The Anachronistic Mom's
Travel Notes: Southern California
Santa Barbara
I used to think about retiring to Santa Barbara until our last visit there.  We currently live in a suburb of the silicon valley.  It's not really my cup of tea.  A bit straight-laced, not with what feels like any artistic or cultural depth.  As a friend of mine says:  "nice white people."  Well, if Atherton is a bit 'arm's length' for me, Santa Barbara definitely would be, as my husband recently pointed out!

I guess that I get drawn in by the lovely architecture and weather and the ocean (nice oil derricks), and forget that we wouldn't live there as students. We'd live there as settled 45-plus folks.  My husband is still lobbying for the East Coast.   Perhaps some day we'll figure out where to live when we grow up.

[Note:  I got an email about this from someone telling me that there are wonderful, neat people in the Santa Barbara area, and that there are a lot of Hollywood creative types too.  Maybe we just saw Montecito during a stuffy phase?  I remain hopeful.]

Hotels and Inns
For the past few years (since our son was born) we've been driving down through Santa Barbara during the Christmas break.  We've chosen to stay at the Harbor View Inn for the past two years and we've liked it a lot.  Their telephone number is: 800-755-0222

We'd suggest one of their suites.  They're great for a kid. They are literally across the street from the beach, and you can walk right downtown.  I like how close this hotel is to the downtown area of Santa Barbara.  Plus, if you walk south on the same street, you'll come to a lovely park.

In the past, we've stayed at the San Ysidro Ranch, although we only stayed for a one night (en route)  and found it to be a bit on the snotty side.  The room was lovely though.  Very luxe.  Great bed, fun front porch with a place for your pet, a place for mail, and a lot of nice little snacks and such.  We liked the restaurant.  Nice iced tea, very good service. 

But I wouldn't really recommend this hotel for short stays and I was never able to view it as a 'destination' unto itself, you know?  (Give me Big Sur.)  Seems as though the staff doesn't start treating you with real warmth until after you've been there for a few days, and in my book, warm treatment is something that I like in a hotel.  Very pricey.  If you're rolling in dough, the entire house looked very nice, although again, I prefer Big Sur.  I guess once you're a Northern Californian, you're always a Norther Californian, right?
We've also stayed at the Biltmore, which was great fun before we had our son.  It's an old hotel, though, and it's often hard to get an optimal room, sound-wise.  Plus the rooms are, well, "blown out" isn't a nice term.  What I mean is that they kind of feel as though they belong to a doddering old grande dame hotel back in Chicago somewhere.  Nice bar, though.  Fun to hang out in, although again, we don't do much of that with our three year old in tow!

Unfortunately, I cannot really recommend any restaurants in Santa Barbara, although the Biltmore bar is pretty nice (not for kids though).

Have you ever thought of camping in a private little tent-cottage thingie in Santa Barbara?  El Capitan Canyon sounds wonderful.  I just read about it.  If we go I'll tell you how it is.

Santa Monica
Our favorite hotel in the Santa Monica area is the Hotel Oceana, which is a somewhat funky suite hotel on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It's nice, comfortable, quiet, and fun.

San Diego
In my humble opinion, one of the best spots in San Diego is not IN San Diego, but is 25 minutes North of San Diego.  L'Auberge del Mar is a very nice, very pricey resort and spa right on the beach in Del Mar, California.  There are a lot of five star hotels in California, but this one just feels good.  And it's an awesome beach.  (It's about 90 minutes South of LA.)

San Diego is a lovely area.
Residence Inn, Carlsbad
Four Seasons, Carlsbad
San Diego Marriot Marina
La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club
La Jolla Embassy Suites
Auberge del Mar

Here is a quick list of recommendations given a couple
of years back:

Paradise Point Resort comes highly recommended.
Humphrey's Half Moon Inn & Suites doesn't do much for me, but it's liked by many.

Hotel Del Coronado is a lot of fun also.  I've stayed there and it seems as though it would be fun with a child.

Beach Club La Jolla (might be same as La Jolla Beach
and Tennis Club)
Embassy Suites in La Jolla

Beach House in San Diego
If you're looking for a place to stay in San Diego, I highly
recommend checking out They have a good selection of beach house and multi-room/extended stay places. Plus they have great details on the places complete with a LOT of pictures.

I couldn't find availability for the exact dates I wanted so I called
and spoke with the owner of the business (John). He was extremely helpful and was able to book the place we wanted (Oakwood Suites). He knows San Diego very well (worked for the local Hilton Hotel for 15 years) and has personally taken all the photographs of the places listed on the website so he knew what places had undergone renovations, surrounding areas, etc). He had plenty of tips for travel in that area too.

From Palm Springs to La Quinta
My grandparents moved down to the Palm Springs area in the seventies.  That is, they bought a vacation place down there, and we visited.  So I've been hanging out in Palm Springs proper since about 1976, which is why I avoid it when I go down now.

Palm Springs has some fun resorts, I guess, but the entire center of everything has moved south -- waaaay south.

We choose to stay even more south of where "the happening place" is.  We stay in La Quinta resort in the town of La Quinta, about 30+ minutes south of Palm Springs.  It's warm, if you stay in the right part of it you can imagine that you're from LA and it's about 1928 and life is slow,

La Quinta Resort
A few things, though.  The people at La Quinta have been building their hearts out for the past four years or so, and they have doubled the size of the resort or some godawful thing.  We like the old rooms on the right as you enter the resort.  [Click on the La Quinta link, above.  Go to "About Us" on the top side, and click on "Resort Map."

Okay, so what are you looking for?  We vastly prefer the dark orange section to anything else in the resort (that's the upper right corner of this map -- to the right as you drive in.)  The rooms facing the parking lot on the corner of each building are lovely.  they have little private patios in the smaller rooms, and the corner rooms actually have private grass as well.

If you have kids and want to dash out of the room into a pool, check out the yellow section of the map.  Again, this is the old part of the resort.  Lovely ambience.  Plus, the kids pool is in the yellow section, at the bottom right of the map.

I do not care much for the adobe-colored rooms (see middle top of the map) because it's too easy to hear the delivery and garbage trucks.  (the middle top of the resort is the loading dock.  Go figure.)  I have moved rooms twice because of this.

Now, here's where tastes differ.  All of the blue-colored rooms are the new rooms at La Quinta.  They have good and bad points.  Good:  They have private patios with gates, they have a kitchen, they are, in fact, a condo.  Bad points:  They are, in fact, a condo.  If I want to stay in a condo, I can go anywhere in the world.  I found that we didn't even feel as though we were at La Quinta when we stayed in one of these condo units.  In fact, the following year (last year), we didn't even go.

The best thing about La Quinta in MY book is that it reminds me of my grandparents and the desert.  However, there are a lot of families out there who, for example, play tennis!  (shudder).  La Quinta is famous for being a big tennis club.  So do what you want, Have fun.
Don't let them put you in hte rooms halfway back on the right -- those rooms face where the trucks come into the resort and pick up the garbage, and the noise is terrible.  Nope, right at the front is perfect.  Some of those rooms have little private yards surrounded by a wall (those are our favorite), and a few of them have private swimming pools.  (Britney had a birthday in ours, we were assured.  Ahem)  But actually we like the little rooms.  Many people like the rooms at the bottom floor which actually just open up to a swimming pool (there are about 30 pools).  These seem like an old-fashioned motel to me and seems as though kids would get a kick out of it.

The La Quinta kid's club is highly rated. and their on-site low-level mexican restaurant is great fun.  They always have some high-level thing going also (they just put in a new restaurant for this), but it doesn't do much for me.  They used to have a lovely brunch on Sundays, out in the grass.  Last time I went to it though, I was a bit underwhelmed.  Might just be that my "massive brunch days" are over, and I like a piece of toast for breakfast!

La Quinta/Palm Springs restaurants
I have only one word for restaurants in the Palm Springs area:  sad.  We usually go to the mexican restaurant at the La Quinta resort, which has lovely margaritas and pretty good food, but we usually aren't very happy with the other places.  This last week, we tried a restaurant that I've always avoided, and I was pleasantly surprised. 

The Cliff House is up on the side of a cliff and is always surrounded by cars.  I wasn't too overwhelmed by their menu at first blush, but the food turned to be quite good.  Not inexpensive but not expensive, either.  We had a lovely waiter, I think I had some type of extremely edible grilled fish, and son had a wonderful time with the mashed potatoes and some good meat or something.  (sigh.  losing my memory)


Possible places to stay

I just saw this lodge listed.  Am not sure if it's really nice (it looks pretty darn rustic) but it looks interesting. Montecito Sequoia Lodge, located in the southern Sierra Nevada near Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.  Of course, in true Californian tradition, I have no idea where this place is.