Updated: Apr 19, 2020
A 30-minute drive north of Santa Barbara brings you to my hometown, the Santa Ynez Valley. The Valley consists of Buellton, Solvang, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and the sleepy town of Ballard. The popularity of the movie Sideways sparked the eruption of tasting rooms popping up all over town. The Valley has become not only an important wine stop along the California coast but also a tourist, wedding, and cycling destination. Its beauty and serene atmosphere make you feel like you are in a different world. People here joke that we live in a bubble. Most big-box stores are at least a 30-minute drive. The town of Solvang, where I currently live, is the Danish capital of America. Before the wine industry exploded, this was where tourists spent their time while visiting. Copenhagen lined with Danish restaurants, bakeries, gift shops, tasting rooms, and candy stores. I remember as a child my friends and I would take what little money we had and walk around town on the weekends. The candy stores with barrels of candy were always our favorite stop.
Since the stay-at-home order was put in place, many local businesses have been forced to close leaving many in the community without work. It's been wild to experience this kind of shutdown, especially since we all feel so safe and protected in our little bubble. The streets of Solvang which have always been filled with tourists taking photos, or enjoying an ice cream cone, are now empty except for locals who are getting out of their homes for some fresh air.
Solvang is undeniably charming. You really feel like you're in a fairytale. As tragic as this time is, I've been enjoying the calmness of the streets. As a local, my favorite time to walk through town is at night when all the twinkle lights are lit or in the early morning while many are still asleep in their beds. The stillness mixed with the sweet smells coming from the bakery transport me to a place of peace and tranquility.
Here are some current snapshots of my hometown. I'm finding new sights and little corners I never noticed before. Growing up I didn't appreciate this place as I do now. As an adult who has been able to travel and explore other parts of the world, I always feel so happy coming home. I love this place and the people in the community who make it such a whimsical place.
Stay safe everyone.