Tuesday, September 23, 2014

city camping

The first architect I ever worked for had his office in an Airstream trailer up on blocks in his Venice backyard.  I had never seen one before coming to the West Coast, and had certainly never been inside of one.  My family did not camp.  And though I grew up in Pennsylvania where lots of people did camp, the families I knew who did, well, they did not do it in anything as cool as an Airstream.   For me, these sleek silver pods were a sort of symbol of the west, of the freedom of the road, of my beloved California.  I became an almost instant Airstream enthusiast and have longed to buy and restore one in the decade since.  And although I sometimes comb craigslist and lust over the odd gem for sale, I remain Airstream-less and have to get my fix in other ways.

In May of 2013, I read an article in Sunset magazine about an Airstream hotel in Santa Barbara called Autocamp.  Right away, I was sure I wanted to spend my 40th birthday (in September) there so I called and emailed and had zero success.  Turns out they were booked solid for almost six months.  Lots of other Airstream lovers must have read that Sunset article, too.

Fast forward to February 2014.  I was on the Autocamp website looking for photos and just happened to check to see if they had the weekend of my 41st birthday available.  Miracle of all miracles, there they were.   Tucked into the calendar surrounded by lots of no vacancy,  three days were available in a 1973 (built the same year as me) Airstream Sovereign.  I snapped them up and have been looking forward to my birthday weekend all year.

Our home, nestled into the the heart of beautiful Santa Barbara.  Did I mention that there's a queen-sized bed, claw foot bathtub, cable TV?  Yep.  Not exactly roughing it.
This place has been here for a long time.  I totally understand why.
Here's the view of the mountains from our patio.  And see those beach cruisers in front of our neighbors' Airstreams?   We had those, too.  No driving for three days!  To a Los Angelino, that is the best birthday gift ever.

Pretty much any trip that Drew and I take begins with a meal.  For some places it is totally specific (the very first stop in Seattle is always Dick's Drive In), for others, not so much.   We've been visiting Santa Barbara since way back before we were married people and there are lots of spots we like, but no favorite.  Many, many people seemed to recommend Norton's Pastrami when we mentioned our upcoming trip, so we decided it was time to give it a go.  It did not disappoint.
My half of "The NYC".  I was not prepared for how good the onion rings were and I ate every one of them.  And the garlicky, chilled homemade pickles and cherry soda.  Perfection.  We even managed to snag a couple of seats at the (gorgeous) counter so we could watch all of the sandwich action in process.

The thing that I always forget about Santa Barbara -- and it is the thing that dazzles me most when I'm there -- is the beauty of the place.  The blue Pacific is there and the mountains are green and between them is a little gem of a city that has taken care to preserve the old and grow in a way that respects its architectural history. 
The color of the sky doesn't look real, right?  It is.
Spanish style is so soothing and so stimulating.  And I love that I can't tell if this is an old or new building.

One of the places that is new to Santa Barbara since our last visit is the Santa Barbara Public Market.  It was an easy place to spend an afternoon -- and eat some fantastic food - before heading back to to camp.
The counter seats at Belcampo Meat Co.  It is pretty cool to sit and watch a real butcher at work, too.
Spinach and ricotta and ham and cheese croissants from Crazy Good Bread.
One of the fresh cases at The Pasta Shoppe.  Italian girl nirvana.
At the oyster bar at Santa Monica Seafood, we found these beauties.   We also ate a really fresh ceviche and a perfect New England clam chowder, but they were devoured far too quickly to photograph.  Drew drank a lovely Poor Man's Blonde Ale from Barrelhouse Brewing Co., brewed right over the hill in Paso Robles.
We walked past the Arlington Theatre at least a dozen times as we traveled up and down State St.  I think it is my favorite building in Santa Barbara.
Inside the lobby at the Arlington.  Drew does not enjoy having his photo published, but he's neccessary for scale here.  We are plotting a way to set up long tables and throw an epic dinner party in this space.

This incredible mosaic (yep, thousands of little tiles) mural on on the Santa Barbara Public Market building is almost an entire block long.
The next morning we had a giant brunch on the gorgeous (and crowded) little patio at Scarlett Begonia.  After filling up, we rode our bikes along the coast, through a state park and back through town.  It was a lovely (almost 11 mile) route that I found on the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition's website.  They provided a great map of the ride that proved to be really helpful along the way.
My absurdly good (and messy) house made bagel with lox and dilled cream cheese.  And the Bloody Mary was made with spicy salt and fresh tomato juice.  That's Drew's tri-tip sandwich with chimichuri on house made bread in the background.
Did I mention that there was a claw foot bathtub in our Airstream?  A perfect remedy after a long ride on (seriously rickety) beach cruisers.  After a soak I was ready for champagne and picnic supper on our patio.
The big tree that shaded our spot during the day lit it up at night.
Champagne.  Lots of it.  In seriously cute glassware.
My birthday cheese party, DREWfood camp-style.
The entire weekend was the was the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of my 41st year on the planet.  Santa Barbara remains a charming and magical little city, Autocamp is a new favorite place to stay and an awesome Airstream fix.  I'm determined to do it all again really soon.

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