We had been dating for several months and it was time to take the next relationship step. The words had been dancing in our minds and even out loud (he let it halfway slip out when saying good night on the phone—that slip let loose released a flood of butterflies in me). We were both still testing it out, making sure that the feeling wasn’t just a momentary sensation.
Once those three words are said, they can’t be taken back. With work, inconsistent schedules, and me being a mommy to a two-year-old, we needed to get away from it all and focus on us. Time to explore these budding feelings.

A Getaway in Santa Barbara

I have always considered Santa Barbara to be my exhale. I went to college there, then I later co-hosted a radio show, which had me making the oceanside drive from LA every other Thursday morning to be on the air. Subsequently, I always found excuses for a weekend or even an afternoon escape to Santa Barbara from LA.
My trips have often been solo as it was the me-time I needed to root and reset. Because I was ready to fold a relationship into my life as a new mom in a more substantial way, Santa Barbara felt like the most soul-serving place to test and hopefully take that step.
We set out for a two-night retreat that had just enough activity to satisfy my needs for structure and just enough free playtime to fulfill his vacation sensibility. We reserved a cottage at the Simpson House Inn, a secret celebrity hot spot known for its personalized luxury in a relaxed and homey garden environment.
Reminiscent of a hobbit house, our cottage had a wood-burning fireplace, a large jacuzzi tub near the bed, and skylights that let us lay there looking up at the trees and flirting birds overhead. We arrived at wine time, a daily afternoon ritual where local wines and appetizers (including homemade cookies) are put out for guests to enjoy.

Settling In

After a glass of wine to shake the drive out of our systems we visited the spa at the recently renovated Belmond El Encanto. Robes were at the ready and we were escorted to a couples spa room, where we were shown flower images (all native plants grown on property) and asked to select the one that stood out most. The selected flower indicated our current emotional state and our needs. It was no surprise that mine begged for deep emotional calm and rooting.
In those 60 minutes, I could feel our energies ease and I experienced a sense of clarity combined with calm. Post-massage, we strolled the meandering paths through the property until dinner which was perfectly cued up to the sun setting into the ocean, which we watched from our table at El Encanto’s storybook romantic patio restaurant.
We returned to the Simpson House and slept… in. In fact, we slept in so late that we barely got up in time for breakfast. Thank goodness we did because, wow was it good. Included in the stay is a made-to-order daily house special, as well as a selection of eggs and cereals served in your room, private patio, or on the wraparound deck of the main building overlooking the garden and fountains.

Time To Get Going

After eating and relaxing, it was time to rev up and move. We headed to the beach to Wheel Fun Rentals for a surrey, a golf cart-style bike. In order to ride it, you have to drop your “this makes me look uncool” guard. It was so much fun riding on the bike path which takes you along the beach, then crosses the street for a behind-the-scenes peek at the Santa Barbara Zoo giraffe environment.
Adequately exercised, we returned our bike and walked to the Funk Zone to visit the local Santa Barbara wine tasting rooms. To wash down the wine, we licked up multiple scoops of McConnell’s ice cream, and then it was official- we were in heaven.
That evening, we went to Olio Crudo Bar for perfectly delicate and beautifully presented crudo (raw Italian-style seafood), plus a seriously delicious craft barrel-aged Old Fashioned. We returned to our cottage for an relaxing night of 80s romance movies, a little fireplace action, and some seriously craved snuggling.

Those Three Little Words

In the morning, we enjoyed a bath with the fireplace crackling, then walked down the street to Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens where he let his playful side come out and encouraged mine too. We watched the baby turtles sunbathe and plop off rocks into the pond, and we climbed trees beside the lake.
Then as we packed up our room and prepared to leave, we stood for a moment and held each other by the edge of the bed, knowing that this was the last Santa Barbara moment to say it…

“I love you,” I thought I heard him say. “I love you too” I whispered, hoping that I heard right!

“I love you,” I thought I heard him say. “I love you too” I whispered, hoping that I heard right! His eyes somehow smiled even brighter than his lips and I knew it was true. Love.
Laurel House is a born and bred West Angeleno, celebrity dating, and empowerment coach on E!’s Famously Single, travel and food writer, and most importantly—a new mom. Learn more about Laurel on her website: LaurelHouse.com. Follow her on Instagram @LaurelHouse
Laurel’s Santa Barbara Recommendations
Simpson House Inn (check out the Romance Package)
Belmond El Encanto
Wheel Fun Rentals
Olio e Limone and Olio Crudo Bar