Santa Barbara

chalk painting
chalk painting

Arrived in Santa Barbara around lunch time on Sunday and was picked up by a friend from the station and taken straight to the Cajun Kitchen for breakfast. Excellent! Then back to her house for a sunday dinner with her family.

Rolly Pollies or Lice?
Rolly Pollies or Lice?

On Monday morning we took the dog for a walk along with her kids. The kids kept picking up little bugs which they called “rolly pollies” but which I insist are probably lice. The reader may judge for themselves by the photo I took. Later we stopped off at Santa Barbara Mission where a display of chalk paintings had just taken place. These were large images drawn in chalk on the ground and several were remarkable in their quality and detail. Surprisingly it was here that I noticed a group of gardeners vacuuming cacti.

I then wandered around Down Town Santa Barbara. State Street seems much the same. A mixture of bars, restaurants and shops. I walked along the coast to East Beach. When I first came to Santa Barbara in 1994 I would spend the mornings laying on the lawns by the sea near East beach reading a book. I now found myself wondering why there were no benches to sit on. A sign of my age no doubt.

The mist clearing over Santa Barbara
The mist clearing over Santa Barbara

I walked on the pier and stood watching the mountains just as the mist began to clear. Santa Barbara weather is amazing. In the mornings it is cool, misty and overcast. Then, in the space of a few minutes, the mist is blown away and a beautiful, hot and sunny days begins. As I loitered taking photographs I was asked by four separate groups of people to take their photo. They obviously spotted my inherent talent. Alternatively it may have been because there was nobody else around. Surprisingly two of the groups of people were British and we chatted about Heathrow, Hackney and America.

The mist clearing over Santa Barbara
The mist clearing over Santa Barbara

The entrepreneurial spirit of the American people is a cliché but I am often surprised at just how ubiquitous this can be. While walking back along the pier I noticed that some homeless guy had set up a game for passers by to flip a coin into a paper cup dangling from a stick. Several coins had already been thrown and I tossed a quarter his way.

I walked back up State Street past the old Schooner Inn. In 1994 I stayed here for about three months paying $15 a night. The shared bathrooms meant that after an evenings in the bars I would get up in the middle of the night dressed in only a sarong and wander the corridors in search of a bathroom. Inevitably I would forget my key and be forced down to the reception desk to get a spare. In one instance I was informed that I was “butt naked”. Sadly this excellent hotel has gone up market and has been renamed the Santa Barbara Hotel. They now want $200 a night and presumably the bathrooms are en suite and there is no need to wander the corridors late at night in search of somewhere to piss.

Opposite the Schooner used to be Kings Tavern and this has now been renamed the Old Kings Road London Pub and now has a Union Flag across the entrance. Joe’s cafe is still going strong but Mel’s Bar further up State Street has closed. I spent many a hot and happy evening whiling away the time in Mel’s and fondly recall singing New York, New York and Nessun Dorma at the top of my voice here. OK, so I did not know the words but tiresome details such as these were not important in a bar like Mel’s. As far as I am concerned the closure of Mel’s has taken the Bar out of Santa Barbara.


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