Saturday, January 7, 2012

A California Sampler

Thursday, January 5, 2012
We begin the day with a very hearty breakfast at the Cajun Kitchen, voted “Best Breakfast” in Santa Barbara for the past ten years (jambalaya with two poached eggs on top—can’t beat it).  

Then we head to the harbor for a quick check of the local waterfront.  Dick is surprised to see the UC Santa Barbara Stadium right across the street from the harbor marina.  The sight instantly catapults him back to 1960, when he was pole vaulting in a track meet there--three world record holders competed, and the first 16 foot outdoor pole vault was achieved (unfortunately, not by Dick).  It was a propitious day in track and field history.

On the road heading north again, our next stop is Solvang, a community settled in 1911 by Danish Americans.  After the town was featured in Life magazine in 1947, tourists began visiting, and the townspeople started remaking the place as a pseudo-Danish village, to give the tourists more of what they came for.  Today, it is a very picturesque caricature of a Danish village. 

We stop there long enough to sample the local culinary specialty—aebleskiver.  Best described at a pancake shaped like a tennis ball, the aebleskiver is served with a syrup of warmed raspberry jelly and dusted with powdered sugar.  It tastes a lot like a jelly donut, but the folks in Solvang are quick to say that it is much healthier than a donut, since it is not fried, but cooked in a stovetop mold. 

Just a couple miles north of town we stop by Quicksilver Ranch, a miniature horse farm.  After seeing the miniature horses in the Rose Parade, we are interested in learning more about them.  A ranch staffer tells us that the 65 miniature horses grazing in the fields at this farm are the same breed as the ones in the parade—they just look different because the horses on the ranch are in their natural shaggy winter coats, and the ones in the parade have been shorn to look pretty. (The maximum height for a miniature horse is thirty inches at the base of the mane—they are very cute).

Quicksilver Ranch Miniature Horses

Rose Parade Miniature Horses
Kitty corner across the street from the horse farm is Rideau Winery, one of the ninety wineries in the Santa Ynez valley that offer wine tastings. The reason why there are so many wineries in the valley is that the coastal mountains here run east to west, funneling cool Pacific Ocean air inland in the late afternoon and evening.  Hot sunny days + cool evenings = a winning combination for wine grapes.  We sample seven Rideau wines, and are once again on our way along the road lined with miles and miles of naked grape vines.  They don’t look like much when all the leaves and grapes are gone and they are trimmed back for the winter.

Rideau Winery

Our next stop is a eucalyptus grove in Pismo Beach that is home to the largest overwintering colony of monarch butterflies in the United States. The butterflies hang high above us in tight clumps with wings tucked to share their body heat.  They are the fourth or fifth generation descendents of the butterflies who spent the winter in this grove last year, and they have traveled up to 1,000 miles to get here, flying up to 100 miles in a single day.  How do they find their way?  They must have senses that are beyond our comprehension. Fragrant with eucalyptus and buoyant with a fluttery butterfly energy, this peaceful grove feels like a shrine to a small miracle of nature.  We visit with respect and awe.   

No comments:

Post a Comment