Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Left Coast Ambitions: Mission Possible

Wednesday morning, Mr. Goodlaff and I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to go.  We checked out of our hotel, grabbed a breakfast smoothie (me) and coffee (him), and headed off to see one of the famous sights of Santa Barbara: the Mission!

Like all good little California school children, Mr. Goodlaff and I each spent a year in elementary school studying the California Missions.  The year of study culminates in a Mission project, which usually involved building the Mission of your choice out of sugar cubes and adobe-colored frosting (mine was Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, and I did a video-tour, not a model, but that's really beside the point. Yes, I am an overachiever--also beside the point).

In any case, we found ourselves here bright and early in the morning:

They call the Santa Barbara Mission the Queen of the missions, and it's easy to see why.  It has this incredible presence, and the view from the mission is stunning:

Doesn't take a genius to figure out why they chose this spot...

With such an imposing exterior, I figured the Mission chapel must be huge on the inside. But it wasn't.  In fact, it was rather small.  The architecture and detailing were fantastic, as were the frescoes, and while the style of the Mission was obviously Spanish, there were little details here and there that showed the Native American influence. 

We bought a ticket and took a self-guded tour around and through the Mission and the grounds, including the Mission's cemetery.  This fantastic tree was set in the middle of the courtyard, surrounded by the headstones of notable priests and city founders. 

Ever read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell?   The book is based on the life of Juana Maria--the Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island--and her headstone is inside the Santa Barbara Mission's cemetery.   That book was required reading during my elementary years, and there are so many images from that novel that still stick with me today.  Reading about her actual history and seeing a piece of the Mission as she would have seen it was incredible.  The historical artifacts and exhibits on Mission life were also really fantastic. 

All in all, our stop along the El Camino Real was great--little bit of history and a heck of a view. We got lost trying to find the freeway, headed the wrong way, got lost again, then finally headed in the right direction.  On the road again, we headed to our next destination: Cambria, CA.

The drive was incredibly scenic, both outside the car:

And inside the car:

My *husband* safely navigated us up the hills out of Santa Barbara and on to our next destination.  But it wouldn't be a Goodlaff road trip without a detour, so during the early afternoon hours, we found ourselves here:

Solvang, CA: The Danish Capital of America.

Solvang looks like Carmen Sandiego up and stole some quaint Danish town and stashed in in California for safe keeping.  It oozes charm, and there are dozens of bakeries and shops that lure you in with pastries and treasures.  Being that Solvang is the Danish capital of America, Mr. Goodlaff and I swung into a bakery, picked just one tasty treat from behind the glass case, and indulged in a little bit of "local" cuisine.  I won't lie: it was good, and we had powdered sugar everywhere...

We strolled and I shopped, but pretty soon we decided to hit the road once again.  We went the right way this time, too.

In Cambria, we stayed at the El Colibri Boutique Hotel and Spa, and upon arrival in our room, this greeted us:

I guess our secret was out...

Our hotel was lovely, albeit strangely arranged:

No, your eyes aren't seeing things, that's the bathtub open to the bedroom area.  I guess that's the "Boutique" part of things.  Actually, the layout was pretty neat--I could chill in the jacuzzi tub while Mr. Goodlaff sat reading on the bed. 

That night, we had dinner at the Sea Chest Restaurant and Oyster Bar, and had a really nice view of the ocean and the sunset as we ate our freshest of the fresh seafood.  And again, just like in Santa Barbara, we were in bed by 10PM. This time, however, we had an early(ish) morning excursion to be up for!

There's still room in the car!  Ride along with us:

Chapter 1: We Mini-Moon!

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