Santa Barbara Stories and Storms – February 2017

It’s been a memorable Feb here in Santa Barbara, especially being a part of one of the storms of the century in the middle of the month!  This post covers a brief visit to Phoenix, our friend Paul’s visit, and a few of our local activities.

Phoenix – early Feb. Dave got an offer he couldn’t refuse to come into Phoenix early for his shifts – including airfare for me to come with.  I joined him and got to spend a little time in our nice new (and tiny!) place right in Old Town Scottsdale and to enjoy some warmer weather!

Feb 10 – Chinese Culture and Cuisine Festival
Pretty cool event, especially the Tae Kwon Do performance.  Dave and I have to admit, we didn’t know Tae Kwon Do was Chinese – we always thought it was Japanese!  Check out the videos below!

More of the festival:

This front yard caught our eye:

Hiking in McDowell Park:

A slice of sunset at our new apartment!

Paul’s visit – weekend of 2/18:

Thurs, 2/16: Hit one of our lunch favorites, Brophy’s for some tasty shellfish and then drove into the hills above SB:

Storm of the Century Adventures (Fri, 2/17):  We braved the elements to have breakfast at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. Surprisingly there were quite a few other people there.  Waves were huge and visibility was awful. We made the crazy decision to drive over to wine country and go to the Chumash casino! Part of the San Marcos Pass (154) was closed due to slides – but instead of taking the 101 (which appeared to be clear), we decided to take our chances and instead try 154 just in case! Sure enough it was closed and we ended up on a drive of a lifetime through windy narrow backroads through the mountain (Painted Canyon Rd), where driving would be hair-raising even on a dry day! Imagine hair pin turns with water rushing down them, rock slides in progress as you’re driving by, and waterfalls everywhere!  It was cool but scary!

Our first stop was Chumash Casino where Paul and I both won a small amount of $$ playing blackjack – better than losing!  We drove through ‘downtown’ Santa Ynez which reminded me of a forgotten western town with one small main street, and then made our way to Gainey for a tasting.

Gainey Vineyards:  Gainey was an odd experience, they had a pinot that really did smell like beets – Paul picked up on that right away – I could also smell asparagus!  You never want your wine to smell like veggies! Though I did like their Chardonnay. While it’s an easy stop on your way into wine country, there are just too many other good wineries to spend your hard earned money at – skip it.

Foxen: We decided to do it right and go to our favorite Santa Barbara winery to-date, Foxen!  Glad we did!  This tasting was in their newer facility and not the barn, which was closed due to the storm!  The barn specializes in Rhone varietals and blends, the main facility pinot. Across the board their wines are incredible, though a few we all really enjoyed include:

  • Block 8 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria)
  • John Sebastiano (Santa Rita Hills)
  • La Encantada
  • Fe Ciega

Their syrahs were also smooth and delicious. We all bought too much, but this wine is so worth every cent!

Dinner at Lucky’s Fri night in Montecito was devine, a great recommendation from Garth who managed the vrbo property we rented in Palm Springs last fall!

Santa Barbara Historical Museum (Sat 2/18):  free admission, well-done, small museum that provides an historical overview of Santa Barbara. They also host private events, such as weddings in their courtyard.

Santa Barbara is named after Saint Barbara, whose story is described below:

Legend holds that in 1483 a beautiful woman named Barbara from Asia Minor had a very protective father, Dioscorus of Nicomedia.  To protect her from the glances of men, he constructed a tower with bathhouse, gardens, and a courtyard.  While her father was away, Barbara instructed the crew to add a 3rd window to her tower, to represent the Trinity (as she recently converted to Christianity.) This infuriated her father who ordered her to worship his gods or be put to death. She chose death, and after her father beheaded her with a sword, he was struck by lightning and died. Barbara become the patron saint of artilleryman, grave diggers, architects, miners, and masons – as well as a protector from lightning!

More of the story of Santa Barbara:

Santa Barbara architectural style – following the 1925 earthquake where much of the lower portion of the city was destroyed, the city’s civic leaders found themselves with a ‘clean slate’ opportunity to rebuild the city into the beauty you see today. They created several agencies to assure unity of a new architectural style in Santa Barbara, in which Spanish Colonial was blended with other Mediterranean styles resulting in buildings of white walls, tile roofs, iron accents – this new approach was aptly named ‘Santa Barbara Style’. These buildings are gorgeous and make you feel like you’ve been transported to the Mediterranean. There is quite a bit of new construction going on in Santa Barbara too – it’s cool to watch these buildings go up, so different than anywhere else we’ve lived!

More of the Story of Santa Barbara:

Tong Shrine: Once owned by the Chinese freemasons who were dedicated to the overthrow of China’s last dynasty, the Qing, this shrine was carved in Kong Mun, near Canton, and arrived in Santa Barbara in 1898.

The shrine represented a spriritual force which bound tong members together. Men were sworn into the tong before the shrine and learned secret signs by which they could identify one another. The tong paid homage to Kuan Yu Teh, whose image rests in the shrine’s upper recess. Dragons and phoenixes adorn the top section of the shrine where two dragons fight for the pearl of omnipotence. Dragons were symbols of power, wisdom, and good luck. The phoenix was a harbinger of a coming period of peace and prosperity. In the lower section figures depict famous battle scenes, well-known events, and stories.

The fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 relegated the shrine to an ‘object d’arte’, a monument to the history of the Chinese people in Santa Barbara.

In the 1850s-1900 Santa Barbara had a very vibrant Chinatown with more than 700 people leaving there (quite a large population given that there are currently only 29,000 residents in the city!)  Chinatown is but a memory at this time however. At the time, the Chinese fled famine and war to come to California and work in the mines, build roads, and lay track for the railroads.

More artifacts:

We walked down De La Guerra street and I just loved this view, like it popped out of a movie!

Further down, closer to State St:

And of course, a touring day is capped off with a tasting, at one of our favorites, Margerum!

Finally the rains clear! What a difference a day makes!  Dave and I couldn’t get over how gorgeous this view was, the sun combined with the clouds and the shadows cast across the mountains.  It was really beautiful! On Stearns Wharf:

I love how close the pelicans let you get!

Then over to the beach in front of the Four Seasons to check out the view (there was sand here a few weeks ago 🙂

And to enjoy the great outdoor patio at the hotel for special drinks (extra special for Dave who ordered a Remy Martin Louis XIII – check out the production below!)


After drinks we checked out the sunset and accidentally made our way into a private beach club – it was labeled ‘casino’ – you can’t blame us 🙂


Sun, 2/26 – Dave and I saw a production of Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess at the Ensemble Theatre Company.  The show was very well done and complete with a full jazz ensemble.  The story however was so outdated, from the 30s, and not refreshed (save an odd opening of 60s era civil rights footage), which made it hard to really get into. Still glad we went for a sample of Santa Barbara theater!  For such a small city they have ample opportunities for live entertainment across multiple venues!

Around town:



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