Santa Barbara in my heart and now beneath my feet.
It was the first thought that came to mind when writing a caption for the post I shared on Instagram about last week's American Riviera getaway. Fifteen months ago it would have been impossible to fathom the idea of being a "tourist" (in quotes because this city continuously gifts our family with overwhelming requited love) in the town that witnessed our romance bloom from crush to a full fledged family of five, two pooches and a leopard gecko, long before Designs by Alina was even a thought. And yet here we were with a carload of suitcases and children in search of a last minute dose of summer fun.
Above left: "Bernalina's" (as coined by friends) wedding at our Mission Canyon home. Center: With our twins at Butterfly Beach. Right: Family of five at our home, Casa Ventalia, last spring.
Our children spent the week each with a close friend, while Bernardo and I caught up with some of our nearest and dearest engaging with the city through the prism of tourists. While we very much enjoyed romantic "staycations" at the San Ysidro Ranch and Bacara Resort and Spa in years past, we decided to check into the hotel that accommodated our wedding guests fifteen years ago.
Perched upon the halcyon hills of Santa Barbara's iconic Riviera, the Belmond El Encanto, originally built in 1918, reopened in 2013 following an extensive seven-year renovation. It exudes at once charm and splendor, aridity and abundance, history and comfort, setting a quintessential Santa Barbara tone from the moment one arrives. Its serene grounds and welcoming ambience draw visitors in to partake, much like a local, in the city's carefree lifestyle.
We met so many interesting people from around the globe including one charming couple who took to our youngest with the exuberance of older siblings. They left Santa Barbara in route to Hawaii just two days prior and found themselves right back where they started to indulge their yearning for this California oasis by the sea before heading back home to England. That evening, while lounging in our cottage, I heard a photographer directing another couple and managed to discreetly snap a photo from our window (third, bottom row) which I emailed to the hotel in hopes that the newlyweds would uncover some behind the scenes magic.
Built into the California native landscape, the infinity-edge pool delivered the R&R we were seeking with an enchanting scenery that begged night not to fall. Similarly, but from a higher vantage point, the south facing terrace, where we spent many a sunset sipping Charmers and Rosé, offered sweeping ocean and city views with an attentive staff who remembered our names throughout our stay.
A couple of days into our vacation, my husband surprised me by extending our stay (I love when he does that!) Much like the British couple we met, we simply could not get enough of our hideaway. He used the extra time to try out an electric bicycle, one of the many amenities on the property, while I indulged in a relaxing massage at the spa.
Left: Santa Barbara's skyline. Center: Our youngest -third from left- with dear friends at brunch. Right: "Bernalina" ;-)
Yes, Santa Barbara is a charmer and El Encanto has bottled some of it up for you to enjoy straight up or on the rocks. We look forward to building many more memories in the American Riviera, with hopefully more time to visit all of the people we so dearly love. Stay tuned for more on Santa Barbara...she will have a companion too...