- I visited Montecito, the Santa Barbara-area town that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry now call home.
- There were many things about Montecito that surprised me, including that it was pretty tiny.
- All the residents I spoke to were unfazed by the famous faces they see almost every day.
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But it’s the Duke and Duchess of Sussex who have put Montecito in the spotlight, especially after their fellow famous resident Rob Lowe claimed they had changed his “sleepy little town.”
”Once the royals move into your neighborhood, the neighborhood is never going to be the same,” he told E News. “The good news is property values go up. The bad news is the lines are longer at Starbucks.”
Intrigued by the vision of a small coastal town filled with Hollywood stars, I decided to take a quick trip to Montecito and see what it was really like. And there were plenty of surprises.
I had imagined that Montecito would be a typical coastal town, with the sound of the sea in the air and the taste of salt in the wind. But I couldn’t even see the water as I walked around.
I walked through a tunnel painted in bright blues and yellows, which took me into a residential area where the houses became progressively nicer as I inched closer to the beach.
The short trek reminded me a bit of the coastal walks I used to take while living in Sydney, many of which led me through neighborhoods filled with gorgeous beach homes as I made my way to Manly or Balmoral.
But I couldn’t help but feel a little let down when I opened the door to my room. While the hotel’s lobby and hallways are sleek and full of Old Hollywood charm, I found my room to be surprisingly muted. There was little decoration, with the bed taking up almost the entire space.
It definitely wasn’t a bad place to sleep. But at that cost, I was hoping for a little more luxury.
I ordered a $US12 ($AU16) mimosa after seeing a wall of champagne inside the bakery — clearly bubbly was one of Jeannine’s specialties. But I was shocked when, instead of a sole flute, a waiter dropped off an entire bucket for my enjoyment.
The metallic golden bucket included a miniature twist-off bottle of Chandon, orange juice, a flute, and plenty of ice.
It’s one of the only places in Montecito where the royals have actually been spotted in the past year, so I figured it must be pretty swank.
But Lucky’s, much like the town itself, is all about laid-back and subtle charm. Yes, there’s a $US5,000 ($AU6,787) Sauternes tucked away in the wine menu, but there’s also a $US32 ($AU43) bottle of prosecco. And you won’t find flashy lights or decorations. The restaurant is decorated in a chic combination of black and beige, with an understated outdoor dining area and towering palm trees.
But I have no doubt that I’ll be thinking of Lucky’s steak sauce for years to come. The peppercorn-flavored sauce was thicker than I expected, and it had a unique kick that really gave the dish something extra special.
“I want to eat all my steaks with it forever,” I wrote in my notes after my first bite.
The dining was actually one of my favorite parts of the town, and one of the main reasons I hope to return again with some family or friends in tow.
“There’s like an unspoken rule. We treat them like everyone else,” one of the boutique workers told me. “It’s really nice.”
As for that waiter from Lucky’s, he told me that Markle and Prince Harry “were totally normal,” even pointing to the table they sat at in the outdoor area during their double date.
“Because of COVID, there’s a lot of mobile orders,” one of the workers explained. “So the lines to pick up have been longer.”
When I mentioned that it was Lowe who said the royals were to blame for the longer lines, the barista simply replied, “I’ve never seen Rob Lowe.”
Mere minutes later, I strolled past what appeared to be a mother and daughter discussing someone they knew who “bought four cars and crashed them.”
“They’re all like $US60,000 ($AU81,445),” the younger woman said. “He doesn’t care.”
And that night, a group of friends seated next to me — the most dressed-up customers in Lucky’s outdoor dining area — discussed, at length, buying bongos so they could have a “jam session” together.
The people watching in Montecito, I realized, was top-notch.
But if you’re looking for a lovely day with some good food and shopping, it’s definitely worth putting Montecito on your itinerary.