We drove to Santa Barbara two days after Christmas to visit my son, Jesse, and to have some holiday fun in one of our favorite places in the world. After checking in to our little Casita in Montecito the evening before, we headed out for some brunch the next morning at the famous Mexican restaurant lauded by the one and only, Julia Child. It’s a modest cash only place called “La Super Rica” in Santa Barbara. And by the way, we were there when she was there a few years before she died, and we actually got to talk to her. Julia was very tall and very kind to speak to us.
I ordered one of the specials of the day….Sopas! And to drink…a very yummy horchata...a creamy tasting rice based drink with sugar and cinnamon. Look it up. You can make it yourself. It’s pretty easy.
Full and satisfied, we drove to Jesse’s place in the town of Goleta and admired the chickens freely roaming in the garden. I was impressed with the beauty of their feathers.
Jesse suggested that we go see the monarchs at the preserve in the Elwood neighborhood. I had seen them several years before but that visit pales in comparison to our experience this time. The warm and sunny weather stirs the monarchs to move around more than they usually do.
But first, read a tutorial on the cycle of the butterflies who winter in this very old eucalyptus grove.
We parked just off Coronado Ave and walked into the preserve. Jesse and Sam took the lead. The birch trees enchanted me.
I love the simple sign.
We hiked over some wetlands and then up a hill. At first we thought we were seeing bunches of leaves. Then all at once ~ the eyes recognize butterflies!
They were flying all over the place, but in the grove of old trees the majority of them congregated like a convention of lazy bees resting en masse on the leaves!
The sunlight showed off the brilliant translucence of their wings and I kept clicking my camera in a fury of longing to capture the reality of what my eyes were witnessing!
Sam is left of middle in the blue jeans looking up through his binoculars.
The signs were most informative.
Finally sated, we walked farther up the hill to the top of the mesa where we were treated to the broad vista of the Pacific and the beach. On this bluff we saw these metallic markers made by leaders of the city to immortalize the sanctuary and the preserved area of the mesa. The butterflies pictured below were dead on the ground below the place were the monarchs were clustered. I’m not sure what killed them but they were beautiful, even in death.
We walked down to the beach and enjoyed the splendor of the afternoon light of this mild day in December!
Opposite the beach is a wetland that feeds into the ocean – rife with birds and ducks. Next to this is a luxurious resort called “Bacara” with tennis courts, golf, and a gorgeous pool with cabanas.
We walked back to the monarch preserve via another trail and ran into a silver haired docent wearing a brilliant butterfly tee shirt on our way out. He asked us if we had any questions and we ended up talking to him for at least fifteen minutes. During that time we were fascinated by his knowledge and wit. He mentioned a book written by a friend of his, based on the butterfly preserve. Next thing we knew, he (in his seventies) ran up the path to a house where he actually lives as the caretaker of the preserve (on the preserve) in order to get the book so that he could show it to us. We bought it on the spot with plans to gift it to our grand daughters!
See for yourself!
It’s beautifully illustrated and written in both Spanish and English. It tells a lovely story that succeeds on several levels. Check it out by going to the website if you’re interested. You might even spot our charming docent if you click on the video on the website. Our purchase actually helps the butterfly preserve in Goleta!
Stay tuned for the next installation of our trip to Santa Barbara.