Picks and Pans – From Los Olivos, CA to Santa Barbara, CA

Los Olivos, CA

Although Sean and I spent less than an hour in this town, I’ve already made plans to return. With its old Victorian homes converted into B&Bs, its small main street lined with tasting rooms from local wineries and its relaxed vibe, Los Olivos is the perfect place to spend a weekend with my sister Abby and my best friend Margot. Put it on your calendars, ladies.

Judith Hale Gallery, Los Olivos, CA

Remember those scrap metal sculptures that were so interesting that we had to pull over in Sebastopol, CA just to check them out?  Well, when we later looked up the artist, we found that he exhibited more of his work in a gallery in Los Olivos. So when we passed through Los Olivos, we made sure to stop at the Judith Hale Gallery for a chance to see Philip Glashoff’s newest work. I was happy to see that he’s still making whimsical figures, still with ball bearing toes, crazy hair and even a few with glasses.

La Purisma Mission State Historic Park

I’m a sucker for restored historical sites. I can spend hours wandering around, imagining the lives and faces of the people who lived there, placing myself (in period dress, of course) in their midst. So, La Purisma Mission was an ideal place for me to spend an afternoon. In the 1930s, the CCC fully restored this enormous Spanish mission to the state it was in at the height of its function in the 1790s. We explored the infirmaries, the schools where the young native women were housed and taught to weave on looms, the gardens filled with edible and medicinal plants, the animal pens complete with live horses, longhorn cattle, turkeys, chickens and burros, the spring house where fresh water was drained into an aqueduct system that brought water to the fountains and bathing pools, the padres’ home, and the grand hacienda which housed facilities for weaving, making soap, pressing olives for oil, tanning leather, making pottery, carpentry and milling flour. And everything was outfitted with artifacts making it seem like everyone had just walked away from the mission leaving their work until they returned. It was great fodder for my history geek imagination.

Chumash Cave Paintings

Hidden in among the mansions in the hills above Santa Barbara, the Chumash Cave Painting State Park is little more than a pull out on the road, but up a very short trail and behind a metal gate, the cave holds native paintings from the 1600s. The paintings were much different from those we had seen in the southwest, as they were mostly geometric with very few identifiable figures, but they were definitely intriguing. It was however, a bit difficult for me to keep perspective on the the fact that we were looking at centuries old native artwork given that we were mere steps from the road. Thinking about it later, though, I came to like how the cave was a reminder that Native Americans lived and worked and loved and painted in all parts of this country, including those parts now inhabited by us, even if being surrounded by contemporary civilization made it hard for me to connect with the experience of the paintings’ artist.

Breakfast at Santa Barbara harbor with Uncle John

While in Santa Barbara, we spent a couple of days with Sean’s Uncle John, who filled our time with spectacular stories from his and Sean’s dad’s childhood, from his time living with Sean’s parents in their college years and from his crazy exploits living on an 80 foot boat in the Santa Barbara harbor. After hearing all these old yarns, we couldn’t pass up the chance to go down to the harbor with John for some breakfast and a look at his old stomping grounds. We sat outside in the warm California sun, ate our breakfast and then went out to the docks for a few final stories from John before heading south to L.A.


Solvang was originally a communal farming community founded by a group of Danish immigrants. As these Danes built their homes and farm buildings in the traditional Danish style to which they were accustomed, they found that they were attracting attention from tourists for the old world, European feel of their village. Not ones to poo-poo a chance at making money, the Danes ditched the farming and put all their energy into creating a cheesy tourist town where people could snap pictures of wooden windmills and spend all their cash on baked goods, hotel rooms and knick knacks. Not exactly our scene.

2 comments to Picks and Pans – From Los Olivos, CA to Santa Barbara, CA

  • Janet Rosner

    I used to ride my motorcycle up to those cave painting when I was in college–I thought they were pretty cool!

  • Abigail St. Lawrence

    A girls’ trip in Los Olivos sounds like perfection, particularly right now. Count me in!

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