California Vacation, Part I: Santa Barbara


On November 14, Cari and I had a very special event to attend: her brother Dan’s wedding to the wonderful Liana in Santa Barbara, California.

We decided early on that we wanted to turn this weekend trip to California into a proper vacation and before we knew it we were in the car, headed down to Buffalo.  We have frequently sung the praises of flights out of Buffalo since they are a mere fraction of the cost of those out of Toronto.  We usually make the most of it, driving down the night before our flight for a relaxed dinner and hotel stay to kick-off our vacation.

Our flight was extremely early in the morning, but this had us arriving in Los Angeles before lunchtime so it was well worth it.  An otherwise longish flight was made even easier thanks to in-seat DirectTV, which cost $6 but was well worth it as it gave us the opportunity to watch the delightful Julie & Julia.

Day 1 – Los Angeles to Santa Barbara

The Presidio in Santa Barbara

Upon arriving in Los Angeles we quickly made our way to the car rental to meet up with Cari’s mom Alison, stepdad Art, great-uncle Jim and great-aunt Laura.  The four of them had been in town since the previous day and were eager to get to Santa Barbara to partake in some of the pre-wedding festivities.  We didn’t mind too much as we had already been to L.A. twice in the past two years… though it was hard not going to Amoeba this time.

We stopped briefly in Thousand Oaks for a very satisfying lunch at P.F. Chang’s before continuing our journey onto Santa Barbara, where we’d spend the next few days.  Our hotel, the Presidio Motel, was one we had checked out with Cari’s mom, Dan and Liana on our previous trip to California and we were excited to finally get to stay there for a few nights.  We were also excited that a good three-quarters of the place would be rented out to various people attending the wedding.  More on this later.

The Presidio Motel had clearly a dated, 1960s-style motel before some young people bought it and funkified it to their liking.  Each room is designed with a unique, brightly-coloured theme and mobiles hang from the ceilings.  The walls were a tad thin, but it didn’t really bother us.

Apart from exploring, we didn’t do much else on that first day in Santa Barbara apart from a tasty dinner at a restaurant called Opal on State St. not too far from our hotel.

Day 2 – Santa Barbara

Flowers from Trader Joes

Friday was an exciting day for everyone since most of the wedding party, including the bride and groom, Cari’s dad Ron, stepmom Julie and stepsister Savannah were set to arrive that day.

We started our day at Trader Joe’s to pick out flowers for the wedding.  The plan was for the bridesmaids and female family members to spend that afternoon making bouquets and centerpieces.  Cari and Alison had plans to get their nails done, so I spent an hour or so exploring Santa Barbara.

Upon their arrival, we ended up meeting Dan and Liana for lunch right on the pier at a restaurant called the Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. I’m so glad to be over my aversion to seafood.  Cari and I shared crab cakes and New England Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.  Both were excellent.

Back at the hotel we were able to meet and greet many of the other people who had arrived over the course of that day.  A short while later we were off to the church for a brief rehearsal before the wedding party split off to enjoy dinner at a local sushi restaurant.

Even before our server/hostess got wind of the fact that we were there for a wedding, she treated us to complimentary sake and later brought out a complimentary grilled fish dish.  Liana’s father Grant was kind enough to pay for our dinner and everyone indulged in all the sushi, tempura, sashimi and maki they would’ve wanted.  After dropping off our cars at the hotel we later took our party to a happening Irish pub.  I was impressed with how authentically the bartender poured his Guinness, and was later impressed by the live musical act who opened their set with the theme from The Price Is Right.

Day 3 – Santa Barbara/Dan & Liana’s Big Day

They couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day to get married, though of course picking Santa Barbara helped their chances of a perfect weather day. Liana and a few of her bridesmaids went to get their hair done that morning, while the guys hung around the hotel. Then to the church to set up the centrepieces and generally get everything ready to go.

Dan, Savannah, and Adam pose for a photo.

We did most of the photos in the park across the street from the church, which was just perfect. A lovely park filled with plenty of green and flowers, and a number of nice shady spots for photos. It seemed as if everywhere we looked there was another ideal spot for photos.

The ceremony itself was beautiful – with Dan and Liana reading their own vows, and the entire ceremony was crafted very much by them with the help of their minister, who I believe Liana had met through her previous job. The moving ceremony was followed by wine and toasts in the courtyard of the church and then dinner and dancing in the reception room.
Dan & Liana kept everything wonderfully low-key for their wedding, using only a few well chosen vendors – including some tasty tasty tapas for the meal, along with a lovely dessert plate with the best cream puffs I’ve ever tasted. Beyond food, location, and minister, most of the rest was fairly DIY. Liana did a great job of organizing everything to keep it stress-free, and Dan arranged to use his computer as the DJ for the night. They also brought in a great touch from Dan & Cari’s hometown, favours from DeBrand Chocolates.


In all, a great time was had by all. For more photos of the wedding, you can view this album on facebook.
Part two of our California Vacation in a next post: on to San Diego!

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3 Responses to “California Vacation, Part I: Santa Barbara”

  1. California Vacation, Part 2: San Diego « Life at No. 71 Says:

    […] Vacation, Part 2: San Diego By Cari Miller After spending 3 wonderful days in Santa Barbara for my brother’s wedding, Adam and I decided to extend our trip a bit and […]

  2. Mark Ingram Says:

    Really great post! I love Santa Barbara because even though it is close to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles where I live, it is such a different vibe that it feels like you are worlds away!

    Thanks for sharing the pics of your family.


  3. Life at No.71: A Year In Review « Life at No. 71 Says:

    […] the last year, we’ve been to California twice, witnessed my brother getting married and gained a great sister-in-law, mourned the loss of Adam’s grandmother, watched our […]

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