The next stop on our 1,500 road trip was Santa Barbara.
On the way out of Los Angeles, we decided to stop off at Paramount Ranch. It took around 40 minutes to get there from our Santa Monica base, and the drive was superb. We joined Highway 1 for a cruise down the coast road, before turning off and heading into the Santa Monica mountains, with stunning views across to the Pacific.
The ranch has been used in several Paramount pictures, as various countries, including colonial Massachusetts in The Maid of Salem, ancient China in The Adventures of Marco Polo, a South Seas island in Ebb Tide and numerous western locations including San Francisco in Wells Fargo.
It’s true when they say, you can’t go far in California without seeing film crew. This time it was a much smaller set up with less people.
“Are you here location scouting?” A man asked, walking towards us. He’d been stood away from the rest of the film crew, and came and sat next to use on the fence.
“No, we’ve just come to explore the ranch, we didn’t realise you’d be filming.” I replied. Turns out he was here as the film’s paramedic. He explained that he used to work at the local hospital, but the pay is a lot better in the movie industry.
“You couldn’t just walk into a role like mine,” he said. “You have to know people in the business, and luckily I did.”
He told us the film was set in a ‘post-apocalyptic’ era, where everyone has gone back to the cowboy way of life, but with modern weapons. “It’s gonna be a long day, these shoots can take anywhere from 10 to 16 hours.” We wished him luck and went on our way.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
We didn’t have any set plans for Santa Barbara, other than having a wander round. We’d chosen it as a stop off point because it wasn’t too far to drive and gave Jamie chance to get used to the car. We were actually amazed by all the things to see and do here. You could definitely spend more than the day, which is what we had.
We parked in the centre of town and walked to the County Courthouse. We could have been picked up and dropped in Spain looking at the building.
That’s because the town has very Spanish roots. In fact, it was named ‘Santa Barbara’ after a Spanish explorer in 1602, survived a huge storm on the eve of Saint Barbara’s feast day. He named the area in her honour.
The Spanish returned 167 years later, and built places such as the Old Mission to try and convert the people to Catholicism and put California under Spanish rule. The state joined the United States in 1850, but the city still celebrates it’s ‘Old Spanish Days’ with a five day festival each year in August.
The inside of the Courthouse is beautifully decorated with hand-painted murals, tiles and wrought-iron chandeliers. The mural room (see photo below) depicts the history of the city, from being founded by the Spanish explorer, Sebastián Vizcaíno, to it’s American rule in 1850. It had to be heavily restored and cleaned after an electrical fire in 2010.
The place still is a working court house, so expect to see signs about trials and paying fines.
A rather strenuous climb to the top of the clock tower rewards you with amazing views over the city.
“I wonder what that is over there,” I said pointing at a large building in the middle distance. A quick google showed it was the Old Mission. “It doesn’t look far, let’s walk!”
Old Mission Santa Barbara
The walk to the Old Mission was a lot further than I had expected. Especially in the afternoon sun.It was worth the blisters.
The Old Mission is known as the “Queen of the Missions” and was founded by Franciscan monks in 1786. It was the tenth of its kind built in California to convert the local Native American Chumash-Barbareño tribe.
The museum is open for a small fee and this also gives you access to the La Huerta Historical Garden, which has various citrus trees, olives, sugar canes, peaches and other plants from the 1800s.
There’s also a recreation of the kitchen from the 17th century and some artefacts from the Native Americas who lived in the area, including tools and crafts.
All our other hosts had been in touch with us in the weeks before our trip, expect the guy who’s house we were renting in Santa Barbara. After my messages going unread, I decided to phone him.
“Oh, it’s today you’re coming…I’ll have to phone you back.” That didn’t sound good.
He didn’t phone me back, so an hour later, I did. He told he had already given the house to someone else, but we could offer us another house at the other side of town. By this point it was 4pm and we were leaving it too late to find an alternative, so agreed.
The house was awful. In short, it reminded me of a house from a murder mystery. The blinds were hanging off the rails, the rooms were bare and one of the doors was locked with a padlock and massive sign that read “DO NOT ENTER”. The house had two bedrooms but we didn’t get a choice in which one we stayed. I shut one of the doors behind me, and the door locked.
“Good job I didn’t leave anything in there!”
The house was so bad, we decided the best thing to do was stay away until it was time for bed.
Now, one other thing we noticed about Santa Barbara, apart from being very Spanish, was the number of cinemas dotted around. In fact, a quick google search reveals there are 9 cinemas.
Seemed rude not to visit one while we were there, so we bought two ticket to see Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Plus it would be a fun experiment to see what us Brits and the Americans found funny throughout the film.
We learnt that Americans get very vocally into the film, with whoops and hollers throughout.
“Yeah man, kick his ass…woooo go America!”
Next stop, Monterey
The drive to Monterey was a longer one, at just under 4 hours. We wanted to keep on Highway 1 and pass through the Big Sur State Park, but unfortunately that road was shut after a huge mud slide. We’d have to take the 101 instead. So we climbed into the Mustang, got the roof down, and set off.