Tuesday, April 10, 2012

digesting the road

The thrill of getting away on vacation is every much exhausting as it is exciting. No matter how much one tries to "relax" or makes a point of selecting a destination intent on "unplugging" from the race, it inevitably creeps up on you as soon as you step foot back on familiar soil and settle back into the rhythm of being home. Traversing time zones routinely does a number on the body, even if only 3 hours west in this case. Not only are you physically time traveling, but you ascend through layers of atmosphere as if transcending into a spirit realm of sorts, imbued with the evident lack of free-flowing oxygen. When I step off a plane, I feel as though my molecular structure has been jostled and re-configured (because it has been) to the point of nausea and it takes half a day to even begin to feel grounded.

Since we traveled back to our other "home", the California motherland, we weren't particularly giddy with anticipation of uncharted territory. We were just going up the coast, a jaunt to Santa Barbara and Big Sur. I never underestimate the intrinsic power of a Big Sur trip, as with it always comes a sense of transformative vitality. But since we threw Santa Barbara into the mix,  I must say I was a little curious as to how I would embrace this old teenage haunt as an adult. My memories reduced to mission architecture and spending weekends with one of my favorite high school friends at her uncle's hacienda, I immediately entered jaw-dropping mode to find a whole new world I never knew existed. It was like love at first site and the sheer glee that came over me was uncontainable. Why had I waited decades to return to this glorious resort-like setting?

Traveling for me is very much about the lodging as well as about the food. And I must say I pat myself on the back for having unearthed this little gem of a location: the Presidio Motel. I actually stumbled upon it while following links for a jewelry designer and ended up at the Supply Room online, the motel's exquisitely curated shop for all things ultra chic. From the moment we checked in, my head was buzzing and I ran from room to room trigger-happy. You would too if you saw these rooms:

Room 6

Room 14

Room 14

Room 12 Detail

Room 12 Headboard
The next order of things was to see how my egg coloring experiment turned out. Yes, I carried the eggs in a container full of stinky cabbage & vinegar water from Huntington Beach, as well as my props, and now it was time to unveil them. So although this was supposed to be vacation, it felt very much like I was on a work mission, but who cares? I was in Santa Barbara!!!

So if ever in the area, please do book a room at the Presidio and please stop in the Supply Room.

Please eat at Jane which is a 5 minute walk from the motel. If you have a hankering for Japanese, then Arigato Sushi is a must, just a few more minutes down State St. on foot. Oh, and did I mention that EVERYTHING you could possibly want to do in town is within walking distance on State St.???

For the health nuts out there, Backyard Bowls for breakfast is awesome. This is "the backyard bowl" which kept me full for several hours and well fueled for a good hike up Cold Springs Trail.

 I was doing a vegan fast that day so lunch at The Natural Cafe was amazing.

The Farmers Market had just set up after stepping out from lunch. My heart swelled seeing the mountains of produce as I wistfully longed for a market such as this in Athens. It's ok, I count my blessings for the market we have (that by the way started last Saturday while away, hooray!), but I almost wished we had a full kitchen to play in so we could buy up loads of market specialties.

We did indulge in three baskets of strawberries from an Oxnard farm and took bikes down to the beach and gratified ourselves with a bit of sweetness before dinnertime.

And on advice from Food & Wine, we brunched at the Scarlet Begonia before I held my husband and sister hostage at The French Press (again, on State St.!) to pump out the last blog entry. I didn't fuel up on caffeine, but boy did the coffee look enticing.

It's hard to describe in words what Big Sur does to me, although the beatnik greats effortlessly achieved encapsulating its mysteries. The road there is itself a wrinkle in time. And once there, all there is to do is breath in all of its redwood and cedar air and float up in the mountain mist, into the ethers.

Apart from all of the more affordable charming (and somewhat rugged) inns and cottages, if you are not staying at the Ventana Inn or Post Ranch Inn (which should be on everyone's 'must do once in their lifetime' list), there is really not much else available, or so I thought. I was thrilled to find Glen Oaks Inn which was completely overhauled 5 years ago and struck the perfect balance between traveling on a budget and ultra luxury.

Room 2, fireplace standard in all rooms!
If you ever find yourself in Big Sur, you must never bypass Nepenthe, or Cafe Kevah and stop in the Phoenix shop. Breakfast or dinner at the Big Sur Inn is divine. And if you want to treat yourself right, do have a dinner at Cielo or get to Sierra Mar before the sunset to be embraced by the big blue ocean. For fine local culture, visit the Hawthorne Gallery and of course, the Henry Miller Library is always fun.

So as I sit here (a bit off-kilter from jet-lag) contemplating the road and the process it takes to get there and back, the discomfort always seems to be outweighed by the inspiration and fuel one generates from time away. And I resign to the fact that "the road more traveled" is always the better choice.

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