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Santa Barbara: A little bit of Europe in California

By Greg Goodsell
April 6th, 2010
Catholic Online (

Santa Barbara is a bustling coastline community that became what it is today by going through the flames of a major disaster, to re-emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes. An earthquake in 1925 leveled its downtown area, and the city´s founder vowed to rebuild, and did so in a style that recalled its heady days as an 18th century Spanish settlement.

SANTA BARBARA, CA (Catholic Online) – Santa Barbara today is noted for its graceful adobe buildings and red-tiled roofs, set against gardens of bougainvillea, palm and citrus. According to National Geographic correspondent Christopher Hall, "Santa Barbara is a poster child for la dolce vita, California-style.

"Santa Barbara now boasts a major university, high-tech businesses, and the cultural offerings of a large city," Hall adds. The city is also considered a hot ticket for real estate. Local real estate broker Roy Prinz says Santa Barbara is a real draw for the rich and famous.  "Celebrities come for the same reasons as anyone else …a wonderful climate, amenities like great restaurants, and the casual, outdoors lifestyle of a place where time moves a little slower."

Visitors should expect not to see dramatic vistas of the sun sinking into the sea come nightfall. "Beaches in this city of 92,000, as well as its tony neighbor, Montecito, face south, not west. The rugged Santa Ynez Mountains rise dramatically behind the city, providing vast spaces to hike, ride horses, or study pre-Columbian pictographs by the Chumash, the region's first residents," Hall says.

No trip to the area is complete without a trip to the Mission Santa Barbara, "The ´Queen of the Missions´ - a twin-towered beauty still used by the Franciscan order that founded it in 1786.

"More earthly matters are dealt with on State Street, the downtown hub of shopping, outdoor cafés, and nightlife where you can see French Impressionists at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art or catch a film or symphony concert at the Arlington Center for the Performing Arts, a 1931 Moorish-fantasy movie palace. Close by are historic adobes and the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a storybook-Spanish concoction of turrets, tiles, and spiral staircases," Hall adds.

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