Ahhh…vacation. Sweet, sweet vacation. I knew months back that I was going to have a week at the end of June during which I would have Maya part of the time and pondered different things to do…at first I thought I might go to New York for the part that I didn’t have her, but then I rethought that plan because I hate humidity (and of course, it’s been much more humid here this week than usual…gross.) Then I thought, why not take Maya somewhere nearby for the first part, and have a staycation for the rest? There were a lot of home improvement-type things I wanted to get to anyway…and I could get a massage, just hang around, which is something I never get to do anymore. Rest, and relax. Much better plan, dontcha think?
The first place that came to mind for the Maya part of the vacation was Santa Barbara. It’s where I went to college and holds a special place in my heart to this day, held the potential of seeing some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, nearly always has nice weather, is close by (about 80 miles), has a great zoo and decent places to eat. Oh, and it has the ocean. Yeah, that was a necessity. I booked a deal at the West Beach Inn through Expedia – it was a deal by Santa Barbara standards (right across from the beach on Cabrillo, with a pool for 2 nights for about $600)…would have loved to stay for longer, but given Maya’s age, and my bank account, it was just right. I initially booked a room with just a queen bed
, but then I rethought that too. Maya is used to sleeping on her own, and these days, so am I. Did I want 2 nights of crappy sleep? Or 2 nights of having to go to bed at 7:30 pm? Nope. I called the hotel a few days before check-in and they had a room with what they called an “annex” – which was a little adjoining room for just an additional $20 per night. It had a twin-sized bed in there, and more importantly a door between that room and mine. Perfect.
Since it was Solstice, and Santa Barbara has a huge celebration in honor of the First Day of Summer, I wanted to make sure I avoided all of that hullabaloo and intended on going to the zoo on our first day there. We left relatively early and hit zero traffic on the way up (75 minutes from my garage to the zoo. I might have a bit of a lead foot…) and got to the zoo just as it opened. If you haven’t been to the Santa Barbara Zoo, what I always say about it is this – if I were a wild animal living in captivity, that would be where I wanted to live. The habitats are lush, clean, natural and inviting (if being behind glass, a fence or netting can be called such things) and it’s much easier for little people to see the animals. We were meeting some friends, but had gotten there first so we explored a bit. Or at least tried to. Maya seems to have an aversion to birds lately (stemming from a park incident with Grandma where they tried to feed the ducks and it was too “pigeony.”) And, of course, there are birds everywhere…so I tried my hardest to avoid the big ones, or so I thought. I took her to see the snow leopards, could only find one who was just lounging, not looking very ferocious and wanted to see another animal called the amur leopard. Maya was walking behind me as I pushed the stroller, I turned a corner and two seconds later heard her screaming. Like she had been attacked by the snow leopard. I turned around and quickly looked around the corner (knowing she couldn’t have been attacked by the snow leopard) and she was having a fit. I went over to her and asked her what was wrong and she tried to climb me. I picked her up and she apparently had seen – you guessed it – a bird. Not in the aviaries. Just a bird. Flying. As they do. I gave her a kiss and wiped away the giant crocodile tear on her face and told her they were not after her, but that we would not have to go see the leopard and could turn back to the other animals. She loved looking at the otters cuddling and sunning themselves, as did I.
Our friends Leeza, Joe and their baby boy Mac met up with us there and we continued to explore. Lions and foxes (“oh my gosh, they’re so cuuute!”) and the highlight of the day, for me at least, the giraffes (including the two new babies!). For a small fee, the zoo will provide you with a snack to feed one of those long-necked, majestic Masai mammals. My little love, who is terrified of birds big and small, had no qualms feeding lettuce to a giraffe. As long as it doesn’t have wings that flap, she’s good. She didn’t even wait for the nice Zoo staff member to start her up, she just held out her hand and let the giraffe’s tongue snap up the greens. It was so cool to watch her being brave!
We had lunch at the zoo with our friends, and some of their friends, checked out the elephants and penguins, and then headed to brave the Solstice mess downtown to meet some other college friends of mine, Kiana and Yassi.
We parked at the Paseo Nuevo, got the ice cream I had promised Maya (in hopes that it would buy me 20 minutes of uninterrupted conversation) and found the lovely ladies in front of their favorite Nordstrom. We walked around and chatted for awhile and Maya continually asked when we would check into the “hotowel” – the poor thing was exhausted and I kept trying to get her to nap in the stroller…but she was stubborn. And we couldn’t check in yet. Thankfully, something about the Forever 21 store finally put her out and she slept a good hour.
We talked about our current lives and reminisced about the past, and found Leeza and her crew and caught up some more with them. When Maya finally woke up, she was a cranky pants, and it was about time to check into the hotel, so we said our good-byes and headed in that direction.
We went for a walk through the harbor and Maya got a kick out of looking at all the boats and asking what was underneath the water (“are there whales? I want to see a whale!”)…we had a lovely sunset dinner at Chuck’s Waterfront Grill. Maya asked on her own for fish and chips, to my surprise and then proceeded to eat more fish than I’d ever seen her eat (and no chips…sometimes I wonder about her…). I had a lovely grilled salmon and a little drinky poo
and we called it a night. Once we returned to the hotel, Maya had a bath and I put her to bed in the annex, only to listen to her sing for an hour – I finally had to tell her to go to bed at about a quarter after 9…and then there was silence (except for the loudly humming air box in my part of our room).
We spent the next morning poolside after a breakfast at Sambo’s, most often in the spa or “hot pool” as Maya called it because while the weather was stellar on our first day, it sucked ass the next. 61 and cloudy. But we made the best of it…I wanted to take Maya to the Art Walk that is usually held on Sundays by the beach but she was already tired, so I thought lunch was a better idea. I strolled her to Longboard’s (which by the way, is not as yummy as I remembered) and my poor child ate with her eyes closed she was so tired. Needless to say, we both had a good afternoon nap. After my questionable lunch experience, I stuck with The Habit for dinner – and we had an early night again…I did stay up to see the Super Moon however – here’s how it looked from outside my hotel door:
Our last day we had a lovely little continental breakfast in the lobby, and spent some more time in the spa, splashing with some other hotel guests who had a boy about Maya’s age. We had lunch at Panera, watched some Santa Barbara cops try to take care of the gargantuan homeless problem in the city, packed up the car and headed home.
It was really nice spending quality time with Maya that didn’t involve having to get her ready for preschool or camp or bed or something else. Just us, or us with friends and time to chill. It wasn’t rushed. It was nice showing her my old haunts (and not so secretly priming her for potentially going to school there herself…) and made me realize that I had unintentionally done something I had been consciously thinking I needed to do since her Dad and I separated. I asked Maya if she would like to come back to Santa Barbara and come back to the zoo, and do the Art Walk and go to the beach (since she chose the pool this time) and she said yes. All weekend long, she kept saying “I love you, Mom!” and said specifically that she was glad that I took days off. I had created a new tradition – somewhere we can come back to year after year, to create memories that will hopefully stand out in her mind, more than the fact that her Mom and Dad are not together.
It also reminded me that I need to take better care of myself and allow myself more time to rest and relax and do things that replenish my soul. Cue my next staycation…11 days off (if all is approved) starting August 3, a little beach fun for Maya and a lot for me 🙂 More on that later… but for now, it’s time to say good night.