Southern California

By Jaffe, Matthew; Melinkoff, Ellen | Sunset, January 1998 | Go to article overview

Southern California


Jaffe, Matthew, Melinkoff, Ellen, Sunset


AT SEA IN SANTA BARBARA

The highest tribute I can pay to the Santa Barbara Miramar Hotel Resort is to say that its breezy spirit and beachside appeal survived one of the most interminable experiences of my life: a Santa Barbara weekend with my thengirlfriend and her Uncle Scotty.

We weren't actually staying at the Miramar. Scotty had ensconced us in a posh spot up in the hills so that we could all spend some time with my girlfriend's grandmother.

As repayment for Scotty's generosity, my girlfriend and I had to listen to him pontificate on his miserable childhood and a variety of other subjects of little interest to us. But the next morning, Scotty declared it was now time to grab lunch at the Miramar and hit the beach.

Those few hours at the Miramar proved to be the high point of the trip. I tuned out Scotty's ramblings and soaked up the resort's SoCal retro vibe-the cottages, sea air, palm trees, and passing trains-vowing to return some day. Last winter I finally made it back. It was just as I remembered it.

There are certainly more glamorous places along the coast, but the Miramar's charm lies more in its oddities than in its polish. Consider the train. It's here because in 1866 Southern Pacific approached local landowner Josiah Doulton, then operating the precursor to the Miramar, about a right-of-way. Doulton selected a route close to the beach in order to protect his barley field.

And so the cottage I settle into sits just yards from the tracks; rumbling freight trains occasionally roust me during the night. Just part of the Miramar experience.

In the morning, I cross the rails, passing the site of the original Miramar train station and a dining car that now serves as a coffee shop. I continue past the oceanfront rooms and begin a slow walk along the beach. I let the chill winter Pacific lap against my bare feet, sad that Scotty obviously didn't have nearly enough moments like this in his life. -Matthew Jaffe

MORE SOUTHERN

CALIFORNIA LODGINGS

Sandcastle Inn. A third of the 60 rooms here have good views of famous Pismo Beach, which guests can walk for miles. 100 Stimson Ave., Pismo Beach; (800) 822-6606. From $69.

Cliff House Inn. …

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