Connie, one of the Cheshire Cat’s innkeepers, brings us a plate of warm Ebelskivers, flaky Danish pastries doused in a sweet raspberry sauce and dusted with powdered sugar. “Homemade from the kitchen,” she says, setting the plate in front of us along with a map of Santa Barbara’s best vineyards. “Family recipe.”
I pick up the warm pastry and bite into it, immediately likening the texture to that of a fluffy pancake–firm on the outside and warm and moist on the inside. “Where’d you learn this recipe?” I ask her while wiping powdered sugar from my chin. My husband of one day picks his up and nods in agreement. We’re both smiling, a combination of leftover smiles from the wedding and new smiles from how much we are already in love with this place.
“Well,” Connie says, pointing to the kitchen, “the third owner of our property, Christine, who purchased the home in 1985, is from Cheshire, England. She brought over a love for Scandinavian food and a love for cooking, and we’ve done our best to preserve that.” Danish pastries, however, aren’t the only international cuisine the Cheshire Cat Inn serves, though: stay another day and you might get spinach and egg quiche, Mexican frittata, French toast with syrup, or hot biscuits, depending on the day of the week and the mood of the chef in charge. As you can imagine, with 18 rooms of visitors to feed every day, the cooks are definitely busy in the mornings. After breakfast, when we’d get a tour of the kitchen, I’d see just how the inn was able to prepare fresh hot breakfast every morning and plates of appetizers each afternoon for their guests–the kitchen is fully-stocked with brand-new appliances, large tabletops, and multiple ovens. Two chefs are pressing pastry dough into empanadas for the wine and appetizer hour that afternoon.
Two Norwegian tourists, another newly married couple, asks if they can sit with us at our table in the bay window. All the other tables scattered around the Eberle House (which is the main house you see pictured above) are full of other guests, so we welcome them to sit with us. Though they’re a little disappointed that their trip from San Francisco to Monterrey to Santa Barbara wasn’t the hot and sunny surfing paradise they imagined (who told them San Francisco was hot and sunny in the first place?), their eyes light up when they see the Ebelskivers. We eat another round of the Danish delights, talk for a while about our travels, about our jobs and interests, and then, of course, about our wedding.
Now, did I mention we are on our honeymoon? Of course, I wouldn’t normally be working on my day after my nuptials, but when Connie invited me and my new husband to come and stay at their inn, we absolutely couldn’t resist. For one, let’s consider the reasons why: A Victorian house full of my absolute favorite animal in the universe? A living dedication to one of every child’s favorite fairytale, Alice in Wonderland? Complimentary wine and appetizer hour accompanied by classical music under a white gazebo? Flowers so brilliant, colorful, and interesting that I could spend a lifetime learning to name and photograph them? Of course, there’s also the fact that the inn is just two blocks from the quirky and sophisticated State Street (which leads right to the pier and beach, I might add), and we couldn’t have imagined a better place to spend our first few days as a married couple.
And, let’s not forget this part: There’s a jazucci in our bedroom. It’s got a king-sized bed and a living room. And it’s called the Tweedledum Suite.
The rooms at the Cheshire Cat Inn are lovingly named after characters in the original tale of Alice in Wonderland: The Tweededum, The Tweedledee, The Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the Caterpillar, and, of course, Alice. The rooms are divided among the Main House, the Eberle House, and the Coach House, all of which are right next door to each other. While I didn’t confirm this, I suspect that the original owner purchased the adjacent properties as they became available in order to expand the property. There are also four two bedroom/one bath cottages for rent, all of which start at $300 and go up to $419 (depending on the time of year).
We had arrived the night before, having driven up from San Diego to commence our Highway 1 road trip up the coast. Our first impressions of the Tweedledum was that is was totally unbelievable–and bigger than our first apartment. Not only does it feature the jacuzzi in the bedroom, along with the king-sized bed, it has a full wet bar/kitchenette, separate living room and dining nook with a fully functional fireplace and an armoir of cat-themed porcelain plates, platters, and statues, a very large bathroom with walk-in shower and an assortment of nice shampoos and conditioners, two flat screen TVs, and a huge bay window overlooking the beautiful gardens. And even though the Coach House is close to State Street and all of Santa Barbara’s within-walking-distance bars, shops, boutiques, and restaurants, it’s also incredibly quiet at night. Two blocks really do make a difference here.
During our two-night stay, we fell completely in love with the city. During the first day, we gathered four of our incredible friends who had traveled from Europe to come to our wedding, drove up into the Santa Ynez Valley, and visited hauntingly blue Lake Cachuma and Gainey Vineyards. We tasted new wine recipes, sat outside in the sun, walked around the vineyards and inspected the growing grapes. On the second day, we walked through downtown Santa Barbara, enjoyed the busy buzz of the Fiesta heritage festival, and talked about anything and everything. We had Italian for dinner one night and Malaysian/Indonesian fusion another. And each afternoon, at 5 p.m., Ryan and I made sure to make it back to the Inn in time to attend the wine and appetizer hour, where the innkeepers served perfectly chilled chardonnay from the local Santa Barbara Vineyard in their outdoor gardens. They also put out crackers, an assortment of cheeses, mini rolled sandwiches, curried deviled eggs (I think my husband ate all of them, actually), stuffed mushrooms, and other dips with fresh vegetables. We sat, we talked, we reflected on the major life event we’d just had, and we simply enjoyed the atmosphere. We didn’t want it to end. By the time our stay was up and we were ready to head to our next destination, Big Sur, we decided we wanted to come back to Santa Barbara every year to reminisce, taste fresh wine and eat delicious food, walk through the gorgeous streets of a city we love, and remember this very moment.
I’d say our honeymoon started off just perfectly. Thanks, Alice, for the fairytale.
Tweededum Suite: $269-$339/night (depending on season). You can also check prices online at Priceline.
Article and photographs by Kristin Winet.
A special thanks to the Cheshire Cat Inn for sponsoring one night’s stay at their property.