Sunday, January 10, 2016

Solvang, CA

Rain, rain.

You cannot finish the rhyme and say "Go away" because at long last California is getting some much needed hydration. This past week has been unusually gloomy, cloudy, and brisk. 
It is like fall has hit Southern California. 

The few deciduous trees have lost their orange and gold leaves to the wind and rain and now lie scattered along the wet pavement. When you gaze down the street from my house, the mountains to the north gleam white with snow. 
California, you are so damn pretty. 

During the past few weeks Justin has been flying quite a bit. I must admit I am tired of 5-day trips. In the mornings I wake up to the cold and quiet floors, the gentle burble of the coffee-maker the only sound permeating the quiet solitude. Fog drapes around the orange trees in the backyard, muffling the sounds from the street.

When Justin got home from his latest trip, he came home with a plan. When I got off work that evening, we would hop in the car and drive two hours north to the tiny Dutch settlement of Solvang. Just past Santa Barbara and the Los Padres Forest, Solvang sits among virgin blue skies and slopping hills hung with the orderly rows of vineyards.

The literal meaning of Solvang is "sunny fields." It is a wine-maker's paradise and the town offers a wide variety of local vineyards for sampling, an abundance of food, and charming architectural delights. We arrived well after dark to our hotel which hosted a roaring fire and got to experience the hushed town glittering in twinkle lights.

The following morning we breakfasted on hardboiled eggs, English muffins, sausage, and hot coffee before wandering around the town. What had appeared so tiny and quiet to us the night before hummed with energy as the locals hurried about tossing open the cottage doors of their shops. We couldn't help ourselves, we had to stop in for a second breakfast at Mortensen's Bakery: a danish inspired bakery run by two sisters that has sat in that spot for 40 years. 

You just cannot say no to raspberry cream danishes and foamy cappuccinos. 

Solvang is the sort of place that doesn't need an agenda or schedule. It is quiet hamlet, made for strolling along brick-laid streets, snapping pics of windmills, and gazing dreamily at the profusion of flowers and trailing ivy. We indulged ourselves, popping in and out of eclectic shops hosting items from Native American art and rugs, clogs, coo coo clocks, Turkish bowls, jewelry, and, of course, wine. 

Around noon Justin and I dropped by Sevtap, a local winery's shop, for a wine tasting. I have never been to such a wonderful wine tasting. The owner's amazing wife, Tamara, poured delicious portions of their various wines and chatted with us for well over an hour. I felt like I was meeting a character from a Nora Robert's novel. Beautiful and engaging, she regaled us with the tale of how her Turkish husband went from deep sea driving in the Gulf to working in New Orleans restaurants where he discovered a love of food and wine. From there he moved to California and drove Jeep tours of wineries so that he could meet and learn from all the local vintners and viticulturists. She laughed as she told us how his journey of careers led him to the making of wine and to her. Sigh.

Along the edge of town sits Old Mission Santa Ines. Renown for their rose gardens, it is a restful place to explore and partake of the local history. It makes an interesting dichotomy, this Spanish-influenced parish abutting the buildings from Danish folklore.

Justin was sweet enough to capture a few pics of me in my yellow rose maxi dress. While he was away I kept busy with projects, painting a nightstand for our bedroom and sewing away at this sucker. It is made of floaty polyester with a light sheen and dotted with a tiny floral print. It has pin tucking along the front and back bodice, three gathered layers on the shirt, buttons from chest to mid-thigh, and a stretchy elastic waist-band. I love it. When I walk it billows around my legs, the front slit teasing up to my knees. 

We completed our day by driving into Santa Barbara on the way back to Los Angeles. You really cannot get more epic than America's Riviera. Justin and I watched the sun set from Stearn's Harbor, turning the white-washed buildings and mountains a stunning pink before dying into the water. We listened to street musicians and dined on pasta while being snubbed by locals at Ca' Dario. 

We loved the pretty restful vibes of Santa Barbara and bemoaned the fact that you couldn't rent a house for less than $3,500 a month. We enjoy Los Angeles but it is bit of a mad house. Justin said last night the city is ridden hard and hung up wet. He's not wrong. 
Right now, though, it is where we call home.