The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is housed in a stately building that was built in 1914, and the minute you walk in you are confronted by a superb collection of Greek and Roman sculptures along with numerous priceless artifacts. It also features the only remaining intact mural by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, "Portrait of Mexico Today," which is on display outside the museum.
Constantly changing displays are in contrast to the Impressionist and "Old Master" sections, where you will see original masterworks from the likes of Matisse, Van Gogh, Chagall and Monet.
The Botanical Gardens are a pleasant 20-minute drive from the ocean and feature five miles of walking trails through a meadow, forest and chaparral. The 78-acre retreat offers sweeping views of the Channel Islands and are open seven days a week for lovers of rare and indigenous plant life and trees. A truly semi-magical place that probably is never crowded, the gardens are little gems and excellent outlets for meditation and/or a light hike.
Membership at $50 seems like a good deal, with unlimited yearly admission and all kinds of discounts on plant sales plus a bunch more goodies.
Villa Rosa Inn, 15 Chapala St., (805) 966-0851, www.villarosainnsb.com
Elements Restaurant, 129 East Anapamu St., (805) 884-9218, www.elementsrestaurantandbar.com
Land Shark Tour, (805) 683-7600, www.out2seeSB.com
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St., (805) 963-4364, www.sbma.net
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 1212 Mission Canyon Road, www.sbbg.org
Oooh la, la--Paris, London still wow first-time visitors
By Susan Cox
To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this year, my husband Tony and I decided to go all out and mark the milestone with an eight-day adventure to London and Paris.
It was a nine-hour, overnight flight from L.A. to London. We arrived mid-morning, checked into our hotel, unpacked and wasted no time exploring the city.
Central London is a pedestrian's paradise, conveniently compact and crowded with narrow, winding streets populated with shops, restaurants and businesses.
With only four days to spend in London, we had some tough choices to make about what to see and do. We opted to walk rather than take the subways in London and Paris, although both have efficient easy-to-navigate transit systems.
Buckingham Palace is an obvious visitors' choice, which we easily found after walking past Trafalgar Square, through the busy shopping area known as Covent Garden, and Leicester Square, London's theatre district. The Queen Victoria Memorial directly faces Buckingham Palace. You can get pictures of the ubiquitous palace guards, but fences keep the public at a safe distance. Across the street is the idyllic St. James's Park where you can share your love of nature with squirrels, ducks and other small creatures. Cozy deck chairs can even be rented by the hour for sitting and soaking in the scenery.
Our next stops included Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and 10 Downing Street, the residence of the British prime minister.
A great way to see London in one breathtaking vista is aboard The London Eye. This iconic landmark, situated on the south bank of the Thames River, is a 443-foot-tall Ferris wheel with moving observation capsules you can sit or stand in. It offers sweeping panoramas of the city in all directions.