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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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If Santa Paula was the earthy and mysterious Ava Gardner, then think Scarlett Johansson when you look at and consider Solvang.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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22 Comments on “Have a Danish

  1. What a pretty place right enough, Beth. Not at all what one would expect to find in California. Just shows how much our impressions of places are coloured by what we see on TV. I’m sure Anna (that’s my youngest’s aname too) will love it given that it looks so much like a story setting from Hans Christian Anderson. I know my Anna would. Princess frock and and an eye into everything. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, right? I couldn’t imagine a place like this in California either. What amazes me is that it is a real town with Danish descendants, still. It is truly in a remote spot, so I don’t know where these people make their living other than in agriculture and tourism, but it seems to be thriving.

      Our Anna is in the princess and tutu stage, so this will be right up her alley. Especially the Hans Christian Andersen museum and bookstore. This is a perfect place for children and at Christmas it will be magic!

      Thank you Anne-Marie 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, yes, believe me, we are in for rounds and rounds of Frozen, which she has on her iPad and we have DVRd for the big TV. I think Elsa is our Anna’s favorite too and we have had to restrict the amount of Disney licensed products that she gets so she can reenact the movie on her own. In fact, for awhile she wouldn’t let Deanna and Al watch it because there were scenes she found disturbing and didn’t want them to be upset, L-O-L!!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Beth, the Minions movie with all 6 grandkids and son, daughter in law and daughter was hilarious and it takes all about 1968 and gives you memories snd iconic symbols. You need to gear up with spare blanket and booster seat and “Go!” 🙂
    This was an honest and light hearted post and hope she enjoys all you have to offer hrr, Beth. ♡♡♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • We will have to check into that one, Robin! Yes, we enjoy finding wholesome things for the three of us to enjoy while she is in California. We are all together at least twice and sometimes three times a year, so we can find seasonally appropriate activities. I think Solvang will be exciting in December. Thanks for the tip on Minions! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am glad you might check MI ions out since 2 70 year olds and I were laughing at Richard Nixon poster and a few sly jokes for over 40 or 50 year olds!
        I will have to look up more about Solvang since it was fascinating like stepping into another world. Your photos were so charming today, Beth.

        Liked by 1 person

          • If you ever come to the midwest Charlevoix and Frankenmuth, both in Michigan, remind me of Solvang. They look like Camelot and Austria-Germany, in order of mentioned towns. My friend and Maid of Honor’s sister owns a castle in Charlevoix. (Castle Farms) and it has an antique toy room full of glass cases to look inside, horse carriages, a life size chess set outdoors and a multiple-leveled outdoor toy train set. Linda Mueller also has an annual October wedding/bridal Open House.

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            • Your friend’s sister owns a castle??? Wow! It must be worth a fortune, even if it is a business, which it sounds like. I would love to see that. You should visit and take pictures, Robin, def!

              One of these days, I will drive across the US again. We drove out through Ohio when we came to California from NYC after we returned from India. But, if I took pictures, I cannot imagine where they are. Now would be different, I would have thousands by the end of the trip. If we do that, I will definitely make it a point to see Ohio again. It reminded me of NJ, somewhat and is a great place to live.

              xo

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            • I have been to Charlevoix and have lovely photo album of photos. I took my guy friend who still emails Patrice snd she seeds him health tips. 🙂
              The before and after pictures are on a video on their website. My friend’s husband met Patrice’s husband in college. For about the price of a cheap home they bought a Domino’s franchise by OSU campus in the 70’s. Richard has moved up the corporate ladder of Domino’s . His family used to vacation up in Michigan so when Linda started campaigning to buy the decrepit shell of a castle he said okay. It is absolutely stunnung. I have a silly picture of Bill and I looking solemn sitting upon throne chairs. They hold weddings with bride arriving in white, gold or black horse drawn carriages. I donated a photo of my Mom and Dad since she designed a silver silk tapestry wedding gown with Juliette sleeves. They have it in the wedding glass cabinet section of the castle. 🙂 We went in October and toured the homes are designed by an architect to look like mushrooms and toadstools. It is quite captivating. The Lake Charlevoix with the pretty homes along it just adds to its enchantment, Beth. Linda and Richard Mueller are my friends, too. 🙂

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            • I just envy their business acumen as 22 year olds in college purchasing a business instead of a house. My ex and I bought a house when we were young and 25, in Lancaster, Ohio and never even recuperated our investment. Who knew homes were not always going to appreciate in value? Linda and Richard were very wise to choose a busy pizza place with a good track record. I am happy that they also have Pat help repair the toys in their huge collection. They spend their winters in Long Beach, Mississippi. Patrice is disabled and her sister really brightens her life. Patvgrew up only a town away from me, but we met at BGSU. Have fun with “the kid,” Beth.

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  3. Gawd, I miss Solvang. More than San Diego, where I lived for 10 years. Whenever we drove up to SF, we’d ALWAYS stop in at Solvang…for Anderson’s Split Pea Soup. Love that stuff, miss that stuff. Can’t get it here. Great post, have fun visiting

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    • Isn’t this a small world. I guess any California native would make the visit to Solvang. Do you notice that it has improved? I remembered it being much smaller but this time, we could have stayed three times as long as we did.

      My husband LOVES that Andersen’s Pea Soup but we didn’t stop on this trek. We made a separate trip up the coast and then he got a batch to take home. It is almost like some sort of California secret potion that everyone must refuel with every ten years or so, LOL!

      More Solvang pictures to come so you can relive the glory.

      Thank you so much, BF! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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