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Ally Quest: Ally's Journal

Santa Ynez Valley, 1880s

Santa Ynez School House

Santa Ynez will always hold a warm, wonderful place in my heart. Of course, it’s special because it’s the pilot episode, our first introduction to the show and my first introduction to you. It’s also a place that upon visiting the very first time, it struck me that this is the place to get married. If I ever get married off…it will be here in Santa Ynez, at the Santa Ynez Inn, with a reception at the Vineyard House and with a healthy supply of Lucas & Lewellen wine. THAT is how much this small town struck me upon my very first night there. It’s poignant, serene, and quietly romantic.

Santa Ynez is a quaint town with a very strong, deep mark in history.

The Santa Ynez Valley lies about 40 miles north of the city of Santa Barbara. The town of Santa Ynez currently has one coffee shop, two Italian restaurants, a post office, a museum, an ostrich farm, and a bar called The Maverick. It is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. It’s also hidden in the middle of California’s Central Coast Wine County.

Santa Ynez Church

In the 1880s, the groundwork was laid for Santa Ynez to become a bustling city filled with celebrities and dignitaries. Santa Ynez was a major connecting Stagecoach stop for those traveling between Los Angeles to San Francisco. (The physical stop was at the Central Hotel, a very famous hotel/restaurant run by Felix and Lucy Mattei and is now known as Mattei’s Tavern, where we had a phenomenal dinner.) The Wells Fargo Stagecoach route was the assumptive route of the new railway, and so the city was built to up with expectations of massive tourism.

The College Hotel, a classy Victorian hotel, became a famous spot for foreign royalty, US Presidents, and celebrities of the day including Charlie Chaplin. When the train never routed through Santa Ynez, the hotel was left in disarray and eventually burnt down. Santa Ynez was largely left alone and seemed to fall still in time. That’s the charm and the spark about this lovely small town. It continues to carry and embrace the Victorian ghosts of the Old West.

The College Hotel

We had the privilege of staying at the Santa Ynez Inn, a close replica of The College Hotel. It’s a combination of classic Victorian décor with hidden modern amenities (including a shower that doubles as a steam room and hook-ups for your iPod).

I don’t mean to sound cliché, but the people of Santa Ynez were incredibly friendly and helpful. They welcomed my camera crew and me into their town and into their lives. They let us take a peek at their history and gave us insight into our own history. In short, the people are great, the food is superb, and the wine….well, the wine speaks for itself. You’ll just have to go for a visit and see for yourself. Tell them that Ally sent ya!

(Photos courtesy of the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum.)