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In the forenoon he took us among the fine homes of the millionaire
residents, some of which reminded us not a little-though of course on
a smaller scale-of great English estates we had visited. But in Santa
Barbara they have the advantage of shrubs and trees which flourish the
year round and from nearly all there is a perennial view of summer sea,
always beautiful and inspiring. The grounds of many of these places
are open to visitors and some are marvelously beautiful; the climate
admits of great possibilities in landscape-gardening in the free use of
semi-tropical shrubs, palms, flowers, and fruit trees.
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Our guide then took us through the grounds of the Miramar Hotel Colony,
if I may so describe it. Here a wooded hill on the shore is covered with
a group of cottages, which are rented by guests who get their meals at
a central building-a plan that affords the advantages of privacy and
outdoor life without the cares of housekeeping.
Of course we visited the Gillespie house and gardens-"El Furiedes,"
which may be roughly translated as "pleasure garden"-which, after the
mission, is probably the most distinctive attraction of Santa Barbara.
The gardens cover about forty acres and contain a great variety of
rare flowers, shrubs, and trees from all parts of the world. In places
these form tangled thickets where one might easily lose himself if not
familiar with the winding paths. Quiet pools play an important part
in the decorative scheme, and these were beautified with rare water
plants, among them the Egyptian lotus. In the center of the grounds is
the house, built along the lines of a Roman villa. It is not open to
visitors, but our guide declared that it contains a costly collection
of antiques of all kinds. The main doors are remarkable examples of
carving, dating from about 1450, and were taken from a Moorish temple
in Spain. The owner of this beautiful place, a New York millionaire,
said our guide, spends only a small part of his time in Santa Barbara.
In the meanwhile the gardens are maintained at his expense, and are as
easy of access to visitors as a public park.
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Before returning to our hotel we made the round of the city and our
driver pointed out some of the older and more historic buildings.
Of these the de la Guerre mansion is the most notable aside from the
mission itself. Here took place the marriage of Donna Anita to Senor
Noriega y Carillo, so vivaciously described by Dana in "Two Years Before
the Mast." It is a typical old-time Spanish residence, low, solid,
and surrounding the inevitable court. We were also shown the homes of
several people of more or less celebrity who live in Santa Barbara,
among them Stewart Edward White, and Robert Cameron Rogers, the poet
and author of "The Rosary," whose death California so sincerely mourned
a little later.
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There are many famous "Little Journeys" out of Santa Barbara which
it would be superfluous to describe in detail. There are several good
local guidebooks with maps to be had and the services of the Southern
California Auto Club branch are always available. You can do most of
these excursions in two or three days, including a round trip via the
San Marcos Pass, to the Santa Ynez Mission, returning via Los Olivos and
the Gaviota Pass. I shall describe the drive which we made on our first
visit-and we made it in an old-fashioned surrey, for the road was then
closed to motors. I am glad that we were forced to adopt that good old
method of locomotion, as it gave us leisure to contemplate the beauties
of the scenery that we should scarce have had in our car.
"Take the sixteen-mile drive," says the old driver. "It's one of the
best; it is closed to autos and you can do all the rest in your car."
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So it's the "sixteen-mile drive" for us, and a wonderful panorama of
green hills, wooded canyons and calm, shining sea it proves to be. The
road has many steep pitches and follows the edges of the hills like a
narrow shelf; vehicles can pass in but few places and all are required
to go in the same direction. From the summits we have many far-reaching
views of hill and valley, whose brilliant greens are tempered by the
pale violet bloom of the mountain lilac. It is a view very much like
some we have seen and many more we are to see, but we shall never weary
of it. We have gained something of the spirit of the good old John Muir.
"Climb the mountains," he urges, "and get their good tidings. Nature's
peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into the trees. The winds
will blow their own freshness into you, while cares will drop off like
autumn leaves." And so, as we slowly wind about this green-bordered
mountain trail, we pause at every vantage point to contemplate the
view and finally the most glorious scene of all breaks on our vision, a
panorama of wooded hills sloping down to the summer sea-wonderfully calm
to-day, with a curious effect of light and color. Across its mirrorlike
surface bars of steely blue light run to the channel islands, Santa
Cruz and Santa Rosa, whose mountainous bulk looms in the amethystine
haze of sunset some twenty miles away. Of the channel before us Mr. John
McGroarty writes in his delightful "History and Romance of California":
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"Nor is this all that makes the charm, the beauty, the climatic peace
and calm and the fascination of Santa Barbara. Twenty-five miles
out to sea a marine mountain range, twin sister of the Santa Ynez on
shore, rears its glowing peaks from the tumbling billows in a series
of islands. So it is that Santa Barbara faces not the open sea, but
a channel or a strait of the sea. Up into this channel flows the warm
ocean current from the south and so adds its beneficence to complete
the climatic combination that keeps the spot snug and warm and free
from all violence in winter, the selfsame combination leaving it cool
and refreshing through the long, sunny summers. So, also, do the twin
mountain ranges-the one on land, the other out at sea-give Santa Barbara
a marine playground as safe and as placid as Lake Tahoe. The channel is
a yachtsman's paradise. To its long sweep of blue waters-a stretch of
seventy miles-come the Pacific-Coast-built ships of the American navy
to be tried out and tested for speed and endurance."