I recently went to brunch at the San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara. It is one of the oldest hotels in this town (it sits on a land grant that goes back to 1842), and is steeped in class. The property, owned by local mogul, Ty Warner, has been recently updated and redecorated and from what I could see, the results are breathtaking. It is elegant, slightly whimsical and deliciously comfortable, just like Santa Barbara itself.
Tucked up against the mountains and still a fair distance from the ocean, it is the first place in Santa Barbara that the fog burns off. The grounds are lush and just slightly overgrown, with the tropical flowers and trees, oranges, lemons and avocados that grow in abundance here. Many of the rooms are actually little cottages with assorted patios and balconies, so they are wonderfully private. Perhaps that is part of why it is such a favorite among rock stars and honeymooners, and honeymooning rock stars. (John and Jackie Kennedy spent their honeymoon here, and it remains a favorite of other Kennedys, so they say.)
But on this day I came to eat. My new brother-in-law took my husband and me here to toast to our wedding. It was perfect for such an occasion because they have a champagne/bellini/mimosa brunch at their Stonehouse Restaurant that is just delicious. They have the tables, complete with white table cloths, set up outside on the old stone porch under a bamboo arbor, surrounded by oak trees, with a view of the ocean in the distance. It is idyllic. Except for the cool California servers, you could be at the Colombe d’Or in Provence or at a mas in the Spanish countryside.
I would have loved to have taken a peek into some of the rooms. I had stayed at the San Ysidro Ranch in the past, once when it was a quirky, interesting but odd hotel in a great location, and again when I found it to be a charming hotel, badly decorated. But they seem to finally have it all together. In fact, everywhere you look, you see the sign “Best Hotel in America.”
If you go on line, you will find that it is, in fact, just one of several of the “Best Hotels in America”, according to Forbes. But, hey, that’s still worth bragging about. What’s more, Travel and Leisure named it number 4 on their list of the top 25 hotels in the world.
Then I found out that the rooms start at over $600.00 and go way up into the thousands of dollars a night. OK, so much for surprising my husband with a romantic night there anytime soon. I will never see the inside of those rooms. The best I will probably ever do, is to eat at the lovely restaurant. But I did check out the ladies’ room at the restaurant and found it be amazing. It was like an old Spanish adobe cottage with hand painted tiles, moroccan lamps, witty, antique English prints, beaded vases with orchids and a window overlooking the canyon below. It was gorgeous.
So if you are ever in Santa Barbara, and want to sample the really good life, stop by the Stonehouse Restaurant at the San Ysidro Ranch. A wonderful meal, and the best ladies room I have ever seen, is waiting for you.