Friday, December 14, 2007

Always Bring a Friend

I had the great pleasure of spending two glorious days in Santa Barbara with my dear friend Carrie. I don't know exactly how long Carrie and I have been friends. It seems like we've known each other our entire lives and she's like a sister in my heart. Our meeting was less than traditional. She was currently dating a guy that I had dated in the past and he introduced us at a party and had no idea that we'd hit it off so well and that such a strong friendship would develop. Eventually, she and the guy broke up and we shared stories and laughed and giggled and she started dating a new guy that I had a crush on at the time and she felt terribly guilty after they had gotten together. My friendship with Carrie was much stronger than my schoolgirl crush on Chris and I gave her my blessing and was so touched that she was concerned and was so honest with me that it just made me love her more. Fast forward to today and she and Chris have been married for 9+ years and have been together through thick and thin and I have been lucky enough to share this journey of life with such a special woman. We don't get to see each other nearly as often as we'd like due to distance (we're now about 100 miles apart) and my family commitments and Carrie's body that absolutely refuses to cooperate with her. Carrie's parents know this and have gotten to know me over the years at gatherings at Carrie's house and numerous visits to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital while Carrie was undergoing procedures and surgeries and they know how much we treasure our friendship and graciously offered to put us up in a beautiful suite in Santa Barbara so we could have some quality time together. We arrived on Tuesday at about 11:30 and could not believe how incredible this hotel was. We checked in at the Inn of the Spanish Garden and the staff was so incredible. They offered us freshly baked cookies, iced tea, water with lemon, offered to walk us to our room and offered to help us plan our stay. We got to our room and were awe-struck! We had a fireplace, imported bath products from London, two queen sized beds with soft, luxurious sheets, a private patio, a soaking but, a flat screen television and a beautiful seating area.

After we got settled into our room, we headed out on foot to have lunch at this great Organic restaurant that Carrie had read about. That's the great thing about downtown Santa Barbara, you can go everywhere on foot! Ok, that is one great thing about downtown SB, they also have great shopping, amazing restaurants, and it's absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. I was a little unsure of what kind of food we'd find at this place, but I was willing to take the adventure! We started off with an appetizer of raw foods, which wasn't exactly my cup of tea. The crackers and the macadamia cheese spread and grape tomatoes and fresh cucumbers and guacamole were all really tasty, but I discovered I am not a fan of raw bread. It was very soggy and had little flavor. I was still glad I tried it though and Carrie really enjoyed it, so it was worth it. For lunch I had mango iced tea and a chicken & pesto foccacia sandwich and it was fabulous! It came with a side salad with chick peas (garbanzo beans we call them in my family) with this amazing balsamic dressing on it. Carrie had a falafal salad and this wonderful iced tea with fresh apples and she loved her meal as well. The best part of the meal was the company. We were both just so excited to be together I don't think it mattered what we were eating.

After lunch we headed out to start shopping. One of the first stops was Old Navy. They recently opened one in SB and both Carrie and I are die-hard Old navy fans so we were very pleased to find the store on the corner. I got two skirts for work (I just know I'm going to find a job soon!) and Carrie got a really cute striped skirt with a coordinating black top that are going to look very hot with her black boots. After Old Navy we strolled up and down State Street, coming across several stores that were beyond out of our price range, but still had fun looking. I didn't have much success finding gifts or a "sparkly" top to wear on my anniversary, but Carrie found lots of treasures and it was so nice to be out walking on a clear, crisp day. We walked until our feet were about to fall off and then went back to our room and freshened up and then went to the wine bar in the hotel and had a glass of vino. We were greeted by Brittney, who spoke to Carrie on the phone when she was confirming the reservations and Brittney brought us a complimentary egg nog Creme Brule (I had never even heard of such a thing!) that was so rich that I could only eat about half of it. She also made reservations for us for dinner at Opal and told us we had made a great choice as Opal was one of her favorite restaurants. We loved Brittney, she told us about moving to CA from back East and how much she loved SB and we wanted to sit her down with us and share a glass of wine with her.
When it was time for our seating, we headed down to the Opal Restaurant and looked over the overwhelming menu of delicous entrees. Carrie ended up having a salad with crab cakes over toast points and a lemon grass salmon dish with a sauce that absolutely melted in your mouth. I had a side salad with toasted pine nuts and a smoked chicken with smoked ghouda pizza. For desert, Carrie ordered the "Death by Chocolate" that was laying in a thick, raspberry sauce. I despise raspberry so I only had one bite, but that was ok by me. By the time I finished my salad and most of my pizza, I had no room for desert. The wait staff was extremely accomodating, and once again, we enjoyed our visit tremendously. After dinner we headed back to the room and were planning on getting a movie, but us old folks were too tired by the end of the day and ended up crashing close to 10:00pm after we reminisced over some old photos that I brought. So much for staying all night talking!

Tuesday morning we slept until 9:00 and I had some coffee, Carrie had some tea and we packed up and completely missed the free continental breakfast. We checked out of our room and the gentleman at the counter showed us what one of the executive suites looked like (wow!) and took our picture out by the fountain and we headed out to do some more shopping. Carrie had some buyer's remorse over some items she bought at Tienda Ho so we went there first so she could get her credit and enjoy the rest of our day. After we walked a bit we went to Palazzio's for a scrumptious Italian lunch. I had the capellini pamadoro and a side salad and Carrie had a veggie rigatoni and we each had 3 of the complimentary garlic rolls. Each bite was like a little slice of heaven! We parted ways at about 3:30 with a promise to see each other more often and some sweet memories to get us through until the next time. Friendships really are one of the most precious gifts in life. I love you Carrie!

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