Eat This, Shoot That! Tour of Santa Barbara

Food, Wine and Cultural Tour

A great way to see Santa Barbara is taking an Eat this, Shoot That tour.

It begins at the park where the Cabrillo Art Walk sets up every Sunday. We found Tara Jones and Natalie Morris next to a large picnic blanket spread on the grass. Jones started her tour company in June 2012. Both Jones and Morris are graduates from Brooks Institute and experts at photography.

While walking through some interesting Santa Barbara streets and tasting food and wine from some popular venues, we shot some great photos. Tours are on Fri. and Sat. from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. or larger groups can reserve an afternoon. It’s an eat, drink, shoot, and exercise tour all-in-one.

After nibbling on calamari with a chipotle dipping sauce from the Fish House, we walked out to the Sterns Wharf. Jones told us to stop and shoot at one optimal photo spot. Natalie showed us how to get out of our automatic focus setting and drop our f-stops and shutter speeds.

One stop that Natalie helped me take an artistic photo of a row of flags near the Ty Warner aquarium. “These colorful flags represent the different regimes that have dominated Santa Barbara,” shared Jones.

While sitting in the Moby Dick’s restaurant to taste their salmon cakes and quesadilla, Michelle Rodriguez, Director of Communications, from the Santa Barbara CVB & FC shared, “August and Sept. are the best months to see whales in the Channel Islands.”

Jones enjoys the views from Moby Dick’s. She told us that during the holidays, boats are dressed as Christmas trees and parade around the harbor. “Moby Dicks is a great spot to see the holiday boat show.”

The restaurant offers a Happy Hour Mon. through Fri. from 4 to 6 p.m. with oyster shooters with vodka for $1.95 and an 8” shrimp and lobster pizza for $7.95. It’s been on the wharf for over 30 years.

Walking out to SB Shellfish Co. for some fresh ceviche, Natalie advised us to shoot photos early in the morning and late in the afternoon for optimal lighting. “This is when everyone looks like they have a golden tan.”

Some hungry seagulls eyed us the entire time we sat outside taking photos and eating ceviche with tortilla chips. A highlight of the experience was watching two dolphins surface nearby.

Walking off the pier, Morris taught us how to find cool backgrounds and how to shoot in the shade. “F-stop #8 is a nice area for taking a portrait of someone.” She encouraged us to always choose a simple background. “Shade is your friend. It’s the best for portraits,”she emphasized. “Shade makes the photo have smooth and even lighting.”

Next stop, Santa Barbara’s funk zone for a Caesar salad flatbread and glass of water at Union Ale. Then we caught up with the Urban Wine Trail and walked into Oreana Winery for a tasting.

Once an old tire shop, this space now is a funky tasting room, art gallery and gift shop. This winery specializes in Pinot Noirs, rare Italian varietals and sweet wines. While sipping a sweet wine, Morris gave me one more photography tip. “Window light is gorgeous. It can create light in your subject’s eyes so they don’t have dead eyes.”

Eat This, Shoot That! Ends at the Urban Wine Trail. With 15 other local wineries to peek into for tastings and artistic photos, it’s an ideal ending to a stimulating two-hour tour.

The tour is $99 per person or $149 a couple. Grab a friend and learn more about some beautiful spots along the “American Riviera.” For additional information or to sign up, go to or call (805)637-0760. 

The Mandarin Oriental visits SoHo WH

I was invited to a luncheon yesterday to learn about the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. To my surprise the venue was at the member-only SoHo House in West Hollywood on Sunset Blvd.

Originally founded in London in 1995, SoHo House opened on Sunset Blvd. in 2010, occupying the top two floors of a 14 story high-rise at Doheny Drive.  As a guest, I was directed to the elevator by the hostess in the valet parking garage. Once I arrived on the club floor, another hostess led me to The Club Room. Views of the Sunset Tower building and multi-million dollar estates greeted me.

The guest of honor was Mr. Jonas Schuermann, GM of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. He enlightened all of us about the history of the second oldest hotel in Hong Kong and peaked my interest about the upcoming 50th year anniversary celebration.

The award-winning luxury Mandarin Oriental opened its doors in 1963. Overlooking the breathtaking Victoria Harbor, the 5-star hotel offers 430 guest rooms and world class restaurants. Three of the restaurants are Michelin star, with the French chef Pierre Gagnaire at Pierre earning two Michelin stars. “These ten restaurants and bars see 1900 people a day,” shared Schuermann.

The hotel will celebrate it’s 50th anniversary throughout 2013, with a big celebration during the Chinese New Year starting on Feb. 10th , 2013. “During our anniversary we will have Dining Safaris where guests can enjoy a progressive dinner at our Michelin star restaurants,” enthused Schuermann.

Schuermann has lived in an apartment in the hotel with his two toy poodles for over 10 years. When the hotel closed in 2006 for its $160,000,000 renovation, Schuermann kept every staff member on the payroll. “I wanted to have the consist superior customer service that our clients appreciate at Mandarin Oriental,” shared Schuermann over Market Vegetable salads with grilled shrimp, flavorful pasta plates and savory grilled chicken.

“The United States is our number one market,” stated Schuermann. The staff and amenities  at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong creates a traveling experience that leaves guests wanting to come back again.

Even though it is one of the finest hotels in Hong Kong, the Mandarin Oriental appeals to families. Each child under 12-years receives a welcome gift. Guests with a baby will receive a crib and baby amenity kit. Strollers, high chairs, baby bathtubs and milk bottle warmers are provided. Babysitting is available for parents to enjoy one of the fine dining restaurants.  Special children’s menus for smaller appetites are available with coloring books and pens. For children missing their X-Box or favorite DVD, the staff is happy to supply those and a multitude of board games.

If you have plans to visit Asia soon, look into the Mandarin Oriental. It appeals to all ages and invigorates all your senses.  To learn more go to

Avila Beach is Family Friendly

One of the safest beaches for families along the Central Coast is Avila Beach, tucked into a picturesque cove south of Point San Luis.  It’s protected from offshore winds, doesn’t have undertows, and is often sunnier than other beach communities along the coast.  The average temperature is a warm 70 degrees.

With a year round population of 200 residents, it’s a friendly town offering great beachcombing, shopping, dining, hiking and kayaking.

In 1910, UNOCAL built a pier and oil refinery at Port San Luis.  Before WWI, this was the largest oil pipeline project in the world. Avila Beach wasn’t much of a tourist, however in 1983 the wharf was destroyed by one of the roughest storms in California history. In 2002, UNOCAL leased its pier to CAL POLY, SLO for a Marine Studies program.

The city revitalized itself and now is filled with new hotels, restaurants, shops and housing.  It has a fresh new look and is ideal staycation for families.


We’ve stayed twice at the oceanfront Inn at Avila Beach.  It’s funky with its Mexican and Moroccan décor.  The rooms offer a sitting area with a futon couch, bedroom, refrigerator and microwave.  It works for a small family.  What guests enjoy about this little Inn is the Rooftop deck with ocean views, couches, tables, BBQ’s, wet bars, TVs and DVD players, microwaves, blenders, and hammocks.  We celebrated a family birthday party up on the deck.  Buying  fresh fish from the local pier, we had a bbq and relaxed in hammocks.  Inn at Avila Beach (805) 595-2300, 256 Front Street, Avila Beach.

An alternative spot is the newer Avila Lighthouse Suites. Located across from Avila Beach, it appeals to families with its ocean views and a heated swimming pool and hot tub.  The rooms are light, bright and spacious. The 54 two-room suites offer a bedroom and seperate sitting room with a sofa bed, wet bar, and patio or balcony. The resort has a spa, fitness room, putting green, giant outdoor chessboard, and ping pong.  In the morning they serve a continental breakfast to guests. Avila Lighthouse Suites (805) 322-7010, 550 Front Street, Avila Beach.


1.  Take a free trolley tour to visit 12 different locations in Avila Beach and Shell Beach.  It operates every weekend from 9 am to 6 pm.

2.  Avila Main Beach is divided by the pier.  The right side facing the bay is ideal for families and children.  There is a whimsical children’s play area with a pirate ship theme, dolphins to climb on, slides and monkey bars.  Nearby and under a bridge is a tide pool exploration area when the tide is low.  It is also an ideal place to view wildlife in this protected estuary.  Closer to the pier is a swing set adults and children enjoy.

3.  Harford Pier attracts families because of the pelicans and sea lions.  The pelicans allow visitors to get very close for great photo opportunities.  In the water, sea lions swim and bask in the sun on decks. They bark and cuddle each other just like the sea lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco. This is a commercial fishing pier and at the end of the pier is a fresh fish market that sells fresh oysters, red snapper, crabs and lobsters in full view for visitors to see up close and purchase.  The Old Port Inn is located nearby and offers delicious fresh fish meals.  Its been here for over three decades. In the middle of the pier is a snack shop that serves delicious clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

4.  Avila Barn is owned by a local dentist, it’s a popular stop for families.  I met a very friendly cow, who slurped my cheek and they grabbed my hair and wouldn’t let go. This working farm has animals, fresh fruits and vegetables for sale, hayrides and delicious baked goods. You must stop here to buy a freshly baked pie and a few ears of their roasted corn on the cob.


For casual dining the Hula Hut is my favorite.  It sells delicious sandwiches, gourmet coffee and teas, ice-cream and baked goods.  Located at 380 Front street.

For additional information, log on to:


Avila Beach on Dwellable

Kauai – An Ideal Travel and Movie Location

On Hawaiian or World Voyage cruises, some of the NCL, Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruise Lines and Holland America ships stop at the “Garden Island” of Kauai for at least one day. Cunard’s Queen Victoria stops here too.

While on a recent Hawaiian cruise, we got off the ship in the port of Nawiliwili and rented a car to explore the oldest and most verdant Hawaiian island, Kauai.

Our first destination was Princeville on the North side of the island. Princeville and nearby Hanalei and Napali beaches offer dramatic emerald colored scenery and aquamarine colored water. We were excited to visit this destination after watching the movie, Descendants with actor George Clooney. The location lured us to enjoy a swim, snorkel and sunbathe.

From a calm beach in Hanalei, we had a great view of the St. Regis Princeville hotel and a beach house featured in the movie.

As we drove to the end of the road admiring sea caves and white sandy beaches, we commented that the North side of Kauai feels the most Polynesian, with its jagged canyons and taro fields.

 We stopped at Tunnels beach for a quick snorkel adventure. It was thrilling to see yellow tang, colorful angelfish and pretty butterfly fish within steps of walking into the warm water. The highlight was swimming with a Hawaiian green sea turtle.

Driving back towards Princeville, we stopped at Dolphin Restaurant and Fish Market in Hanalei for lunch. Locals and tourists come here for fresh sushi, poke, seafood chowder and fresh Ahi and Ono plates. Afterwards, we drove to the St. Regis Resort to admire the views.

We found a spot in a small public parking lot just before the entrance of the spectacular St. Regis resort. A public access path led us to Hideaway Beach. It can be a dangerous hike if you don’t have good shoes, and is very slippery after a rain. Looking into the clear warm water, we saw sea cucumbers, bright pink brain coral and the state’s fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa.

After our snorkeling adventures we decided to head back to the cruise ship with one stop at Kauai’s northern-most point to see the historic Kilauea lighthouse. Celebrating its 100th year, the scenic lighthouse was recently refurbished. A volunteer pointed to a preserve where hundreds of sea birds reside. Whales, seals, dolphins and sea turtles can be viewed at the point too.

Near the port of Nawiliwili lies the main town of Lihue that offers restaurants and shopping for cruise passengers. A visit to the nearby Marriott Resort and Beach Club sitting on the lovely Kalapaki Beach, is a nice stop. We finished our Kauai excursion with a stop at Duke’s Canoe Club and Barefoot Bar for a Mai Tai  before boarding our cruise ship to sail to another beautiful island.

 If you fly or cruise to Kauai, the beauty will leave you wanting to come back for more. This article was published in the Sept. 2012 issue of Not Born Yesterday.





Princeville on Dwellable