Wednesday, 4 July 2012

California: Spanish and Danish

Those two words really ought to rhyme, shouldn't they?  You might not expect to find them in such close proximity, and in California, of all places.  But read on, and all will be explained.

The Spanish is pretty obvious.  As you may be aware, the Spanish were the earliest European settlers in these regions, and as in Texas, they sought to convert the natives and colonise the area by building missions.  You can tell they had the pick of the land, because the Mission in Santa Barbara is in the most beautiful spot, just in the foothills of the mountains.  We spent a while relaxing and letting Toby run around in the park, which incorporated a rose garden and some venerable trees.


Looking at art from a recent festival - not your average chalk drawing!
View from the Mission
Toby loves having sun cream put on his face!
 

The self-guided tour took us through the peaceful inner courtyard of the Mission.  Up some stone steps, we wandered into the graveyard, where thousands of Chumash Indians were buried under a shady mission fig tree.  The church was simply but colourfully decorated, and the tour finished with a small museum detailing some of the history.  I was absorbed by some newspaper articles from the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake.  One hotel had lost a wall, leaving its rooms as open-fronted boxes, "in some of which the occupants could be seen gathering their scattered belongings preparatory to leaving".  Well yes, if the front of my hotel fell off I think I'd leave, too!

Courtyard of the Mission
Inside the church
Stations of the Cross
And on to the other main example of Spanish architecture, the Santa Barbara courthouse.  Everything we read said, "We know you wouldn't usually go see a courthouse on vacation, but trust us, this is worth seeing."  Everything we read was right.  There's a bell tower which you can climb for a view of the city, and a room you can peer in and see the clock mechanism with everything whirring round, and there are murals, and arches, and decorative tiles, and little nooks and crannies, and... hey, all those hard surfaces amplify Toby's screaming really well, so let's get out of here right now...

The clock room
The courthouse from the bell tower
Painted ceiling




Floor detail

I want steps like this!





Let's go to Denmark!  Or the closest local equivalent, a town called Solvang.  This was founded in the early 20th century by a group of Danish-Americans, who later decided it would be nice if the town looked Danish as well.  The result is really quite pretty, if a little heavy on the windmill motif.  It even has a little Little Mermaid!



Hans Christian Andersen features quite prominently too; we viewed his statue and walked to a park bearing his name, where Toby enjoyed a musical wall.




We also stopped at one of the many bakeries for coffee and a Danish pastry (what else?).  Toby was treated to an owl-eye cookie - round with a blob of jam in the middle - and demonstrated how to use the cutlery.

A spoon?  Really?
On the way home we ate lunch at the Cold Spring Tavern.  Nestled in a beautiful spot in a tree-lined valley next to a stream, this was on the old coaching route from Santa Barbara.  The valley has now been bridged, so the main road arches far overhead, and the inn is left in peace.  It serves much better food than you might infer from its exterior, although with Toby not feeling too good, I had to try and enjoy my quiche with him wedged in my lap.


The steel arch bridge carrying the main highway

And finally, a few miscellaneous photos to round off this portion of the trip.  Next time, we're heading to Long Beach!

Enormous Moreton Bay fig tree in Santa Barbara.  This became a bit of a joke, we meant to go and see it so many times, and only made it right at the end of our visit.
Our rental apartment came with resident cat.
Feeding the ducks at a local park.
Lots of houses had orange trees growing in their gardens.

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