Mercey Hot Springs is outside of the city of Los Banos (translation: "The Baths"), just a 20 minute side trip from the main travel corridor of the I-5. Though the distance from the Fast Lane may not be much in miles, when you arrive, you feel as if you are worlds away.
I love how you get your own tub (the ones on the main deck, by the pool and sauna, are bathing suit required, and there is another tub area behind the cabins that is clothing-optional). Nothing to do but look at the peaceful scenery and, at night, the amazing stars... and then, of course, there are the rabbits!
This is a neat abandoned house on the perimeter of the property:
The cabins are super cozy and totally affordable. We paid just around $100 for this one-- on a holiday weekend!-- which included full soaking privileges.
Back on the road again, we stopped to heed the call of nature at one of the ubiquitous Pea Soup Anderson restaurants. I love this motel that was next door... check out the subtitle, "Roped In Western Comfort":
I have vowed to put a little more Chris in the blog, since he is always looking so hip:
You know you are in Southern California when you see this familiar silhouette:
Santa Barbara has some gorgeous adobe buildings from its Missionary past:
...and the fruit is, literally, hanging off the trees. Santa Barbara enjoys one of the most temperate climates on earth, which means food and flowers galore:
The Bougainvillea is "my" flower, a reminder of the coastal climes which I love, and where I spent much of my life til I became a Sierra girl... I even lived in a van on the beach in San Diego for half a year once! This vine doesn't grow inland, so it's always a special reunion when I see her.
At the wedding! Here's me with dad and mom:
Mom is spot-on trend with her feather Fascinator:
My mom brought this picture of myself (center- yes, I was a blond!) with my best friends and neighbors growing up. We are all wearing clothes from my mom's Dress Up Trunk... oh to have that black crepe 60s dress back; I used to wear it and lend it out in my gothic high school days, and a friend's mom shrunk it in the wash!!! That's Becky on my left, and Danny on my right:
And me and Becky now:
And, all grown up, here's Danny, the man of the hour, with his beautiful bride Ninaya!
My fave dress at the wedding was worn by Aunt Susan (okay, she's not my aunt, technically, but I've known her as Aunt Susan for so long I can't help but call her that). She told me she was going for a Mad Men inspired look here, and I think she pulls it off perfectly:
A closer look-- I just love the "tie dyed" fabric in that 60s acid pink hue, and the half-bow on the bodice:
Here she is with her two lovely daughters, Anna and Rena, the delights of my life-- don't they look like a bouquet of flowers?:
They had these picture frames hung so you could take pics in them... a really cool idea. Okay, this is so dorky that it is almost too embarrassing, but here we are; (clockwise) me, Chris, Rena, and Anna:
Danny is an organic gardener and the food at the wedding reflected his passion for earthly delights-- everything was local, organic, and way beyond delicious. This plate has such delicacies as phyllo dough pizza with pine nuts and caramelized onions, zucchini cakes with nasturtium aoli, red bell pepper and feta spread, fava bean salad, fennel salad, and of course hummus and pita bread to reflect his Jewish heritage!
Heading out of town after the wedding, we did a little shopping in downtown Santa Barbara (that necessary "one last blast in Civilization" run to the record store and American Apparel)... and of course more eating. Chris, who has a nose for pastries (his mom is the most amazing baker in the world) led us to Andersens, a family-run Danish restaurant and bakery. Lunch was great, but dessert... oh, the dessert.
This is what we ended up taking with us, and what fueled our long ride home: the Lady in Black. I didn't get the actual list of ingredients, but it involved copious amounts of marzipan (my fave), chocolate, and a cake soaked in some kind of amazing liqueur. In short, it was heaven. It actually hurts to look at this picture right now... it's the only reason (besides a wedding) that I would make that 9 hour drive to Santa Barbara again. Who's in?