|Balboa Park with the ducks|
We went to a Trader Joes, a bit like Chatsworth farm shop full of grumpy Americans, possibly because it was raining and chilly. In fact it bucket ted it down that weekend! On the way back, Lizzy was just warning us that they can't drive in the rain over here, possibly because it doesn't happen very often, and they're rubbish at stopping distances, drive too fast, don't indicate etc! Just as she'd finished this warning, the car behind us rammed into the back of us, with such a force that it left her licence plate fixed into the bumper of our rental car!
The main street, State St, is full of attractive shops, chafes, and bars on either side. Nice for browsing, but it seemed expensive and classy. The best experience on offer was an early morning trip to their famous court-house, which at 85ft high is one of the tallest buildings in the area, giving you amazing views over the city, out to the Pacific and the Channel Islands, the nearest and largest being Santa Cruz, and views up to the Santa Barbara hills. Absolutely beautiful. Hard to believe you are only less than two hours away from the concrete blocks of Northridge. The courthouse is surrounded by beautiful, lush gardens, set out in Spanish-Moorish style, as is the influence on the construction of the building itself. After the great earthquake of 1925, it was built over a steel frame, with concrete beams inside, painted and decorated as if wooden. The walls are hollow. The ceilings are stunningly painted in Moorish style, with massive wrought-iron chandeliers. Tiles from Tunisia and Spain add to the colour. A very helpful receptionist encouraged us to explore the second floor, where there are magnificent murals all around the court-room, depicting the history of the city, from the native Chumash tribes, to the Spanish, to becoming a Californian city. It is still an active courthouse, with business on-going, so you have to be mindful of this when exploring, but you are encouraged to wander. Michael Jackson appeared here, when he was accused of being over-fond of children!
|Unusual Postbox?Where's the flap?|
Then we were off on the drive up to Solvang, along the Camino Real historic road, which hugs the coast and then veers towards the Santa Ynez mountains, and the wine-growing areas of Santa Ynez, Santa Maria and Santa Rita. Solvang is a kitschy, faux-Danish, theme-parky kind of town, but to be fair to it, it is a relaxing, pretty, tree-lined town, only two hours away from the hub-bub and noise of Los Angeles. A completely different place with a feel of Europe, where you can buy Danish pastries and Danish products. It was founded in 1911 by Danish settlers, complete with windmills! Great wines include Pinot Noir and Syrah varietals. We went for a great meal of Tomatillo soup and Steak. We stayed at a comfortable hotel, the Wine Valley Inn. The weather was cold but sunny, almost down to freezing, the first night. Ian went on a 50mile cycle ride into Ballard Canyon and Foxen Canyon wine growing areas, and I visited a recommended patchwork fabric shop in Buellton. An indifferent pizza meal, and then back to the hotel for a glass of wine with a couple from Los Angeles, who worked in a prison! Interesting talking to them about state health care and abuses of the system! In bed for 9pm, having been up early again!
|Santa Maria Valley|
|Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley|
Just one thing- we're both finding cycling on borrowed mountain bikes really difficult. They're great for dirt roads and rough terrain, but heavy-duty burdens on roads! Can't wait to get back on our road bikes!