Weekend Getaway to Solvang, California
Above photo: The windmill at Solvang Brewing Company is just part of the town's Danish charm.
By Anne Roderique-Jones
Anne is a New Orleans-based freelance writer who covers travel, food and lifestyle topics.
A couple looks for romance in a Danish-themed town.
To be completely candid, Danish architecture doesn’t exactly scream romance to me. I prefer strolling on a beach with waves crashing in the background, or perhaps sipping pinot noir on the deck of a winery. You can easily find both options where I live in California.
But I had heard Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley, about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, was a charming getaway. So my husband and I set out to explore the small town, settled in 1911 by a group of Danish-Americans who were looking to escape the Midwestern winters.
We arrived on a warm sunny afternoon, but perhaps that’s not unusual: The name Solvang translates to “sunny fields.” Visitors will feel as if they’re in a different country with the town’s Danish gabled-roof buildings, windmills and replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue.
Traditional Danish bakeries pepper the downtown, and we saw a couple sharing aebleskivers — puffy Danish pancake balls — on a sidewalk. We stopped at The Bread Shop to try a savory variety, pulled fresh from the oven and filled with cheese and bacon. It turns out that bacon is my love language.
Too stuffed for a sit-down lunch, we meandered in and out of the stores — mostly Danish-themed souvenir shops or those peddling Christmas items. I bypassed the wooden shoes and cuckoo clocks and discovered a few hidden gems, including The Book Loft. As a writer, books also are my love language.
Unbeknownst to my husband and me, Solvang is a wine lover’s paradise. The town is home to 125-plus vineyards with a whopping 20 tasting rooms in the downtown area. We popped into Feliz Noche Cellars and sat down at a cozy table to share a tasting.
Denmark consistently ranks among the happiest countries year after year. One significant factor is a cultural construct called “hygge,” which translates loosely to “intentional intimacy or coziness,” most often in a harmonious shared experience. Examples include sharing a bottle of wine or a warm pastry, or cozying up by a fire. Solvang seems to have adopted the concept — everyone seemed to be quite cheerful. After a bacon pastry and a bottle of vino, we were, too.
Our impromptu happy hour led to us to Succulent Cafe, which serves made-from-scratch foods. Come evening, chilly weather settles on the central California coast, so I wrapped myself with one of the comfy blankets provided in the cafe’s succulent-filled courtyard as I sipped my local grenache under a heat lamp. We toasted to Solvang, a pleasant surprise for a weekend getaway. Certainly, this must be the definition of hygge.
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