Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Top 5 Reasons You Should NOT Buy My New Santa Barbara Comedy Travel Book

#5: You Loathe Santa Barbara.
Believe it or not, there are actually people out there who passionately hate Santa Barbara. The beach, the mountains, the natural beauty, the laid back vibe, near perfect weather and friendly people disgust them. I’ve never met them, but I’m sure there are a handful out there. I’ve heard rumors. Anyhow, if you hate it here, please do not buy my book.

#4: You Can’t Stand Learning New Things
There is a segment of the population who can’t stand to find a new restaurant to try, art galley to visit, hike to take, winery or brewery to sample. Only the standard tried and true will do. Besides, you never know what you’ll get with new experiences. Probably lice! Right? If you prefer the same tedious experiences you’ve had for years, do not buy my book.

#3:You Hate Small Towns
Small is just hugely wrong. Santa Barbara is a small town with small people, small portions, small mindsets and big taxes. Only a big city can offer variety, diversity, choice, and, you know, other stuff. Small towns like Santa Barbara and its even smaller towns like Lompoc, Los Alamos, Summerland, Montecito, Goleta and Carpinteria are like sets from a movie - there’s nothing behind the façade. And don’t get me started on the “Danish” themed Solvang! This book sounds idiotic.

#2: Traveling to You is Like Having the Plague
Let’s be honest – ‘travel’ is a ‘hassle.’ Heck, they’re practically even spelled the same! Crowds, noise, renting a car, sitting on a plane, yes even walking is laborious and hard. Who wants a bad nights sleep in some crappy hotel? Why get up to fresh air and hang out at a Santa Barbara beach – we all know the ocean isn’t even blue, it reflects the color of the sky. Plus there are kids, dogs, musicians, artists, anyone on a Segway…yeah, no thanks. When you stay at home no one bothers you (except for that weird neighbor). Don’t travel and don’t waste your money on my book.

#1: You Don’t Have a Funny Bone in Your Body.
I don’t mean literally your “funny bone” (that’s actually when your ulner nerve bumps against your humorous bone and you get that icky sensation like your arm is drunk) because then your arm wouldn’t work. You haven’t laughed in decades. I mean, why bother? The world isn’t funny, this blog post is stupid, and to smile wastes valuable calories. So please, I beg of you, don’t buy my book.

Thank you.
The dumb author who Wrote Santa Barbara Know It All: A Guide To Everything That Matters.
P.S. – Just so you know, don’t even bother buying a copy of this book at Tecelote Bookstore in Montecito, Chaucer’s or the Visitor’s Center in Santa Barbara, The BookLoft in Solvang, or the Costco in Goleta. And for Pete’s sakes don’t purchase it on Amazon!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sipping in Solvang: 6 Years of Southern Exposure (of Wine and Danish)

Discovery. Finding wines are that are new, under the radar, barely available and hard to find. Yep, that’s fun. The Garagiste Festival 6th Annual Southern Exposure kicks off on Friday night, February 9th in Solvang. Yeah, Solvang, that cool little Danish town in Santa Barbara Wine Country.

Having attended these events in Paso Robles and Solvang before has been a great opportunity, not only for me as a wine writer, but also a wine buyer and I brought a few of these wines into my wine department. (See that article HERE).
So, should you attend? Well, if you dislike the idea of uncovering hard to find wines, if you prefer to drink only what you know, they by all means stay home. Otherwise, here’s what’s in store:

10 wineries brand new to Garagiste that you haven't tasted anywhere else.

6 wineries pouring their very 1st vintage.

Over 50% of the wineries participating have never poured in Solvang before. So even for those who have attended before, they will find plenty of new wines to experience.

Only 11 wineries even have tasting rooms with regular hours - just 26% of participants - so now is the chance to explore.

No waiting in line- they keep their winemaker-to-attendee ratio deliberately low to ensure a personal tasting experience.

There will other events along as well, so check the website for those details, but if nothing else, come Saturday for the main tasting and be prepared to be wowed.

But also check out Solvang, which has its roots from 1911 when it was founded. If you get a chance visit Ingeborg’s Danish Chocolates – all Danish chocolates made right here in Solvang, at 1679 Copenhagen Dr. Also known for pastries, Solvang offers several places in town to check out for butter cookies, as well as art galleries, Danish clothing and gifts, not to mention Jule Hus – all Christmas all the time at 1580 Mission Dr.

Winemakers scheduled to pour include
Ascension Cellars, Caliza Winery, Camlow Cellars, Cloak & Dagger Wines, D. Volk Wines, Diablo Paso, Dunites Wine Co., El Lugar Wines, Golden Triangle, Hoi Polloi Wines, Kimsey Vineyards, Luna Hart Wines, Marin’s Vineyard, MCV Wines, Metrick Wines, Mollie Wines, Montemar Winery, Sycamore Ranch Winery, TLO Wines, Torch Cellars, TW Fermentation Co., Velvet Bee Wine, Vino Vargas, Volatus Wines, and Weatherborne Wine Co.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Purrfect Pet Project – Cat Therapy Santa Barbara

Catalina and Snow
I'm not being catty but Cat Therapy is the only cat café between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Owner Catalina Esteves (yes that's her real name, yes I understand the irony) is originally from Argentina but moved to Santa Barbara with a crazy idea, to help adult cats get adopted. You book a reservation to hang out with the cats, make friends, play, let them sit on you, read, you can even have a party and book out the room. You can order food or drinks from a restaurant across the street (Brasil Arts Café, and the food will be brought to you) and de-stress…however no one will pet you – all combing is for kitties.

Maggie...with an attitude
Opened in May 2017 this former yoga studio now houses typically around 14 cats, oh and they do offer a cat yoga class. Catalina had this crazy idea and spoke to the mayor, from there on the City was really helpful, probably because nothing like this had been done before. It’s the perfect way to spend some time in Santa Barbara. Cat Therapy partners with the Animal Shelter Assistance Program, the Ventura County Animal ServicesShelter, and ResQCats.

“We help adult cats get adopted,” Catalina tells me and they've had 16 adoptions since they opened less than two months ago. One cat recently adopted had a bunch of cat-ostrophic strikes against it; it was a senior cat, it was black, it was half deaf and had no tail. How difficult would it be for this cat to find a new home if it sat in a shelter? Here the cats roam freely, some more social than others, but the freedom to move unfettered allows them to be more who they are, and as you interact with them, you might be drawn to a specific feline.

My boys, Toby and Jasper
So, why exactly do people come here, I ask? “There are three reasons. One, is people who are actively looking to adopt a cat. The second is for people who can't have a cat perhaps because of where they live (rental restrictions, other animals) or allergy considerations of a loved one.” And third she says, well some people just love to hang out with animals. As the proud owner of two cats (Jasper and Toby) and an animal lover, I get this. But I also wonder about the stereotype, you know, the crazy cat lady syndrome. But Catalina tells me a group of guys recently stopped in and were somewhat mesmerized. In fact a couple that was there when I visited owned four cats but made a point of coming here, and visiting animal shelters to give love and attention to other cats.

To be clear they are not sales people, so if you happen by and they ask if you’d like to come in you will not be given a cat and told to pay up. Besides, there’s no handle on the front door, so you can’t gain access unless they let you in. All cats have current shots and are up to date health-wise, and ready to head home with you. If not, the place is sterilized after each group visits and though there are rugs, the floors are concrete so there’s less dander build up if you’re sensitive. Yes, Cat Therapy makes me happy – anytime humans come into contact with animals and have a positive e experience it makes us humans better. After all, human or animal, we all live to the level that we are loved. “When you witness an adoption it's a very emotional thing, we are a place for all animal lovers,” Catalina says.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sealed With a Pen - What Blubber, the Hearst Castle & Wine Have in Common

I see you! (Photo: Visit San Simeon)
Just days before President Obama left office he invoked the Antiquities Act of 1906, and no, it has nothing to do with antiques. What President Obama did was to expand the California Coastal National Monument, a move that provides added protections for the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas located just north of San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. The California Coastal National Monument, originally established by President Clinton in 2000, protects and preserves “objects or sites of historic or scientific interest” along California’s Central Coast. More than 17,000 elephant seals migrate thousands of miles to come to this secluded sandy beach twice per year, and now they are fully protected. Bless their fat little hearts.

Boys being boys.
Located four miles north of the Hearst Castle, 12 miles north of Cambria the elephant seal rookery is visible by “Elephant Seal Viewing Area” signs. If that doesn’t work you’ll see a lot of people looking over a low wood fence pointing indiscriminately. No one is certain why the seals keep showing up here, but they do.  In the winter months the seals come here to breed, in the summer months, they molt. Winter is the best time to view the males, females and newborn pups. They might seem lazy at first, strewn across the sand like so much chubby road kill. But they can be forgiven. They can dive up to 3,000 feet and swim at three miles an hour and, let’s not forget, they carry all that blubber with them. They started appearing in these low sand protected beaches in the early 1990s and haven’t left yet. The males will spar for territorial rights, the females who appear to just want to be left alone. And they are loud, making a horrible sound like a bad Chewbacca impression. The seals are around all year, though not in the quantities like summer and winter. The docents are there all year too, people in blue coats emblazoned with “Friends of the Elephant Seal” on their jackets. Ask them anything. The information is free, the show is free and you might spend more time here than you ever expected.

The Big Sur Coastline
“We’re very grateful to President Obama to include one of San Simeon’s most precious resources as part of the California Coastal National Monument,” said Michael Hanchett, president of the San Simeon Chamber of Commerce. “This elephant seal rookery has become a globally loved place. Three-quarters of a million visitors come to see them each year, which helps support and preserve local businesses and jobs.” Obviously Hearst Castle is nearby, the charming town of Cambria, the Piedras Blancas Light Station, whose tower and support building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Just north you begin the staggeringly beautiful Big Sur Coastline. There are wineries dotted south in Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay, and a plethora of them on Highway 46 West, which, runs from Cambria to Paso Robles. Time to hit the road, my friends!
Chillin' (Photo: Solterra Strategies)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dying To Get In - The Santa Barbara Cemetary

The Santa Barbara Cemetery (901 Channel Dr., 805/969-3231) is one cool spot. Sure, the resting place of the dead isn’t on your typical itinerary when you visit someplace (though admittedly I routinely visit cemeteries all over the world), but it’s definitely worth stopping by when you’re in town. The cemetery is unmistakably quiet and holds the best piece of land, high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean with pristine views to the mountains and Channel Islands as the Pacific fans out before you.

Advertising in the local paper from the 1940s
As cemeteries go this is flat out beautiful and though the dead may not be impressed with the views, all of us living folks certainly will be. Many notables from Santa Barbara history are buried here (JP Sterns of Sterns Wharf; Lewis Burton-the 1st mayor of Santa Barbara in 1850; and Pearl Chase who basically single-handedly made Santa Barbara the tourist paradise it is today,) as are actors Ronald Coleman (films: The Lost Horizon, The Prisoner of Zenda, and he once owned the San Ysidro Ranch), and Fess Parker (TV’s Daniel Boone and local vintner), and even a few tragic souls from the legendary Jonestown massacre in Guyana from 1978; otherwise you’ve probably never heard of most of these folks.
In fact author David Petry writes, “One couple, Alice and Charles Sedgewick Minot of Boston, is buried in the cemetery although neither of them ever visited Santa Barbara while alive. Alice Minot requested in her will that she be buried on a beautiful site overlooking an ocean.  Her husband, after sending his attorneys on an extensive search, selected the Santa Barbara Cemetery.” The land goes back to 1867 as a burial place and was originally a 5-acre parcel on what was then the outskirts of town. Today it sits between the Four Seasons Biltmore and the Santa Barbara Zoo. There’s even a 200-page book on the complete history of the cemetery, “The Best Last Place,” written by the aforementioned David Petry, and quote from his book. Such is the dedication of Santa Barbara natives and their love of local history…and burials, I guess. A short walk across the thin grass amid palm tress, sunshine, ocean breezes and headstones will give you a new perspective on life – if not, go wine tasting.