Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley, CA


With personal and professional pressures mounting, I decided to go back into retirement…and then, I decided to take a quick, restorative trip to the Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley (Solvang, Los Olivos, and Los Alamos). It would only be a 2-day road trip, but I was optimistic about what a couple days between the ocean and wine country could do for my mood. So, I gassed up the car, kicked the tires, and hit Interstate 101 North from Los Angeles.


Day #1: Arriving in Santa Barbara

After about 90 minutes on the road, I pulled into the driveway of my friend’s dad’s place, a stone’s throw from the ocean. Near the UC Santa Barbara campus, the mornings and evenings are cool, even in the summer, but as the marine layer burns off, the heat isn’t far behind. Still, the sound of the ocean, and the breezes that roll off of it, make this part of the California calming and comfortable.

Day #1: Lunching in Los Alamos

Soon after arriving in Santa Barbara and putting my bags down, my girlfriend and I hit the road, again! About 40 minutes outside of Santa Barbara is the tiny town of Los Alamos. Once there, we stopped for bread at Bob’s, and then, popped into Bell’s for lunch. There, we split the Franch Rueben, an order of escargot, and a bottle of wine. The service was super cute, and we even got a chance to meet our server’s girlfriend. They just got approved for a new apartment. We’re super happy for them!

Day #2: Shopping in Solvang

The next morning, we hit the road once more, and headed out to Solvang –– a tiny Danish town I’ve been dying to visit! There was lots to see there, so we didn’t get around the everything, but some of the highlights were:

  • Solvang Olive Co. — A wide assortment of olive oil and salts, plus olive oil based beauty products and accessories.

  • Solvang Spice Merchant — A wide array of teas and spices from around the world, plus kitchen accessories.

  • The Mystic Merchant — A wide array of crystals, oils, spiritual books, beads, scarfs, and all things spiritual, mystic, an energetic.

  • The Lansby Hotel — This chic, modern boutique hotel is the place to stay when in Solvang.


Day #2: Dining at the Pier

After a long day in Solvang, we drove back into Santa Barbara and to the pier, where we ordered a big ol’ crab from Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. for an early dinner. The weather cooled as the sun went down, and then, got super cold. Luckily, I brought a denim jacket and we were able to abandon our outdoor table and sit inside to finish our drinks. Then, on our way down the pier and toward valet, we came across this guy. Remind you of anything?

travelElisabeth Ovesen