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  • Day25

    Santa Barbara

    September 23, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    It is winding down time, as our California journey draws to a close and we are trying not to rush about too much and take things easier.
    The final day in Cambria was spent exploring the little town, walking the beach (great driftwood - if only!), watching the antics of the harbour seals, visiting a really good Friday farmers market and walking to the Sea Chest, the seafood restaurant not far from our hotel. The sunset was again world class and our time in this beautiful neck of the woods was regrettably finished.

    Saturday was for moving on to our final port of call, Santa Barbara. It was about a two and a half hour drive through miles of market garden crops, before hitting the more barren mountainous slopes guarding the coast. We stopped at a little town called Solvang, commonly billed as the Danish capital of America. We had not planned a visit, but knew it was on our way and had heard people discussing it. The buildings are constructed in Danish style and national dress is prominent, plus food and drink redolent of Denmark. There is King Frederick Street and a replica of the Little Mermaid on her rock in Copenhagen Square. Peter’s main concern was to find a Danish Pastry shop which we did pretty quickly. The major problem was to choose one from the many varieties on offer. There was of course lager galore, people in Viking helmets, entertainment, including axe throwing(!) and a parade later in the afternoon. As you can imagine the small town was heaving. It was a good break, but we escaped before the promised parade shut the town down. I do find it a strange concept that American citizens several generations later, need to recreate a country most cannot remember, or have ever visited. There are other examples up and down the country and in conversation, almost the first thing an American will ask you is, ‘where do you come from’? Of course, a large proportion of the population came here to escape tyranny and in particular religious persecution and so often emigrated as whole villages. Everyone is an immigrant of one type or another and roots are important. Consequently, nationalities hold on to their old way of life, whilst adapting to modern America, which one often forgets is a very young country.

    We arrived in Santa Barbara mid afternoon and the temperature had climbed to the high eighties. It is a much larger town/ small city and dubbed California’s Riviera. It was one of the early towns founded by the Spanish and has a ‘mission’ complex and Presidio which were headquarters of the church and the ruling military respectively. It is shielded inland by the Santa Ynez Mountain Range and still has a very distinctive old Spanish feel. In 1925 the town was virtually destroyed by a strong earthquake and the decision taken to rebuild it exactly as it had been. The Old Courthouse is the oldest building still standing, dating from 1786. It remains the working court for the area and is beautifully decorated with murals and original brightly coloured tiles. It was open today and has a viewing tower, from which one can see all over the surrounding area. Again this is a very green city, with lots of trees, particularly palms and the Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf are very attractive, sitting on its gently curved bay. This is still a working fishing port and you can buy fish and seafood direct from the boats if there at the correct time. Trails lead all over the town and surrounding country and I can see, like Cambria, this is also a lovely spot to live. It has character and community and interestingly is a totally non smoking town in any public building or on the street. I have yet to see anyone smoking or vaping. Incidentally, vaping is heavily criticised here in the US and is considered as dangerous as smoking itself.

    Tomorrow is our final day and we plan to spend it on the Old Trolley Bus Tour, which has been highly recommended. Again it can be hopped on or off and I suspect we will learn a lot. We hope to take a closer look at the Old Mission (well rebuilt, as the original was destroyed in the earthquake) as we gather it is obligatory to do so! It will then be time to repack the suitcases for the last time and head home on Tuesday.

    So, what is our overall impression of the snapshot of California we have taken over the last four weeks. We have driven close on 2000 miles and seen some incredible scenery, which to be fair is our main interest. Death Valley, Yosemite, Napa Valley, the Big Sur and Monterey Peninsula Coast are all world class. We have loved some of the smaller towns and perhaps the only slight question mark would be the large conurbations, of which San Francisco and Las Vegas were the largest we visited and really that is due to the throng of people and traffic. The extreme corporate ethos and wall to wall concrete we could probably live without, but it it has been fascinating to explore. The people of America remain as friendly, well mannered and helpful as we have always found them to be. If you are stuck and unsure what to do next, there will always be someone who will come to your aid unbidden. We can learn a lot from that approach and I will endeavour to follow it as my California lesson learned!

    Au revoir everyone and see you soon.
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