was so lovely to sit outside on the porch overlooking the tranquil gardens. That night was Guillaume's birthday and I had reserved a table on the terrace of the newly reopened El Encanto just up the hill from where we were. Beautiful place! Overall, it was a wonderful couple of days and we look forward to going back again soon.
Although we didn't make it to each and everyone of the following, here is a list of my recommendations for the area.
EAT and DRINK:
El Encanto 800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara, CA 805.845.5800
Great experience at this beautiful restaurant. Although we weren't blown away by the food, it was still very good and the service and atmosphere were top-notch. Book an earlier seating to get the most out of the view before nightfall. $$$
Los Agaves 600 N Milpas Street, Santa Barbara, CA 805.564.2626
There is a lot of hype surrounding neighbouring La Super-Rica Taqueria, which we didn't get to (they were also closed) but Los Agaves was recommended to us and we thought it was absolutely delicious. Went for lunch and tried the tacos, ceviche, and guacamole, The salsa selection is intense! We took our order to go and ate at the beach. Certainly didn't need dinner after this place. $
Lilly's Taqueria 310 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara, CA 805.966.9180
Just looking at the photos of this taqueria made my tummy growl. Another recommendation from our server at El Encanto, I will have to make sure to include this authentic taco joint on our next visit. $
Beautiful setting. Food is prepared with ingredients from the Resort's on property garden. $$$
Hungry Cat 1134 Chapala Street Santa Barbara, CA 805.884.4701
Hungry Cat is a highly owned by chef husband and wife team Suzanne Goin and David Lentz and has two other locations in LA. The menu emphasizes fresh seafood. $$
Ty Lounge - Four Seasons 1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 805.969.2261
A beautiful lounge in the Four Seasons Hotel with an ocean view. Featuring Spanish tapas, wines, and cocktails. $$
Julienne Restaurant 138 E Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, CA 805.845.6488
I came upon this restaurant while doing some restaurant while doing some pre-trip research and it was also recommended to us by our server at El Encanto. Looks like a great local spot with an emphasis on farm to table dishes. $$
Juice Bars / Healthy Eats
Juice Ranch 33 Parker Way, Santa Barbara, CA 805.845.4657
Brand new juice shop. Looks great! $
Pressed Juicery 506 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 805.845.7962
A chain Juicery, I wish I would have made a point of stopping by. Have heard great things. $
Backyard Bowls 3849 State St. Suite I157 Santa Barbara, CA 805.569.0011
Backyard Bowls specializes in acai bowls with superfood toppings. Yum! $
Lazy Acres Market 302 Megis Road Santa Barbara, CA 805.564.4410
A whole foods like grocery store with a good selection or organics and a salad bar. $
Simpson House Inn 121 E Arrellaga St Santa Barbara, CA 805.963.7067
The only five diamond bed & breakfast in North America, I was very happy with our stay here. It was totally our kind of place. Small, luxurious, intimate, friendly, comfortable, and fun. Yes, it's small quarters in some rooms, but this elegant Victorian manor was built in 1874 when standards were quite different. We stayed in the sun room which offers a patio as big as the room. The inn is centrally located and within walking distance to State Street which offers all amenities and also connects right to the beach if you're up for it. Perfect location, wonderful staff (thank you Barbara!), delicious food, and beautiful grounds. Two nights was not enough. $$$
Santa Barbara Auto Camp 2717 De La Vina Street, Santa Barbara, CA 888.405.7553
All six of the vintage Airstream trailers have been remodeled by Architect Matthew Hoffman and offer all amenities of a hotel in a relaxed camping kind of way! $
El Capitain Canyon 11560 Calle Real Santa Barbara, CA 805.685.3887
Love camping but hate the hassle? El Capitain, twenty minutes north of Santa Barbara is your answer. Cabins, Tents, or Yurts available. $$
San Ysidro Ranch 900 San Ysidro Ln Montecito, CA 805.565.1700
This luxurious Ranch has been on my radar for quite some time and I was so happy to be able to spend some time walking around this beautiful property and it's gardens on our trip (see photos above). Very peaceful, very California, very private Hollywood bungalow. $$$$
The Biltmore Four Seasons 1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 805.969.2261
The Biltmore is a very beautiful hotel and of course, the service at Four Seasons is pretty well some of the best you can get. Even if you don't stay here, I would recommend taking a look and having a drink or lunch at their lovely restaurant. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous and the beach is just across the street. We found the beach area here to be quieter and more enjoyable than the main beach further north. $$$$
El Encanto 800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara, CA 805.845.5800
Grogeous hotel up in the hills over looking the Pacific. Bungalows create a feeling of being home.
Motel 6 Santa Barbara - Beach #1 443 Corona Del Mar, Santa Barbara, CA 805.564.1392
The first time I came to Santa Barbara over fifteen years ago this is where I stayed and I have to say, I thought it was pretty dandy. I remember that we could see the ocean from our room and well, that was pretty cool. This Motel 6 has since renovated and offers very clean and modern rooms at a very affordable price. $
Hotel Oceana 202 W. Cabrillo Boulevard Santa Barbara, CA 805.965.4577
Conveniently located right across from the ocean, this beachfront hotel seems like a great place to stay. Complimentary breakfast and 2-hour bike rentals. $$
Bacara Resort 8301 Hollister Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 855.968.0100
Twenty minutes drive from Santa Barbara, just north of the village of Goleta on the Gaviota coast lies this stunning Spanish colonial style resort and spa. $$$