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December 27, 2006 [ More archived home pages here ]

Santa Barbara Christmas 2006

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Today's song is Harbor Lights by Boz Scaggs, released in 1976.

This Christmas season, Sherry, our friend DJ, and I celebrated by spending the weekend in Santa Barbara, California. We stayed at the cozy Inn By The Harbor hotel. It was a wonderful time for all of us.

For me it was very different from my Christmas in 1972 when I was poor and living alone in Santa Barbara. I've come a long way since that time when I hadn't yet found my way in life.

Today I think of this year's Christmas season as one of the best in my life. I'll try to cover my experiences there this time around in the rest of the message.

The El Torito restaurant (shown below) is the first place I ever ate in Santa Barbara back in early 1972. My best friend, Bill Artus, and I drove my 1971 Blue Super Beetle from Chicago to Southern California during the January-February trip mentioned in other places on this web site. Bill and I stopped for a couple days in Santa Barbara to look up Ahmed and Edna Marshani folks, parents of Jim Cerda.

Ahmed and Edna treated Bill and I to dinner at this restaurant location. Sitting right across from the harbor was great that night long ago as we sipped our margaritas. I fell in love with Santa Barbara on that first visit. The feelings have never left me almost thirty-five years later.

This year on Saturday morning Sherry, DJ, and I took in the Santa Barbara Mission and a walk along the Sterns Wharf.

On Saturday night, Sherry, DJ, and I ate at the Palazzio restaurant (shown below). The meal was marvelous. We strolled the State street scene afterwards, taking in the laid-back city and beautiful hanging lights all around. Almost everyone we met exchanged the greeting, "Merry Christmas" with us. The mood was peaceful and quiet all along the street. It was a very relaxing and enjoyable evening.

On Sunday morning we found the large Fig tree that grows there. Planted in 1876, it is one of America's largest trees and is pictured next.

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On Sunday afternoon, we all again returned to downtown Santa Barbara. Sherry and DJ wanted to shop some more so I left them and went to the famous O'Malley's Bar right there on State street. I caught the San Diego game already in the second half of that game. The Chargers were playing the Seahawks on one of the many TV's there. I sat down next to a young man wearing a Charger's jersey and ordered my diet soda, straight-up. After a few plays during the third quarter, the young man asked me who I was supporting and I told him San Diego. He and I were of the same mind about the team and game.

His name is Sebastian, and is a Construction Management undergrad at Chico State. We talked the next two hours about the game, San Diego (where he lives when not in school), and other interesting topics.

In the short two hours we watched the game together, I felt that old Santa Barbara magic come back to me that I used to feel when I lived a few blocks away from O'Malley's. Something told me I'm still being true to a part of my Spirit that I once had as a 22 year-old guy. I'm changed a bit from Christmas Eve's afternoon. I hope the effect lasts a while.

Then Sherry and DJ called to see where I was and we met up to return back to the hotel rooms to prepare for dinner.

For dinner on Christmas Eve, we went to the famous and luxurious, Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort and Hotel just across from the ocean. I was stunned by the size and architecture of that place.

Outside in the front open area, they were preparing for evening church services. The picture immediately below is about an hour before the service started.

The next picture is a Gingerbread house set in the lobby area. Many parents were taking pictures of their family standing by the three-foot high fixture.

It was time for dinner about 5:00 p.m. We ate inside at the Cafe Los Arcos (shown below). We could observe a lot of people arriving for the service and standing around the large Christmas trees placed around the expansive lobby area.

After dinner, we drove over the the nearby First United Methodist Church for the 9:00 p.m. evening service. I picked this place because I attended a Christmas Eve service there back in 1972 when I lived a couple blocks away. I remembered the spectacular bell choir service that night long ago and wanted Sherry and DJ to experience it in its current form.

We were not disappointed, even though the church's choir is smaller than my last visit in 1972, the members offered a great performance nonetheless. Their Spirit was willing and they provided. Although I am no longer a Christian, I remember my Christian roots and will remember the nice, warm feeling I had at this recent Christmas Eve service put on by a proud and confident congregation.

After Christmas morning breakfast we started our return trip home. We decided to take the historic coast highway 1 route from Oxnard south. We had a chance to stop at various places along the way. The first place we stopped gave me a chance to snap the picture below of the Channel Islands.

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Further down the coast we stopped at the well-known Santa Monica Pier. Here are some pictures of that location and surrounding area.

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For our Christmas Night dinner, DJ treated us to Legends California Bistro at the famous La Costa Resort and Spa. There we dined on expertly prepared dishes of prime-rib, shrimp crab, and other accompanying appropriate side dishes. The service is excellent there. The entrance to the facility is shown below.

The year is almost over and I am still discovering new feelings and new ideas from this holiday season. I needed this Santa Barbara Christmas trip more than I realized I would. Old circles close and new ones are starting. I know I've said that many times before, but today it is happening anew to me. :-)

May life grant more great surprises for you too!


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