Have a Danish
When I first came to California one summer during high school, I summarily dismissed the place as one big beach party. I was wrong!
Much later, when my new husband and I drove out from New York after our trip to India, to start our new life together where did we land, of course, but the beach. This was where his entire family lived for part of the year and Geoffrey missed it. It was not a great choice for me as I have mentioned before (and will detail in the fifth and final part of my Newbie Weds ensemble), since I thought the weather was boring, the people shallow, and too much emphasis placed on appearances. As a result, I downplayed mine with a vengeance and spent as little time on the unremarkable sand there as possible.
But! Over twenty years later, I have recognized that California is not just surf and turf. You do have to go out looking, but if you care enough, there is culture, excitement, intellect, mystery and novelty up and down this long and populous state. Case in point: Solvang. My memory of it was fuzzy and so I was delightfully surprised when we returned for the first time.
In June, we began scouting places to take Anna, who will be here for three weeks in August. Now that she is old enough to appreciate such things, we are looking for summer and winter venues that will intrigue a four year old [going on forty] who is observant, lively, and demanding.
We are not interested in Disneyland. I will spare you what I think of it. We wanted to combine fun with learning, entertainment with relaxation, and discovery in a safe and comfortable atmosphere. We picked three places and Solvang is one of them. We will be taking her at Christmas, because, like every Germanic country, Denmark and Danish people really know how to celebrate the Yuletide.
If you are not familiar with Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley up the coast and to the east of El Camino Réal, it might take some time to lay it out properly, so you will get a real feeling for what being in Solvang is like. I will post a bit more about it again, when I share the other two places we picked and their photographs.
So, this is the first of three beautiful and very different towns that grace that mysterious oceanic area between Southern and Northern California. We will visit all three in posts on this blog. I started with Solvang or Sunny Field in Danish because to me, not only is it the prettiest (not the most beautiful, mind you – that is coming up) of the trio it also offers, arguably, the most fun.
If Santa Paula was the earthy and mysterious Ava Gardner, then think Scarlett Johansson when you look at and consider Solvang.
When I first moved to California, my Swiss mother-in-law insisted that we make a pilgrimage to Solvang right away so I could see that California was not bereft of European sensibility. That was decades ago and I don’t remember thinking much about the town then, having been to Europe, including Denmark and other Germanic countries enough that it didn’t seem to be much of a novelty.
That was before I came to know Southern California and just how unique and authentic Solvang was and is, even more so today, 104 years after its founding by Danish Lutherans escaping Midwest winters and economically stressed Denmark at that time.
All this time later, Solvang has a thriving community of about 6000 residents and hosts up to 7 million visitors every year. As you can see in these photographs, and the ones upcoming in another post, they come for the genuine Nordic touches: storks on rooftops (a symbol of good luck), half-timber architecture, thatched roofs, carved wooden soldiers (like the German Nutcrackers), sculptures of Vikings, lace-curtained windows, windmills, and bright red and blue colors that remind one of Copenhagen.
So, consider this post to be the first of a trilogy and part of my pursuit of a beautiful life in Southern California. To be continued …
Images: BB/Solvang – click to enlarge them.