Friday, October 22, 2010

The American Riviera

Santa Barbara is a unique way of life that's both sophisticated and simple, refined and relaxed, the culture of Europe meets the spirit of the West Coast in what can only be described as The American Riviera.

During our recent stay in Goleta (CA), which is about 20 minutes north of Santa Barbara, I believe we experienced the different faces of the city. At the north end of State Street, the foothills of the surrounding mountains reached out to the city; at its south end State Street met the Pacific.

The Spanish-influenced architecture and the history of Santa Barbara are reflected in its courthouse and former jail (left).

Today, the jail is "opened" for those who want to pay exorbitant sums to spend a night in the jail, complete with a jailhouse meal.

Just off State Street is the Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden. In a space about the size of a large city block are found a creek, winding trails, a pond, beautifully landscaped areas, and several benches from which to enjoy the surroundings.

Santa Barbara's State Street is the main street through town, and a leisurely walk along the busy street will feature some vintage automobiles, such as the one pictured here (below).

When we reached the 1300 block of State Street, we came upon the Arlington Theater. The free-standing ticket booth welcomed us to this Mission Revival/ Atmospheric-styled theater, built for the Fox West Coast Theaters circuit in 1931.

Looking down the broad walkway to the theater's entrance, we thought it must be about half a block walk past

the Spanish courtyard and fountains. We almost forgot we were walking into a theater.


With the beautifully-restored exterior and entrance, we had high hopes for having the opportunity to tour the interior.

However, our hopes were dashed with the one-word answer to our question: "Would it be possible to take photos of the interior of the theater? Or do you offer tours?"

"No." And "No." (I guess that was two words.)

Continuing our walk down the wide sidewalks of State Street, we passed

La Arcada with its restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques set back from the street on a walkway.

The entry signs were taken from original artwork dating back to 1927, and the clock was modeled after an historic clock and Chicago landmark since 1880.

Restaurants offering al fresco dining were prepared for the lunch rush by mid-morning.

The architectural detail on some buildings was quite decorative,

and the Spanish style along State Street and parallel streets demon-strated a welcome consistency.

During the weekly Farmers' Market, the balloon man added a touch of fun to the serious shopping going on nearby.

As sundown approached, the sidewalk tables began to fill up.

On a second trip down State Street, we took the State Street Shuttle (for 25 cents) to the end of the line at Stearns Wharf (in the background of this photo, above).

Clearly, we had missed the beach volleyball season.

In 1872 construction was completed on what had just become the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The wharf served the passenger and freight shipping needs of California's South Coast for over a quarter century.

The wharf survived an earthquake (1925) and fires in 1973 (re-opened in 1981) and 1998 (re-opened in 2000 after the last hundred and fifty feet of the wharf had been rebuilt).

Stearns Wharf stands today as Santa Barbara's most visited landmark--right on the American Riviera.

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