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Christine's California

Christine's California

Christine's California

Our Founder & CEO wanted a quick, off-season getaway before the holidays kicked in and, after much meticulous research, found the perfect place to start in Santa Barbara…

Full disclosure, I love LA, I really do but sometimes a city vacation isn’t what’s needed, especially when you want to recharge. So, for this mini vacay I decided to skip LA all together and, with my husband Trevor in tow, head straight to Santa Barbara County. (Note: you could even bypass LAX entirely by flying into the Santa Barbara Airport, which I think is one of the prettiest in the world.)

The drive to Alisal itself is stunning. We stopped in the impossibly quaint Montecito and had lunch at Jeannine’s on The Old Coast Village Road – Trevor said his BLT was unofficially the world’s best (the recently opened Bettina’s is on my radar for next time).

After lunch, we headed straight to our first fabulous destination: Alisal Guest Ranch.

It is a full-service guest ranch for couples, families and conferences and comes with a pretty rich history (it opened in 1946). It’s like stepping back in time and a Sycamore-lined driveway is a precursor to the charm that awaits.

I love that Alisal is one of the few places left where time seems reluctant to move forward – there are no phones or TVs in the guest cottages, which are all beautifully appointed and equipped with a wood-burning fireplace (swoon). We were lucky enough to stay in one of the rooms recently redesigned by Nathan Turner. I loved its rustic meets luxe vibe.

Now the best part: the ranch. When you’re actually on it you cannot see civilization in any direction, thanks to 10,500 private acres of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. It’s also home to deer, mountain lions, bears, bald eagles and, yes, even rattle snakes! Alisal has over 1700 cattle (you can book a cattle drive à la City Slickers) and more than 100 horses.

And then there’s the rest: over 50 miles of horseback riding trails, a 100-acre lake, two championship golf courses, a fitness center and spa (with a yoga studio), six tennis courts and a heated pool. We set out early our first morning with wranglers Rick and Peyton, who took us on a two-hour breakfast trail ride to the property’s original Adobe home, a one-bedroom boasting many touches of the Old West, including original hewn-wood furnishings. Once there, we had a full breakfast worthy of a restaurant but served by a campfire complete with cowboys telling stories and singing – it was something else.

After the spectacular Alisal, we headed to Folded Hills, a unique winery, farmstead and ranch tucked away between the coastal mountains of Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley. Folded Hills is an organically farmed vineyard that is focused on a cleaner way to drink (no commercial additives, grown organically following the biodynamic calendar, grapes are hand harvested using sustainable practices in the vineyard and are consciously crafted to be lower in alcohol). If you’re lucky, you might just get to meet the owner of the vineyard, former professional polo player Andy Busch (of the Anheuser-Busch beer family) in their beautiful and recently built tasting room (designed by Andy’s wife Kim).

From Folded Hills, we headed north to the Skyview Motel, an iconic roadside motel turned luxury boutique hotel. It was recently renovated and they nailed mid-century modern décor. It truly is a gem of a find and, if you’re driving the Pacific Coast Highway, this is the place to stop. Amongst the many showstopper amenities is a heated pool overlooking their vineyard and The Norman, a fantastic restaurant which focuses on local wines and foods. Take breakfast on the terrace where you can soak in the view overlooking the ranches and vineyards of Santa Barbara wine country.

On our way back to LA, we couldn’t resist stopping at the newly opened Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel and dining at Malibu Farm at Miramar. Our visit wouldn’t have been complete without the photo op in the iconic Fiat Beach Buggy. The resort property is absolutely stunning and our favourite spot had to be the pool with the white-and-yellow umbrellas, which are a subtle reminder of Old Hollywood Glamour.

California is an original alternative to go-to sunny climes like Miami and I liked venturing outside LA for a little r-and-r before the holidays begin. I look forward to returning soon to see even more and would love to hear where you’re off to in 2020.