Friday, September 27, 2013

Casa de la Guerra

















Ever since reading Richard Dana's account of a wedding at Casa de la Guerra, an historical adobe in downtown Santa Barbara, I have wanted to revisit this national treasure.  I got a kick out of the diluted version recounted in the museum.  In Dana's book, Two Years Before the Mast, the venerable Don Jose de la Guerra and his friends and family were not painted in such illustrious light.

They looked as grave as they were going through some religious ceremony, their faces as little excited as their limbs; and on the whole, instead of the spirited, fascinating Spanish dances which I had expected, I found the Californian fandango, on the part of the women at least, a lifeless affair.

Having lived in Santa Barbara for twenty-five years now, I know, first hand, the fiestas surrounding Old Spanish Days, are far from lifeless.  But back in the 1830's, Don Jose Antonio Julian de la Guerra y Noriega was the most powerful man in the pueblo.  He was both feared and respected.  He came from noble lineage in Spain and married into a wealthy family.  As a military man, he was posted to the California frontier and became a commandant of the Santa Barbara Presidio.  And so, Dana further writes:

Here, too, Don Juan figured greatly, waltzing with the sister of the bride, (Donna Angustia, a handsome woman and a general favorite,) in a variety of beautiful, but, to me, offensive figures, which lasted as much as half an hour, no one else taking the floor.  They were repeatedly and loudly applauded, the old men and women jumping out of their seats in admiration, and the young people waving their hats and handkerchiefs.

He goes on to write about the pranks he saw, and the joy of watching the younger generation as they take to the dance floor.  It is an honest narrative from a Yankee sailor who is visiting a foreign land--the coast of Alta California.

This beautiful and rare 13-room adobe was the home of the de la Guerra family from 1828 until 1943.  It is now undergoing renovation and will eventually be an historic house museum, an authentic replica of the original adobe as it was when the commandant lived here.  Over the years it has been remodeled and updated many times.  Currently, the rooms are slowly "coming together".  Many of them simply hold exhibits like the Santos Room.  It will surely be the pride and glory of our town when it is finally completed.

If you happen to be in Santa Barbara, go to the Presidio first.  Included with the price of a ticket is entrance to Casa de la Guerra.  There's a glitch, though.  The Casa is only open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, so plan accordingly.  Hopefully, this will change in the future.

In the 1920's a shopping complex, El Paseo, was built surrounding the adobe.  El Paseo Nuevo, a newer mall, is now across the street.  History, shopping, great restaurants and a nostalgic peak inside a home of one of Santa Barbara's founding families, is exactly what we travelers crave.

And it's all right here.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mimi Attends a Wedding

I will wear a black lace dress.
Drink a flute of bubbly champagne.
Bask in a moment of hope
That love will have no end.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Climbing Castle Rock

Porongurup National Park, Australia

Once again we had absolutely no intention of climbing all the way to the summit.  We stopped in the Porongurups because we liked the name.  Porongurup.  Porongurup.  Southwest Australia is full of funny names.  This particular mountain range appealed to us because it is beyond ancient.  It is 1200 million years old ancient.  The granite domes of the Porongurups were once part of a large mountain range that scaled across the continents of Australia and Antarctica when they were fused together.  There was no way we were going to pass these up!

The hike started out slow and easy.  We meandered through a forest and then stopped at Balancing Rock to let the baby out of the backpack and play for awhile.

Then the trail became quite rocky.  When we reached the base of the summit, we stopped completely.  The climb up a vertical ladder to the top, looked absolutely terrifying.  "I'll stay with Junior down here," I offered, letting my travel buddy continue on.  But when he returned and raved about being able to see the entire continent of Australia from "up there", I took a deep breath, handed him the baby and CLIMBED CASTLE ROCK.  I put this in capital letters because it took all the courage I could muster to get up that ladder.
Since we were there, a safer and newer Granite Skywalk has been constructed.  I suspect it's still a scary proposition, but like all fear, it is the anticipation that is worse than the activity itself.  Once I reached the top, all my fear went away.  It always does.  I think about the climb to Castle Rock every time I face a new challenge.