A Little Tea, A Little Laughter: a Photo Essay

Never let it be said that I don’t occasionally enjoy
a little fantasy.
Pretending to be a ‘lady,’ perhaps – a west coast, 21st century upstairs resident of Downton Abbey? 
Why yes, don’t mind if I do…for a little while.
 There is this glorious old hotel in my town, a Spanish colonial revival masterpiece that spreads out quietly across the street from the beach where I like to visit. 
Most of the time, I go there for the beach itself – to sit or to walk, to meditate on the wonders of God’s creative genius.
Generally, I pay little heed to the old Biltmore because I’m always looking the other direction, across the small stretch of sand that is Butterfly Beach, staring out across the Santa Barbara channel. I admire the waves, the extensive beds of kelp, the Channel Islands – if they’re visible – the angle of the light as it bounces off the water. I am always searching for dolphins or pelicans, 
even whales some seasons of the year.
But every once in a while, I stick my small camera in a pocket and stroll across the street, just to pick up a little atmosphere, to wander and wonder about who built this place, who stays here, how many weddings there have been on these grounds. 
It’s lush with old bricks and old greenery, service personnel moving efficiently and silently across the pathways connecting its many outbuildings and cottages.
The place fairly reeks of elegance, of old money, of careful attention to the smallest architectural detail, of thoughtful planning and hushed voices and class.
Class – that indefinable something, that vibe which whispers, 
“We know what we’re doing, we do it very, very well, and you’re welcome to be here as long as you behave.”
Even the luggage carts are discreetly tucked away.
The view is lovely – not spectacular 
(that might not be classy, after all) 
but truly lovely.
And there is a brick pathway that leads directly from the hotel to a specially built staircase leading down to the sand.

Taking my fantasy life into reality for a little while last Saturday afternoon, I had the rare treat of going inside this grand place.
I had a special birthday gift, you see. 
High Tea at the Biltmore Hotel, hosted by my daughter-in-law and my 6-year-old granddaughter. 
Can you imagine?  
High tea. 
Arriving at the Biltmore is quietly dramatic. 
Parking valets whisk your car to places unknown, 
the heavily-vined porte-cochere invites you into the cool, naturally lit archway entrance. 
Flanking either side of the front door are statuary 
and entire bins of orchids. 
A small, silent fountain slips water down the side of a  glistening urn.

The lobby is large, with high ceilings, expensive carpets, more orchids and a variety of lighting fixtures. To the right and down the steps is the wood-paneled lounge and bar, with a 15 foot window framing the ocean view.
Once upon a time, High Tea was served in that lounge.
Now it has moved to the restaurant, a sweeping space of beauty and calm.

There is something strangely soothing about such a space.
A je ne sais quoi  spirit of welcome,
of invitation.
It has that affect on all kinds and ages of people.
Yet despite the beauties of the room,
which truly did elicit sighs of contentment and appreciation,
I have to say that my favorite view of the entire afternoon was this one:
Gracie, across the table, looking so grown up.
Pink bows right down to her toes,
she loved every minute of this experience.
And what’s not to love?
Beautiful china place settings, linen placemats and napkins,
delicious food, beautifully presented.
(Well…Gracie was not at all sure about these sandwiches. But the tea and the second course? Oh, yeah. She was into that!)
Each of us had our own teapot, with a hand-wrapped silk bag containing the tea flavor of our choice inside. I went for straight mint, they went for chocolate mint flavored black tea. All of us were deeply satisfied with our choices.
Two lumps, please.
Milk? Why, yes, please. I’d be delighted.
And drink it down she did – complete with elevated pinkie finger. I do declare, I believe she was the most scrumptious thing on the menu that afternoon!
And this is the second course.
And the third.
And the fourth.
A plethora of deliciousness, three of each item, all prepared strictly according to the number of reservations made.
There are NO drop-ins for High Tea.
And in one of the most extreme instances of overkill in recent memory, this was the special additional goodie tray for the birthday girl…which was moi.
Surely the largest dipped strawberry on the planet,
 plus truffles hand crafted by the chef.
Gracie thoroughly enjoyed carefully scraping off the dark chocolate birthday greeting as we packed most of the treats to take home.
It was a very full day, in every way I can think of.
I have written before about how blessed I am in my daughter-in-law. She has been a gift in my life from the moment I first met her, almost 20 years ago.
And the three of us had a lovely time of making small dreams come true for a little while on Saturday afternoon.
Downton Abbey?
Well, maybe not quite.
But for this California Nana, it was close enough.
Thanks, Rachel and Grace – I had a grand time.
This is not a particularly ‘spiritual’ post, at least in the way most people on the internet define spiritual. However, for me it was an experience rich in blessing, in love and in joy. And all of those things are among God’s richest gifts to us. 
 So, I will list this at Michelle’s Hear It on Sunday at her Graceful blogsite 
and at Jennifer’s Soli Deo Gloria sisterhood over at Finding Heaven. 
I’ll also join in with Laura’s Playdate at The Wellspring 
and with L.L. at Seedlings in Stone.
The new blogger format makes transferring buttons nearly impossible for me to do and I am sorry not to be able to include them with my posts. 
I used to be able to open another window in my editor and copy them from earlier posts. 
I can no longer do that. So I’ll keep trying to figure it out. 
In the meantime, I encourage you check out these fine blogs I enjoy linking with 
whenever I can.

Get a personal letter from Diana twice a month

Sign up for *More Wondering. . . * a monthly personal letter from Diana to you, available only to email subscribers. As thanks, receive a copy of Diana's new ebook,30 Ways of Aging Gracefully.

powered by TinyLetter

To receive blog posts in your inbox, sign up below.


  1. Great photos! Great post! I beg to differ on one thing you said though: “The view is lovely – not spectacular.” It looks pretty spectacular to me! Haha! Much love!

  2. pastordt says

    Thanks for stopping by, Tejas. It’s a wonderful view – but because the buildings hug the ground, there is no white water (no wave action) in the view. That’s what I meant by lovely but not spectacular. However, I love the fact that it’s a low rise – it adds to the classiness of the place, IMO.

  3. What lovely words and photos and what beautiful ladies in those photos! Happy  Birthday,  Diana. Thanks for sharing your story and inviting us to come along. Gracie and Rachel are beauties. 

    Oh, and I love your definition of “class.” 🙂


  4. pastordt says

    Thanks for coming by, Linda! Actually, my birthday was in January. Rachel and I both kinda forgot about this gift they gave me – so we hopped on it this week. Glad we waited, actually – I love spreading out the treats. :>)

  5. Jimhalvorsen says

    This just makes us so deeply happy for you Dianna. God is sooo good!

  6. Ahhhh!!!! I want to live where you live! This post was such a treat. There used to be a tea room near where I live in CT. I have fond memories of going there with friends, my mother, my mother-in-law, my daughter, her American Girl doll, and her Sunday School teacher (my daughter’s, not the doll’s). When my daughter spent a semester in Europe, I met her in London and we enjoyed Tea at the Ritz. It was, as you said, “We know what we’re doing, we do it very very well, and you’re welcome to be here as long as you behave.”

    Which, surprisingly for me, I was able to do. For the most part. 🙂 Love the pics of Gracie (especially the one where her Band Aid shows!) and of the three of you together.

    And, Pastor Diana, I must take issue with you about this not being a spiritual post–whatever is lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy–think about these things!

  7. It was spiritual because a) You were with your family (and God likes families), and b) You could see God’s creation. Good ’nuff!

    I love how the hotel brings the outdoors in. And I adore high tea, especially, it seems, California-style.

  8. pastordt says

    Thank you, Jim. Yes, God is good. And I am grateful.

  9. pastordt says

    It’s amazing, isn’t it? Put us raucous women in a refined atmosphere, and we are able to blend right in. At least for a while. :>) Would LOVE to do high tea in London some day. I first experienced it at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, many years ago when my kids were still home. I look for places that offer it and am so glad this grand old hotel has brought back the tradition – though it only happens two days each week. It was bought by a billionaire toymaker about 6 or 7 years ago and in his massive re-model, he did away with a lot of the ‘traditional’ offerings of the hotel. One was the Thursday night buffet with a way-reduced price for locals – SO FUN to take guests there and not break the bank. And the other was tea. Now they have brought back the tea – and put it in a better space, actually. Still waitin’ on the locals’ night. :>)

    And thanks for the affirmation about the spirituality of this kind of post. Sometimes when I read a lot of stuff in one sitting out her on the web, I begin to feel like I need to write the name of God in every other line, draw allegorical/analogical meanings from every experience and generally (to my mind, at least) over-spiritualize and over-compartmentalize my life as I’m living it. I happen to think that ALL of life is deeply spiritual and that most of the time, we can leave the analogies to the reader. I’m radical like that. :>)

  10. pastordt says

    Thank you, Megan. I’m with you – families and creation…both clear evidence of a loving, creative God at work.

    Yes, the hotel does a wonderful job of bringing in that glorious outside. High Tea is pricey, that’s for sure – but we took home goodies and we had a great experience. Really can’t put a price tag on that, I guess.

  11. Linda Chontos says

    I think it was perfect in every way Diana, the place, the tea and most especially the company. Don’t we all like a little taste of “glamor” every now and then? Perhaps it is because of a little dream placed in our hearts that keeps us yearning for the richness and beauty of heaven….and that’s pretty spiritual 😉

  12. pastordt says

    Hey, I like that analogy – a lot. Thank, Linda.

  13. Glenda Childers says

    What a delicious day with you three beautiful women. Lovely and spiritual, indeed.

  14. pastordt says

    It was a delicious day – exactly right, Glenda.

  15. Oh, yes…the richest of blessings. What a wonderful, fanciful perfectly beautiful gift! And walking through it has been a gift to me. Thank you, Diana.

  16. pastordt says

    Thanks, Laura, for stopping by and leaving kind words. You always bless me so!