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USA Radio
June 19, 2014

Los Olivos, Solvang and Santa Barbara

Hello sunshine! We woke to a blue sky and (another) tasty breakfast. Then it was time to pack the car, crank the music and head to the sprawling hillsides of Santa Ynez Valley, California.

“The olives” await
Maybe it was because of the sun. There was excitement in our car as we approached Los Olivos (Spanish for “the olives”), one of six communities in the township of the Santa Ynez Valley, an area known for its sprawling horse ranches and its wine. First, we were off to a wine tasting house. Surrounded by hills of grapevines as far as the eye can see, the Demetria Estate Vineyard had a classic California vibe—both unassuming and elegant. We tasted different varieties—all of which were grown and produced on-site—savoring the purity of the experience. Afterwards we relaxed in the shade of an olive tree, only to be joined by a four-legged friend of the owners’! Learning a new word from our friends, we said sayōnara to our doggie friend as we drove away.

Going grand in downtown
Curious to see the heart of this 1,000 resident-size community, we took in its rustic artisan shops and boutiques, starting with Grand Avenue in downtown Los Olivos. Quaint and smelling of handmade leather goods, soaps and gourmet foods, we found our senses fully alive in this cultured town. We ate like locals too, dining on a fabulous array of olives and cheeses, pizzas topped with locally grown produce, gnocchi and seared salmon at the combination café and wine shop, Los Olivos Wine Merchant.

Solvang, an Old-World away
It’s a good time to get moving when you can’t digest another bite—unless it’s Danish pastry. We stopped at the nearby community of Solvang and found we had landed in the “Danish Capital of the USA.” Nothing like the surrounding California region, it was fun for all of us to take in some of this colorful, old-world culture complete with European architecture. At the top of our list was a delectable, hand-made pastry from Mortenson’s Danish Bakery, which was opened 42 years ago by a transplanted Dane . This is a magical place to visit for a taste of northern Europe. Who knew?

Sunset over Santa Barbara
On the way to our hotel, we stopped to watch the pinks and flaming oranges sweep the sky over surrounding mountains and ranches of Santa Barbara. (So worth it!) We arrived soon after and checked into the historic Fess Parker Resort, built in the Spanish Colonial style and once owned by the famous Hollywood actor bearing the same name. Our friends commented how inviting and warm it was. We settled in, took a brief rest, and headed to dinner at the unique Sama Sama Kitchen, which served Indonesian flavors cooked with local produce. We couldn't get enough of our Indonesian-inspired tacos! The chicken wings and roasted Brussels sprouts were also delicious. We closed the place with echoes of laughter and a wonderful day of memories lingering in the California air.

Tomorrow, a bit of history in Santa Barbara before sundrenched Malibu (a surfy beach town where celebrities live!) and beyond.

Insider’s tip
Go whale watching! Santa Barbara is also known for its nearly 30 different types of whales that swim the Santa Barbara Channel, making it one of the best whale watching locations in the world. The two best times of the year to see them are from February to early April, and May to September.

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