How I Spent a Day in Santa Barbara

Every few weeks, I get lucky enough to have either a Friday/Saturday or a Saturday/Sunday scheduled off work. With that “rotation” I had Saturday March 3rd free, and so did my dear friend Emily. As such, we made plans so I could visit where she is currently living in the Santa Barbara area.

Due to work, I got to Santa Barbara late Friday. Fortunately, my leaving Friday after work gave us all day Saturday to do fun things. After some brainstorming, we decided that we wanted to make sure the day involved brunch, local restaurants, historical buildings, and getting close to the beach (getting in the water wasn’t a requirement for me on this coastal trip).

For us, the day started off with meeting Emily’s fiancé at her favorite breakfast place, The Cajun Kitchen. Although we each committed to our own entree, we also split a bowl of beignets. From brunch, we regrouped and then decided that our next stop for the day would be the Santa Barbara Mission.

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After wandering around the outside of the mission, we decided to do the self-guided tour that goes through the garden, cemetery, church, and museum.

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Alternate view of the Sacred Garden

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Bay-Fig in the center of the cemetery

This part of the day made me particularly happy because I love the California Missions. As I have previously talked about with reference to National Parks, I took California for granted before I moved to Colorado, and I decided years ago that I wanted to make it a personal goal to see all of the missions. Before this trip, I had toured the missions at San Juan Bautista and Carmel, and had been on the grounds for (but not inside) the mission at San Luis Obispo. At a later date I am sure I will do a more in depth explanation, but in part, I’m drawn to the missions because of their architectural beauty, the fact that parts are still in use, and that people can still be buried there (regardless of religion).

After we finished the tour, we decided to head into Downtown Santa Barbara. There, we went to the County Courthouse to climb four stories worth of stairs to get to the top of the tower. The first two floors of this building consist primarily of public and private offices as well as courtrooms (two of the Supreme Court rooms were actually in use that day). The third floor on the west side of the building had only a small room with the internal components for the clock on the exterior of the building. The fourth floor above the clock was solely an observation deck, and each side offered a panoramic view of the city and it’s surrounding natural features.

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From the second floor of the Courthouse
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Panoramic view facing the ocean
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Panoramic view across the courtyard towards the mountains

Once we were done at the top, we took the elevator back down to the main floor and sat in the courtyard for a little while (we also probably definitely accidentally photobombed a wedding).

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Observation tower from the courtyard

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From there, we decided to drive down the pier and then park by the harbor and walk around some more. We walked past an array of personal boats and a gathering of the Santa Barbara Ukulele Club before reaching the building for the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. We didn’t go in the museum here, but went to the top floor observation deck.

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For dinner, we went to Sandbar in Downtown. After eating more fish tacos than I had intended, I started my drive back to the valley. Although I took no pictures this time, I stopped at the Madonna Inn (which I LOVE) on both the drive down and the drive back.

 

While I live in the valley, these little trips help keep me sane and active, and I am grateful that I’m living in a place that affords me the freedom and fulfillment that my soul finds from travel. I don’t mind traveling by myself, but adventures are that much better when shared. I’m so thankful to Emily and Bobby for spending the day eating delicious food and looking at old buildings with me. I look forward to the next adventure I have with you two!

Yosemite During the NPS Centennial

While I lived in Colorado, I came to realize that I grew up an hour away from the park gates of Yosemite National Park and I took it for granted. In preparing to come back to California, I took it upon myself to make a conscious effort to be more of a tourist in my own backyard.

This past Wednesday, my dear friend Lela and I took a day and headed north on 41 toward Yosemite. If you’re planning on going that way soon and are not yet aware: traffic patterns are different in the park right now, namely traffic is two-way on the vast majority of the south side and the north side drive is either changed access or inaccessible.

As we drove into the park, we listened to Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. After making our way past the tunnel and into the valley, we drove through to Half Dome Village (Curry Village). We ate sandwiches out of the back of the car and then hopped on the shuttle that loops through the valley.

Our first activity for the day was a hike to see Vernal Falls. Both of us failed to realize that the mile and a half-ish each way hike is labelled “strenuous” because of the approximately 1000ft gain in elevation. By the time we reached the bridge, Lela was very pleased to see water because she was beginning to wonder if it was all part of an elaborate lie.

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The good news is that you can’t see the silent screams in our eyes as we reached the bridge

The last ~0.3 mi from the bridge to the fall was a push and involved a lot of rock touching, but we made it. It was comforting to know that some of those who summit Half Dome have to follow the same path.

After we made it back down from Vernal Falls (which was much faster, but equally painful), we stopped at a body of water that was downstream next to the road.

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Lela being adorable by the water

After stopping at the water, we got back on the shuttle to go to the next stop: the trail to Mirror Lake. Something we learned upon arriving is that Mirror Lake is a seasonal lake (and not actually a lake, so this trail was also suspect).

After the shuttle looped us back around to the car, we started our way back through the park the way we came, stopping at a few more locations as we went. Through the valley, our soundtrack was Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.

Shortly after 4 p.m., we left the valley and headed up Glacier Point Road. This road (I discovered) is narrower than the rest of the roads in the park once you get above the pull off for the ski area, and not very accommodating of the tank. Gorillaz got us through this part of the trek.

We climbed the rails at Glacier Point, like the rebels we are, and spent the next hour and some leading up to sunset sitting on the overlook.

Also during that time, Lela assumed her rightful place as queen of the ravens.

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At sunset, we made our way back to an overlook (for those of you who haven’t been to the lot at Glacier Point, it is not good for sitting at) slightly down the road towards the main drive through the park.

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Our time being tourists in the park concluded somewhere after 9 p.m. following some stargazing, which was slightly obstructed because the moon was nearly full and the air was smoky from the controlled burns that the park service had been conducting. In my opinion, one of the most surprising and beautiful things about being that high up in that part of the park that late at night was seeing the campfires on the trail up Half Dome and on paths to other domes deep in the valley.

Glacier Point Road at 9:30 p.m. (on the other hand) looks like the set of a horror film, which we contributed to by listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Our trip back into town concluded with The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

This was a very long day, but it was 100% worth it. I am now a proud Yosemite National Park Annual Pass holder, and I am determined to go at least once each season through September 2017.

Disneyland Diamond Celebration: A Birthday, Graduation, and Well-Deserved Vacation

Hi, I’m Brittany, and I’m a Disney Addict. *Hi Brittany!* Some of my earliest memories consist of sitting on the floor in front of the television in my living room watching The Little Mermaid until I literally wore out the VHS tape. I was a touch obsessed.

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Take a special note of those rockin’ slippers

I used to go to Disneyland more frequently than I do now. Usually, I go with my family. (Fascinating tidbit: one of our past family trips was actually planned for us to arrive September 11, 2001, but for obvious reasons we didn’t go and got the trip refunded.) Over the years various friends have gone with us, been there at the same time, or have been working there, and as such have joined in on the adventure. Though, 3 of the 4 trips I currently have “planned” are with friends.

This trip was different from past trips for a few reasons. For my mom, it served as a birthday present and a more than deserved vacation for her after taking care of my couch-bound father for 4 months. Another purpose was to celebrate my college graduation. It was also the first trip to The Happiest Place On Earth we took without at least my dad and brother. As such, we wanted to make sure we took the time to do a lot of things we hadn’t done before.

 

Day 1: Sunday, August 21

We got to Anaheim around 11 a.m. where we checked in to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. Once our stuff was unpacked, we walked through Downtown Disney, looked in some shops, and had nachos at Tortilla Jo’s before heading towards the Disneyland Hotel.

At the recommendation of the internet and friends who were at Disneyland the week before us, we went to Trader Sam’s which is located between the pool for the Disneyland Hotel and the hotel’s Rose Garden.

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Imagine that the Tiki Room replaced the music for alcohol and chanting – that is Trader Sam’s. They also serve food and non-alcoholic beverages, and have both indoor and outdoor table service.

We decided to order an Uh-oA! which they recommend only be ordered by 2+ people (rightfully so, I might add) and they light on fire once they deliver it to your table.

After partaking in things that angered the tiki gods (or so we were told), we went to the Steakhouse 55 lounge and had lobster sliders for dinner. Shameful admission: I was in bed by 7:30 p.m. that night.

Day 2: Monday, August 22

My mom and I started our morning with a 6 a.m. power walk through California Adventure. As early as it was, I really liked it because it was a completely different way of experiencing the park. The 2 mile walk was a loop from the park entrance inside the Grand Californian that went through most of the park. As we walked through, we saw the workers power-washing the walkways, performing maintenance, and trucks delivering things throughout the park. After seeing the work that goes into preparing the park for opening, I have a renewed appreciation for the hard work behind the magic of Disney.

Once the parks were officially open, we headed over to Disneyland. Since it was just the two of us, we spent a little bit of time wandering through the stores. We then made our way to the Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones before getting Castle pictures.

After Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, we made our way to Hyperspace Mountain, followed by  mac & cheese hot dogs (shame, shame, shame *ding-ding-ding*). Round 1 of Thunder Mountain concluded the morning in Disneyland.

The afternoon started in California Adventure where we looked in shops and went to the Cove Bar.

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My mom and I decided to split an order of Lobster Nachos and a Funwheel (it starts off being about 4 different colors.. I had started mixing it before the picture was taken), both of which I would recommend 10/10.

When the evening rolled around, we headed back to Disneyland for some rides and Dole Whip, then crossed back over to California Adventure for Tower of Terror and Soarin’.

Distance Walked: 8.15 mi + 2 mi power walk

Day 3: Tuesday, August 23

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Park day 2 started off with a churro on Main Street (believe it or not, I only had 2 the whole trip). Our first stop was Fantasyland and then we moved to Toontown, followed by the Matterhorn.

For lunch, I met my dear friend, king, and favorite Disney employee Paul at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. I must say, the people watching in this part of the park is PRIME.

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If you need to find the FastPass Distribution for Space, he’s your guy!

Later that afternoon, my mom and I went back to Trader Sam’s. This trip, we sat outside and got a Piranha Pool, which was a far more reasonable drink for people who want to be a functioning park guest for the remainder of that day. When we returned to the parks, the rides included Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (which were ADORABLE), The Little Mermaid, Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain, and Hyperspace Mountain.

Distance Walked: 10.58 mi

Day 4: Wednesday, August 24

On our last day we used the Magic Morning we had to go into California Adventure before park open. We beat the crowds to Toy Story Midway Mania (151,000+ points for me!) and a second round of Soarin’ which was followed by a collection of repeat rides once the park was fully open.

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I met a friend from high school who has since moved to the LA area at the La Brea Bakery for brunch in Downtown. After that, my mom and I returned to Disneyland for more rides, shopping, and pictures.

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The late afternoon was spent in California Adventure doing a few more rounds of some of the previously mentioned rides, which was followed by dinner at the Storyteller’s Cafe in the Grand Californian. We returned to DCA after dinner to ride the trolley and Tower of Terror in it’s current state one final time before heading back to Disneyland for a last call on purchases and rides.

In Disneyland, I bought a pair of 60th Anniversary ears. I had bought a pair of ears when my family went in 2005 for the 50th Anniversary, and it is now my goal to have a pair of ears for every 10-year anniversary from the 50th through the 100th [which I already tentatively have a trip planned for].

Distance Walked: 9.56 mi

 

Trip Stats:

Different Rides: 22

Total Ride Count: 38

Approx. Total Distance: 30.3 mi

 

Looking back at everything we did, I realize we did a LOT of park-hopping. We didn’t go on as many rides as we might “normally” have, but we experienced other things the parks and park property had to offer. On this trip I did realize that I am getting too old to have 3 full days in the park, as my joints and muscles are still on strike.

 

Side Note 1: Throughout the park they had set up some really cute 60th Anniversary photo spots for some of the more iconic attractions that I honestly wish were up for more than just the occasion.

 

Side Note 2: While the re-theming of Tower of Terror is something that I am not personally thrilled about, it caused me to take some time to look at the little details of the current facade before they go away. For a number of reasons, I thought it was fitting that I found this sign on the upper level.

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