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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

The Inn on Summer Hill in Summerland

For dozens of years and a hundred trips, I have driven that stretch of the coast highway from Ventura to Santa Barbara, turning my glance only briefly from the beautiful ocean view to the Big Yellow House restaurant that marks the exit to Summerland, as I continued on to Santa Barbara, the Ojai Valley, Big Sur, and points north. And in all those years, I never turned into Summerland - a quaint village that hugs the coast, north of Carpenteria, just six miles south of Santa Barbara.
Summerland was founded by rancher Harry Williams in 1889. He built the Big Yellow House as his personal residence. By 1896, the oil boom had blotted out the community's beachside beauty with a glut of oil derricks and it wasn't until the middle of the next century, that Summerland regained its scenic beauty as beachfront oil gave out and offshore drilling came into vogue.
Summerland, which is adjacent to the affluent community of Montecito, actually first came to my attention when it was mentioned as the home of the Bloodworths, television producers who frequently invited their friends, Bill and Hillary (Clinton), to enjoy their seaside estate.
There's also a pop song by the rock band Everclear called Summerland that makes the place sound enticing.
And so, taking a little advice from Everclear and looking for where the Clinton's once stayed with the Bloodworths, I went to Summerland.
We stayed at the Inn on Summer Hill (800-845-5566), a country-modern bed and breakfast with seventeen rooms and rates from $229. The rooms downstairs have patios; upstairs have private balconies - all with wonderful vistas of the ocean and Channel Islands in the distance. The inn, with its Craftsman style architecture, gray weathered shingled siding, round river rock chimneys, and country-modern interior décor, has an antique charm but in fact was only built in 1989. Its owner is local designer, Mabel Schultz, who had a hand in the interior decoration of other renowned local hotels such as the El Encanto, the Biltmore, and the Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo.
Each room in the Inn has its own unique country-European décor with floral wallpaper, hand-painted cupboards and drawers, and country scenic paintings. Each has a high four poster canopy bed with goose down comforters, an electric fireplace, and a Jacuzzi tub. And there's a hot tub on a nearby observation deck. All this provides a romantic ambience as confirmed by the notes written in the room journals by newlyweds, couples visiting for anniversaries, and other romantics.
While the inn is favored with an oceanfront view, it is separated from the ocean by the 101 freeway and railroad tracks. So, while sitting on your balcony provides the joys of a warm ocean breeze and vistas, it is also very noisy with freeway traffic and the occasional Amtrak whistling by. But all the rooms are well-insulated with double pane windows that completely remove the noise from an otherwise tranquil setting.
Mornings begin with a wonderful breakfast, served from 7 to 10 a.m. with one hot entrée varying day to day - quiche, eggs and potato pancakes, smoked salmon on puffed pastry, pancakes. There are appetizers served from 3 to 5 p.m., and desserts from 8 to 9:30. And everything is cooked or made from scratch by the inn's chef - from fresh breads, to dessert cakes and pies, to breakfast granola.
The lobby is perhaps too cozy and the dining room, with its interesting crockery and teapot collection, is a bit small. I would expect with a full house, it might be somewhat cramped. But you can eat outside at a patio table or you can ask for breakfast to be served in your room if you wish.
The inn's best amenity is its location. It has views of the ocean and it's about a ten minute walk from Summerland's almost private beach. And it's a wonderful spot to go antiquing. The inn sits on Lillie Avenue and there are no less than 10 antique shops within easy walking distance, also on Lillie.
Drive, or better yet bicycle, through the nearby rolling hills and back roads of Montecito and Santa Barbara. For shopping, people watching, and curiosity seeking, meander along Coast Village Road in Montecito and State Street in Santa Barbara, and in the evening return to the Inn on Summer Hill to watch the sunset.

I don't know if you'll see Bill or Hillary visiting Summerland much more. But Everclear's lyrics may have it right -
"Let's just drive your car….
Let's just get the hell away from here …
Let's just leave this place
And go to Summerland….
Sounds like heaven to me…"