|The Savitt-Diamond Wedding, San Ysidro Ranch— oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches, by Sam Day|
Forbes Magazine recently called this “America’s Best Hotel," but the San Ysidro Ranch has been familiar with such accolades since it became a resort in 1892. In its early years it became a darling retreat for a new industry: Hollywood. Winston Churchill brought his family here. John Huston wrote the screenplay for The African Queen here. Sir Lawrence Olivier married Vivien Leigh in this same garden. The Kennedys honeymooned here; a cottage is named for them. Jessica Simpson got married here this summer.
But it is not a place of glamour and glitter to the glitterati: it’s a place to get away from all that. Indeed, it seems like Eden. Originally deeded along with the Santa Barbara Presidio by King Charles III of Spain in 1780, and for much of the 19th century a working citrus ranch, the property still covers five hundred acres. Two hundred of those acres are meticulously gardened, with not a pebble out of place. (I know, I tried to look for one to weigh down the vase that held my brushes. I probably would have had to hike down to the creek to find one.) The forty-one cottages are secluded and homey, unostentatiously decorated with antiques, oriental rugs, and fine paintings. It seems every structure is covered by bougainvillea.
|Detail of couple|
Though there are many separate gardens— from the Rose Garden to the Chef’s Organic Garden (plotted with traditional Spanish geometry, with a fountain in the center)— this couple were married on the main lawn behind the hacienda, between the pergola and the reflecting pool full of water lilies, under a chuppah laden with hydrangea and roses.
I painted from mid afternoon until the end of cocktails, just before the sun set. The bride and groom found a few minutes to stand for their portraits between photos and dinner at the Stonehouse Restaurant, a short stroll away. I then took the easel down to the Hydrangea Cottage, where the painting was displayed during dancing in the courtyard.
Adjacent to that structure, I relaxed in what became my favorite building on the property: the old faithfully restored adobe cabin, which dates to 1825.