SeaSalt Chronicles 7: Solvang, The Hidden Land
If you get a car and start driving from Santa Barbara up towards North California, on the way you’d come across a small city called Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley. Solvang was established in 1911 by a group of Danish people who wanted to get away from the midwestern winters to build a community for themselves. I’ve always been curious to go to Solvang as it’s somewhere that looked out of California and yet a part of California, a kind of a live (Danish) Disney town.
With a group of friends, we decided to rent a car and spend the day at Solvang. Before arriving at the Danish city, we drive by extensive green fields. A lot of them with cattle like cows running in the meadows. I can spot sheep and horses too. Even though the weather is not great today, it’s super cloudy and looks like it’s going to rain at some point, it still feels very refreshing to be surrounded by nature. I open the window to breathe in this fresh air, with the smell of flowers and animals mesmerising me. This is the region of Santa Barbara’s best wine vineyards and wine production. Before we get to Solvang, there’s inclusively an Ostrichland on the roadside, where you can pay $6 to enter and feed the ostriches. We don’t go in because we think it’ll be a waste of time and we can eventually do it on the way back, without realising it would be closed by then- we are too excited to get to Solvang!
When we get to Solvang, we hurry to find a place to eat. We end up having pancakes (the Americans call it pancakes, but they’re in fact crepes) at “Paula’s Pancake House”, a very comfy and cosy place. The restaurant is decorated in a very Danish way, with round wooden tables and wicker chairs, even the waitresses’ uniform imitates the Danish folklore costumes. Obviously, the food is very Americanised but the building looks like Snow White’s house and a wooden board with the name “Paula’s Pancake House” written hangs on the outside. We finish our meal and start walking towards the city centre, stopping along the way to the bust sculpture of the famous Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson and The Little Mermaid statue, a replica of the original one in Denmark.
The city centre of Solvang is very small, as in a really tiny city centre, but super cute! Around every single corner and nook, I feel like I’m inside a doll’s house. It looks out of this world. It doesn’t look like we’re in the US anymore. It feels like we’ve teleported ourselves to a remote place, in the middle of nowhere, where everything looks Danish. There’s even a pair of giant red whole-foot clogs, also known as wooden shoes, very similar to the Dutch Klomp, standing in the middle of one of the main streets. There’s also a giant windmill. There was one close to “Paula’s Pancake House” too, but this one is larger and it looks very animated as if it jumped out of a fantasy film for children or is one of those bread dough figures used to decorate cakes. There are wooden houses that aren’t really houses for people to live in, but shops on each side of the streets. They are quite short and almost all of them have thatched roofs on top. Most of these shops sell antiques or souvenirs, some of them sell ice cream too but most of them are bakeries or cafes in pretty pastel or pink tones and have light ornaments. This place gives me a childish pleasure which makes me enjoy myself. It’s very simple and perfectly real but at the same time, it’s as if I’m suddenly in a cute giant cupcake. Or a character inside a fairytale. Perhaps even, one of Anderson’s tales, with all the shops and bakeries creating the perfect scene for The Teapot and her adventures.
It’s still kind of early to go back to UCSB when we leave Solvang, so I suggest to go to a place called Carpinteria, also in Santa Barbara County but further south. It’s by the beach. We manage to get there by sunset. This is my favourite beach in Santa Barbara. The last time I came here was in September with my family. It was warmer back then, less chilly but I’ve never seen the sunset like now before. What a wonderful way to end the day! As the sun goes down, it looks like a fireball at a distance that’s going to burst at some point and fire colours of orange and red in every direction. Instead, I see its head going slowly down and down until it dips into the sea and completely disappears, leaving a tale of bright orange behind. The bright orange that hovers over the sky blends with the blue almost purple light, slowly turning into lilac for the next twenty minutes and I stand there, with my hands in the sand, watching the magic happening before I close my eyes.
Disclaimer: Catarina’s back from her year abroad and the entries from now on are about her previous adventures. There has been no travelling or social contact during the pandemic.
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