Sleep has been a problem for me throughout this trip; I think I managed about 25 minutes a night on average throughout the whole of the first week, and about 2-3 hours during the second - and by the time I came back, I still hadn't managed to sleep through the night. So I'm not surprised that this morning, I just couldn't find the energy to get up. I only hope that from today, things will get better, and I'll be sleeping like a baby again before too long.
Anyway, you all know work was the reason for my visit to Sta. Barbara, but it wasn't all that and no play. I did have some leisure time (more than expected, too, thanks to Martin Luther King Day) and took full advantage of those hours to indulge in touristy things: on my first weekend, I went to Sta. Monica's Third Street Promenade -but saw no buskers I recognised-, then spent the rest of the day on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Sta. Monica, Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Hollywood -- cheesy in the extreme, but enjoyable nonetheless; and an excellent way to get around and catch your bearings in a city you've never been before. I stopped off and had lunch at the Farmer's Market, and had my first and probably last ever, taste of gator at the Gumbo House there. I found it a rather tough kind of meat, which surprisingly didn't taste of chicken at all (it has more of a fishy flavour, I'd say).
My second weekend, I went up to Hearst Castle -- the place itself didn't appeal to me at all, but the drive up there I enjoyed immensely, even if the landscape all around me seemed blighted by the current drought (although people have assured me it's brown and dusty all year round). I also visited Sta. Barbara Zoo, and took full advantage of my unexpected day off on Jan 20th to go on a whale watching trip off the coast of Ventura...and I saw whales! Seven of them! I also saw lots of sea lions, seals and tumbler dolphins on that trip, but seeing the grey whales was an experience I'll never forget.
The beach at Sta. Barbara
Passing by the Channel Islands
Californian sea lions, basking on a buoy outside Ventura harbour
If you look closely, you'll see the tail of a whale. I was too busy marvelling at these beautiful animals to remember to get my camera out, so this is the only proof I have that I really did see them
More to follow.