Memories of Santa Barbara Getaways

The Belmond El Encanto in Santa Barbara

The Belmond El Encanto in Santa Barbara

When your barber tells you it’s time for a vacation, I guess I better listen.

We’ll be off to Oregon shortly, but we needed something quick, car-free and close, so we dashed off to Santa Barbara. Of course we’ve been many times, over 100 times I keep saying, but we’d never stayed at the El Encanto. Not together that is – I remember visiting the hotel about 12 years ago, well before the current remodel, back when I was a dance photographer.


My stay was in the middle of a local performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Group; I had a New York friend dancing in the Group, which is how I met Baryshnikov. I was invited to shoot a few backstage shots and then after the performance pix of Misha with the local insiders. He didn’t like his picture being taken, but he minded less when it was me doing the shooting – we were close in age and he admired my volunteer work at the High School for the Performing Arts in NYC, the Fame School. After this brief time together in Santa Barbara I got an invite to join the group for a 3-week tour of Europe.

Those were the days.

But back to that dance performance 12 years ago… After the photos everyone moved out of the concert hall onto the plaza to mingle – no one wanted to leave. I’ll never forget the press/publicity agent for the theatre, she admired my access to the artist – she tapped me on the shoulder to inquire of my relationship, my credentials. I modestly mumbled something like, “Just a friend,” which didn’t satisfy her apparently. She turned about 2 feet, back to her companion to summarize, “He’s a nobody!”

I love telling that story.

This week’s trip would be less glamorous, although the views from the hotel dining patio were mesmerizing, the service fantastic and the air quality crisp and clean — our ambitions for this trip were derailed as we fell into a relaxation coma.

Before we lost it that first night we had the foresight to reserve the hotel’s electric bikes for the next morning. The elevation is equivalent to Newport Coast, only with a lot more windy roads to get there, so the Pedego eBikes were perfect for zipping around town.

Santa Barbarans are used to cyclists apparently, no one blowing their horns, courtesy at every turn. We stayed out on the bikes so long I kept wondering if there was an implicit time limit. Would 4 hours hogging the bikes be considered rude? It turned out fine. We returned the bikes after an all-morning excursion into Montecito and back, just in time for a little siesta.

Our bungalow retreat

Our bungalow retreat at the El Encanto