Sunday, July 10, 2011

Whales!! It was a Whale of a Trip too!

We had reservations on the Condor Express for the 4 hour whale watching tour for Wednesday but they called us and said the seas were too rough.  I learned an important lesson that day.  Don't take Dramamine until you HAVE too.  I spent the afternoon napping!!

So the next day, on Thursday, we were able to go out and I took 1/2 of Wednesday's dose closer to departure time.  The seas were still a tad rough and I was glad we hadn't been on rougher seas the day before.  A LOT of heaving was going on over the backside of the boat.  At first I was top side on the upper deck but I went down to the back of the boat on the first deck and was alright there (less motion in that portion of the boat).  The above photo was the top deck just before I went down.  The person on the right was there to identify the humpback whales for some scientific whale study.  Humpbacks can be identified by the markings on their tails.  Every whale is different.

Here is a Humpback blowing (breathing).  That is how you can spot the whales - by the blow.  The crew was very good at spotting them and then the captain would announce where to look.   That is Catalina Islands National Park in the background.  The whales migrate between Catalina and the Santa Barbara shoreline.
Two flukes of humpback whales showing here as they prepare to dive.  Humpbacks will almost always fluke (put their tail fins in the air) as they dive.  They will spend about 14-15 minutes on the surface and then dive for food for about the same amount of time.  We saw probably around 14 humpback whales.  Digital photography was a big Liability.  With the seconds delay in snapping the photo most digital cameras, you rarely actually caught the whale on the surface.
We were treated to a rare sight.  I did not get a picture of the Blue Whale we encountered, these photos were taken by 'C'.  The Blue streak over the surface is why the Blue whale is called that.  It is so big, the water over it's back turns a beautiful teal blue as it swims.
'C' even managed to get a picture of the Blue Whale on the surface as it was blowing.  The Blue Whale is endangered with only 10,000 alive today.  There are 100,000 Humpbacks.  The blue whale is also the largest mammal to have ever lived, even bigger than a dinosaur.  Unfortunately, none of the whale photos really do the animals justice and there is nothing to judge the size of the animal in the picture.  They were impressive, believe me!  I would recommend Condor Cruises for a whale-watching tour.  I thought they did a great job.
After we got back about 2:30 pm, we walked around Santa Barbara Harbor.  There were a lot of sailboats docked.

As we walked out on the dock, I saw this guy just below where we were walking on the shoreline.

Look at this beautiful tree near the Marina!

C & L went shopping so I sat on the dock and watched the boats and the seals play.  I saw this yellow boat coming in.

It said "Lil Toot" on the side and it docked right in front of me.  Apparently you could take "Lil Toot" for a tour of the Harbor.  I thought it was pretty darn cute.

It was a fun day and I enjoyed all of it.  Certainly different than where I live 60 Miles North of Nowhere!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Santa Barbara Courthouse

According to Trip Advisor, the Santa Barbara Courthouse is the No. 1 Attraction in Santa Barbara.  My response was 'you gotta be kiddin' me!' 

Well take a gander at these photos and you know why! My oh my!  The Santa Barbara Courthouse was built in 1929 in Mission Style and if you are ever in Santa Barbara, it is a must to visit.  Click on the Link and go see the photos there also. They said a lot of people get married in it's gardens and while we were there touring --- there was a wedding taking place!  The setting is beautiful.
The Front of the Santa Barbara Court House

Top of the entrance

The Entrance - different departments were on different sides.  The side we could tour was the Recorder and the Court and attorney's offices.  Sort of like a Big Dog Trot Cabin don't you think? LOL

The ceiling just after we went in

A tiled bench seat under a window.
My photos do NOT do this justice.  The Tile work was gorgeous.

Interior of the Court Room.  All four sides had murals depicting the founding of Santa Barbara. The people in the picture were part of a guided tour.  We were freelancers so to speak :)  The link above has a good picture of the murals in the court room.

A view of the door we came through on the left and another door into the hall with the surrounding mural.  Again not good digital photos.

Ceiling and chandelier in the court room

Stained glass window 

Beginning of the stairs up to the Bell Tower showing some of the tile work.

Painted portico.

The Bell Tower - upon which I did not step out toooooo far.  I am afraid of heights.  You want the view - you will have to go see if for yourself!!

Gardens behind the court house with the wedding on the right in the 'sunken' garden

Entrance door from one of the side streets.  It says over the entrance "Reason is the Life of the Law" which I thought was interesting.

Next time - we see WHALES, the Santa Barbara Harbour and Lil Toot.

Monday, July 4, 2011

El Presidio

While the Mission was the religious arm of the new settlements and ranchos in California, the Presidio was the military arm (think Sergeant Garcia from the Zorro Television Series).  The Presidio was originally built in 1782. Santa Barbara has reconstructed their Presidio, with only the commandant's home being an original structure and it is a city block away from the main Presidio. We were unable to see the commandant's home as it was under restoration/preservation when we were there.  This Presidio is right in the old town part of Santa Barbara, about a block off of State Street if I recall correctly.
Here we see the main parade ground with the Commandant's offices to the right and the chapel to the left.  Out of the picture are the officer's quarters and other adobes.

Better get a closer look at that GORGEOUS tree.  They had these all over Santa Barbara and I have NO clue what type of tree they were.  But isn't it just exquisite?

While life at the Presidio was probably certainly less centered around religion than at the Mission; religion still played a big role in the everyday lives of the residents of the Presidio.  This is the outside of their chapel.

I thought the reconstructed roofs were interesting.  They had tied long twigs tightly in place with hemp rope and then packed it with mud.

This is the interior of their chapel - very ornate as compared to very plain adobe dwellings for all the other structures.

The Santa Barbara Presidio is part of the California State Park System.

Next up - the Santa Barbara Courthouse and what a surprise it was.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Botantical Gardens in Mission Canyon

C & L wanted to go visit the Santa Barbara Botantical Gardens.  I wasn't so keen because I *thought* that meant a greenhouse with exotic plants that stood no chance of surviving the North American climate anywhere let alone at North of Nowhere, where I live.

I was wrong -- and delightfully so.  It turns out botantical gardens are usually a display of Native plants in their natural setting!  In this case, Mission Canyon which is gorgeous.  I recommend a visit if you are ever in Santa Barbara.
I thought this wood structure with an earthen roof was interesting.  There was something like 8 miles of trails you could take in the canyon.  We went for about 2 miles or so.  A lot of it was in the floor of the canyon next to Mission Creek and the forest was so heavy, all my pictures came out very dark.  But this place is well worth the walk!

This was on the hillside and it was a flowering Yucca plant.  Now that doesn't seem so spectacular until you realize that the 3 rocks you see at the left is a BENCH for three people to sit on.  Yep, this was almost 10 feet tall!  Amazing.

A shot of the hillside trail going down into the Canyon.

The Canopy with the moss on the trees and the gnarled branches.

A familiar sight from my visit last year to Northern California.  This is a redwood with L standing next to it.  It is eighty years old.  They had a small stand of redwoods established at the Botantical Gardens.  The fact it has survived tells me Santa Barbara/Mission Canyon must get a lot of fog because that is how redwoods get their moisture.  They get it from their branches not their roots.

The hillside above us.
One of the things I did this vacation was pick up a lot of postcards, brochures and not take quite so many pictures.  Unfortunately, all of those are copyrighted and I cannot post those.  From this hillside we dropped down through the canyon and crossed the creek and went up the hillside to the interpretive center.  Going up the hillside was a Japanese Tea house where you could actually stop and have tea in a small one room structure.  We didn't stop but it was interesting.

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!