To break up our journey from San Diego to San Francisco a bit, I decided we would spend a few days in sunny Santa Barbara, recommended by a few folks, and just an idyllic, pleasant town to hang around in. We did AirBNB again and were happy that the place was just as nice as it looked in the photos, with a backyard full of kids toys, a sandbox and slide which Baby J was super excited to get out and play with FIRST thing in the morning. We also met our host, Ty, and his two kids.
Our first stop of the day was Alameda Park, a huge park that occupies 2 city blocks in the heart of Santa Barbara. We found a nice little area called the Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens filled with plants, and there were paths to stroll along, ducks to look at, little steps here and there, trees with long gnarled roots, plus, a pretty pond that was filled with turtles! I noticed a couple of turtles on a rock and thought, isn’t that neat? and snapped a photo.
Then I looked up and realized there were tons of them on the other side of the pond! We made our way over for a closer look, being careful not to get too close (and I’m happy to report that Baby J was very ‘gentle’ and quiet, and looked, and didn’t cause any little wizened turtle heads to pop back into their shells. Not even a slow scuffle towards the water was initiated) although I’m sure they must be used to people gawkers like us.
We took our time strolling the walkways, poking sticks into the streams, before taking Baby J across the street to show him Kid’s World – a huge castle shaped play structure with lots of climbing platforms and slides. He also liked climbing on the big whale and shark sculptures on the sand.
We made it home for a snooze and then ventured out to the harbour to watch the golden sunset along the boats. It was beautiful, and we spent some time walking the ledge around the boats, and watching older kids play in the sand.
We decided to try out the Santa Barbara public market for dinner after seeing a brochure advertising the Empty Bowl Noodle Bar. We grabbed a few dishes – the duck buns and dumplings, and while delicious, were not super filling. So we split an order of amazing Pad Thai as well, Baby J happily slurping up the sauce sweet noodles, I took the tofu pieces and Tyler had most of the chicken. The market has lots of little places to eat, with sort of a small food court style seating. We also eyeballed some treats on the way out, like ice cream and cookie dough bites, that looked pretty good.
Tyler’s been on a bit of a BeeGees kick lately, and one thing I’ll remember about Santa Barbara was the dance party Julian had on the fireplace, grooving, nodding, and arm-swinging to Stayin’ Alive. That kid is just getting into dancing and he was so smiley and happy, just doing his own thing and busting a move without a care in the world in the comfort of his little family bubble.
We decided our second day in Santa Barbara would be a Beach Day. I read about a few options and chose East Beach, with the idea that we might walk down the to wharf if we had time. The beach itself was glorious, deep blue sky setting off the tall palm trees, first a grassy area filled with little yellow flowers we had to stop and sniff, then sand dunes and ocean as far as the eye could see.
I took J with me for a splash and a walk down the ocean, him running away as the tide came in but squealing with delight if the cool water reached his toes. We found a pile of rocks to squeeze through and carefully climb, and slide down on the sand ridges formed at the ocean’s edge for a few good laughs. We drove his little yellow truck around in the wet sand, and scooped and patted little hills.
After we rejoined Tyler, we played in the sand for a bit and sat and enjoyed the weather and just being there. More running and splashing as a little boy got bolder with the incoming rush of bubbly water, but we kept a good firm grip on him the whole time. After he’d ran and chased birds some more, we had lunch – sandwiches of any kind are a new favorite thing – and relaxed on our beach towels for a bit. I’d half hoped J would fall asleep, but after a bit of resting he was raring to go again. So we spent a bit more time racing around on the sand, and headed home for a short nap instead, following by more playing in the backyard.
For dinner we thought we’d head out to California Pizza Kitchen but it (and every restaurant around it was just jam packed and lined up out the door). I was puzzled but then spotted a few families dressed in fancy pink and red outfits, and realized it was the day before Valentine’s day and a Friday night. So we just got 2 pizzas to go and ate them at home, before packing up for another day of driving up the coast!