The days have flown by on this trip to Los Angeles

Yesterday (Thursday) morning, one of those hazy grey days (before the sun burns it off by noon), it was cool at about 9:30 when we started our trek for Montecito to have lunch with one of the NYSD’s frequent readers and correspondents – interior designer Penny Bianchi at the house she shares with her husband and business manager Adam Bianchi.

On our way to Montecito or so we thought.

It was a sensational trip up the freeway, sun now out, through the deep canyons and over the sharp and strawcolored mountains covered with little more than scrub much of the time. The California landscape is so dramatic and seemingly endless that we were two hours into the trip, as the sun was beating down with desert heat (we had the top down), when I suddenly realized we were going the wrong way!

We were headed for Fresno through the Central Valley. Which is like going to Buffalo when you intend to go to Boston from New York. Fortunately the beauty of it all compensated for the stupidity (on my part) of not looking at a map. I’d been to Santa Barbara (Montecito is its southern suburb) many times before but obviously not enough to know which turn-off to take on the Hollywood Freeway heading west and north. Duh, and all that.

Our hostess, Mrs. Bianchi, expecting us at noon, called at about 12:30 to ask where we were. We were on our way – back down the 5 to Santa Clarita and then over west on 126 to Ventura and then back up to Montecito. At ten of two we reached our destination. A trip that shouldn’t have taken more than two hours max and most likely not even that.

The ladies got cold waiting for us so Penny brought out the sweaters.

Mrs. Bianchi was entertaining several NYSD readers on a picnic table in her garden and most had finished their main course, fortunately. I sat down to eat mine and a minute into the chewing felt a sharp object stabbing me in the inside cheek. It was a wasp!! I pretended it was nothing and made no mention of it as we were conversing about the NYSD. But suddenly my palms started to itch intensely. And soon much of my body was covered with the welts of hives.

I was stung by a bee (or bees) many years ago and had a mild but memorable reaction – an anxiety attack had set in right after. A doctor later told me that this could be dangerous in the future. If it ever happened again, he said, take an antihistamine immediately.

Finally I told our hostess because I needed that antihistamine and didn’t have one handy. She didn’t either and immediately sent for it.

Within an hour the dreadful itching had subsided although the wasp’s sting remained (it felt like a sharp sore through on one side). Unfortunately I was not in much a mood to experience Adam and Penny Bianchi’s wonderful hospitality and to get a good look at their beautiful house which sits on a piece of property adjacent the great Oprah Winfrey. However, JH and the dependable Digital took care of that, as you can see. Didn’t need me for a moment, as it turned out.

A lovely place, Montecito. By four the marine layer coming in off the Pacific had cooled the weather down to a temperature where I had to put on a sweater. Then I went over to another part of town to visit a very old friend, Luis Estevez, who once lived in New York and Los Angeles and now resides in this paradise north of the city.

After an early dinner, we left Montecito about 8:20 and were back in L.A. at twenty two ten. Less than an hour and a half, that ride that took four and a half hours on a convoluted route in the morning. As of this writing, if you’re curious to know, my wasp bite seems to be fading into memory; thank god.

Our patient luncheon partners
Above: Carolyn Amory. Right: Elana Donovan, Betsy Waggoner, and Penny.
Left: Paulette Burkitt and Barbara Bradley. Above: Shirley Hunnington.
L. to r.: Adam Bianchi and Bonnie Maharam, contributing editor of Traditional Home; Nanette Giordano; Therese Blackwell; Shirley Hunnington and Pat Anderson.

Villa Bianchi at Montecito
Left to right: A foot path leading to the road to the main house; The vine-covered main house; The terrace looking out at a pond.
The guest house and the guest house sitting room.
The ladder leading up to the loft in the guest house.
A seating area just outside the guest house.
A sun-soaked section of the living room.
Seating area in the living room.
Centime, the 16-year-old harassed full time feline resident.
Three views of the living room and dining room areas.
On the grounds of Villa Bianchi.
Left to right: The master and only bedroom; A sun room off to the side of the bedroom; The sitting parlor by the fireplace in the bedroom.
The entrance to the main house.
An arboretum which leads to the hen house.
A little off the beaten path.
More from Villa Bianchi.
Just some of the full time residents of the Bianchi home: Georgi (above) and Sophie (right).

August 16, 2002, Volume II, Number 362
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch/


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