Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Waves, Wine & Warmth (2018)

A feast of food and wine in Santa Barbara

I awoke to find Star Princess lying at anchor off Santa Barbara, with the tenders deployed and already shuttling a few 'early birds' to the shore. Sadly, the forecast sunny weather had been replaced with the sort of light mist and gloomy, low cloud to which we had become accustomed during mornings and evenings in Long Beach. (And in any case, I was thoroughly au fait with this sort of thing from my native Scotland.) Apparently, these conditions are commonplace in Southern California during May and June, but absolutely not in April ... grrr!

We had our traditional Princess Cruises light breakfast of cappuccino, yoghurt and egg muffin at the International Café in the so-called Piazza - the ship's central atrium. After a short interlude to get organised, we joined the process to get taken ashore by tender. Thankfully, Bruce's status with the cruise line meant that we were given priority treatment, and we managed to get ashore around 1030.

We walked along the shoreline from the little harbour area to Stearns Wharf, a long wooden pier at the end of historic State Street. Given the rickety appearance of the structure, it was surprising to see that it could support vehicular traffic. We strolled out to the end to see if this would give a better shot of Star Princess at anchor.

Keeping an eye on the time, we strolled up State Street, admiring the Spanish architecture and slackening the pace a little when it became apparent that we might reach our destination overly early.

We had booked, independently from Princess Cruises, a 3.5hr walking food tour, the initial meeting point for which was outside Renaud's Patisserie. There we met our two hostesses and the other tour participants: a couple from the ship, a couple from San Diego and a woman who had recently moved into Santa Barbara itself. Before setting off, we sampled some beautiful French macarons from the patisserie, which were wonderfully tasty without being overly sweet.

The tour, which on the face of it sounded rather long, was very well structured, dealing with a little bit of history "while we were still attentive". Also in this stage was a brief orientation. Most visitors to Santa Barbara, myself included, tend to assume that State Street runs east to west, with Stearns Wharf sticking out westwards into the Pacific. In reality, Santa Barbara's beach is south-facing.

Food stops proceeded as follows:
  - Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar \ both at Santa Barbara Public Market
  - Il Fustino (olive oil) /
  - Los Arroyos (tortilla chips and tacos)
  - Grassini Family Vineyards (wines and truffles)
  - Persona Wood-Fired Pizzeria (pizza and beer)
  - Cebada Wine Tasting
  - McConnell's (ice cream)

FIRST TWO ROWS: Arlington Theater and Santa Barbara Public Market
BELOW: A Mexican interlude
LEFT and BELOW: The first wine-tasting stop
RIGHT: Pizza time!
LEFT: Wine-tasting, round two
LEFT: A sweet ending

All in all, this was an excellent, well paced tour that in the event didn't seem overly long at all!

We walked back down State Street and along the shore, to take the next tender back to the ship. Star Princess had moved closer to the shore, presumably to take advantage of high tide. The brief and welcome period of mid-afternoon sunshine was already over, with the gloom closing in once more.

Once back on board ship, our first priority was simply to relax for a bit, following which we had a do-it-yourself gin and tonic prior to dinner. We decided to use the Amalfi dining room and take the opportunity to meet our waiters Francis and Allan, both from the Philippines. Once again, and presumably this was down to Bruce's status with Princess Cruises, we had managed to score a table for two. I had garlic potato soup and a very traditionally British roast beef and Yorkshire pudding main course. I talked myself into trying a Drambuie-and-pear soufflé for dessert, but this was quite poor and I left most of it.

Wed 04 Apr

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