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Solvang, California

Solvang is one of those places that made me feel like I was in the middle of a fairy tale. To say, 'in the middle of a Hans Christian Andersen story' would be just the perfect way to put it. Picture this setting: Me (and the kids and the husband and a whole lot of others) walking through streets lined with half-timbered structures sheltered by tiled and thatched roofs. Some of them are cute little cottages, straight out of a story book and then there the multi-storied constructions made to look like they are built upon timber skeletons. And all of them owing their curb appeal to spring time flowers splashing attractive colours onto the traditionally Danish fa├žades this place is known for. That's Solvang.

As I strolled through the streets of Solvang, I noticed some storks on the rooftops. They are stationed there for good luck, I hear. Some of them even had nests and their whole family up there with babies and beaus and all. My eyes followed those faux timber frames from top to bottom and found that each house wore it in hues of its own and the windows and doors came in different colours too. This story-book village even had some elf houses sticking off the walls of these Danish-styled buildings.

Very once-upon-a-time-ish. And a very happily-ever-after kind of town.

Solvang, California

Solvang, California

Solvang, California

Talking of fairytale settings and fairy tales, I have to bring in Andersen -- who penned many a popular fairytale -- back into the narrative. The Danes are very proud of that great author, Solvang tells me. And they should be, for Andersen catered to generations of children all over the world. This Danish town in California's Central Coast has, among other things, a museum dedicated to this illustrious writer.

The Hans Christian Andersen museum holds Andersen's works in several languages and several forms. My visit there taught me that he was an artist as well. The museum that sits above the 'Book Loft' building on Mission Drive even showed me some of the paper cutwork that Andersen had done. The museum had among its exhibits a bust of this celebrated story teller, a model of his childhood home and some letters and poetry of his.

The day my sonny boy and I walked into that museum, it happened to be the writer's 211th birthday (April 2). So we got a bite of Kransekage (a traditional Danish cake) while we were there. We looked around a bit and then spent a lot of time in front of two book shelves that held Andersen's fairy tales. As you can guess, we didn't walk out of there without picking up a collection of the master storyteller's works.

Hans Christian Andersen museum, Solvang

Kransekage, (a Danish cake)

The other landmarks that show Solvang's pride in Andersen are: a park in the author's name, a statue of him in Solvang Park in the heart of the Danish town, a statue of 'The Little Mermaid' and a restaurant by the same name. Then, in the restaurant where we had lunch one day, we saw on its walls, paintings of Thumbelina and 'The Princess and the Pea.' Now you know who I'm talking about if you didn't already know.

Hans Christian Andersen is that great man who penned many of your favourite fairy tales: The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Match Girl, Thumbelina and also The Emperor's New Clothes among many, many others. Even the story of Disney's 'Frozen' was based on Andersen's 'Snow Queen.'

The Little Mermaid, Solvang, CA
The Little Mermaid Fountain in Denmarket Square in Solvang.
I learned at the (Andersen) museum that after a bronze statue of Little Mermaid was put up in the harbour promenade of Copenhagen, she has become a symbol of all things Danish.
(By the way, she is also on Solvang's official City Seal.)
Milestone - Distance between Solvang and Copenhagen
Talking of Copenhagen, this milestone in Solvang says Copenhagen is 11,270 kilometres away from here. 

What else you must-see in Solvang

Solvang is a place to see on foot, in my opinion. It is a pretty pedestrian-friendly little town. The best way to explore this quaint town is to walk through its main streets (even its side streets) take in all its Danish architecture, take selfies in front of its windmills, walk into the Danish Bakeries  and treat yourselves to Danish pastries and take back some Danish cookies for your family and friends. The food of Solvang deserves a post of its own, so please do look forward to it.

Other things we did while we were there:

I've been talking of Danish architecture and Danish food and Danish this and Danish that. Are you wondering why Solvang is so Danish and how it came to be so? Let me tell you, that before I went on my weekend trip to this place that is also known as the Danish Capital of America, I had done some reading on it. And what I learned was that Solvang was home to several Danish immigrants. And there were many stories about how this town came into being. I had to hear the story from a local and it turned out that one of the ways to do that was to go on a guided tour of Solvang.

We decided to do an activity for the kids and get our guided tour on a ride on Solvang's famous horse-drawn trolley. A horse pulling along a trolley doesn't sound quite right, does it? However these are not the horses you and I are used to seeing. Trained for this job are big and beautiful Belgian Draft horses that are around 2000 pounds in weight. And Rachel, our host on the trolley who also led the guided tour told us that Claire and Stella the horses who took us around the town could pull much more than they were being made to do. She also introduced us to Sal who drove the horses and trained the other horses who took turns at forefront of the trolley.

Belgian Draft Horses and the horse-drawn trolley, Solvang
Belgian draft horses, Stella and Clare.

Guided tour on the trolley, Solvang
Rachel, giving us her guided tour.

The History

Rachel went on to tell us that Solvang, which might make us feel like we were in Disneyland was indeed a fully functioning town with its own residents and fire service and police and all. She told us that way back in 1911 a small group of Danish folks, having fallen in love with the pleasant weather of the central coast of California bought some 9000 acres of land in the Santa Ynes valley for a sum of $40 per acre. And they christened this piece of land Solvang - meaning 'sunny fields.'

Soon they developed a road and a church and some essential services and attracted Danish immigrants from other parts of the country. Being in sunny California, they really didn't need sloping roofs that were meant to send snow sliding down to the ground, so the buildings there were more or less Spanish in architecture, which was considered most functional in these parts. In due course a newspaper published a story about this little town where Danes were getting together and making it home. People heard about it and came from far and wide to see it, and it wasn't exactly what they were expecting to see. Not wanting to disappoint all the people who were making their way to see the Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley, the locals decided to rebuild their town and make it as Danish as they could.

Solvang, CA

Solvang, CA
The traditional thatched roof.
Solvang, CA
Can you see the Stork on the roof? It's put there for good luck.
And do you see an elf house on the wall? That is placed there so that the elves had a home of their own and that in turn, would prevent them from getting into the homes of the Danes and getting into mischief in there.

The giand (red) clog, Solvang, CA
The Giant Clog, an attraction in the city of Solvang.
This, like the Little Mermaid statue was smaller than I expected. :)

A personal note

Solvang might seem like a touristy town made to make you feel like you are in fairytale world but don't let that prevent you from visiting this little Danish town in California. It is a very cute-looking place and tells you quite a bit about the Danes. And you'll be passing off a fantastic opportunity to learn about Danish architecture, Danish myths, Danish icons and some sinfully delicious sweet treats.

Clogs, Solvang.

Linking to the meme:

Aloha mural, Honolulu
I found in this at the Honolulu Airport, a few years ago.
Aloha! That's how you greet each other in Hawaii. And to see 'Aloha' painted at the airport where we made our entry into the island state made it such a 'welcoming' sight. What's more -- it had hibiscus flowers all around it.  And Hawaii and Hibiscus cannot quite be separated from each other. The Yellow Hibiscus is the state flower of HI.

And did you notice the O in the Aloha here? That's the map of Hawaii on it-- the islands that make up the Aloha State.
Very very Hawaiian! 

Hawaii map, Honolulu International Airport.
This map on the wall is also from Honolulu International Airport in Oahu.
Linking to the meme --
Monday Mural 

More Hawaii posts --> HERE

Views from Astoria Column.

I told you a bit about the Astoria Column and showed you a little bit of Astoria. Now let me show you Astoria from Astoria Column, which is over 600 ft above sea level.
Being in that seaside town where the voluminous Columbia River meets the Great Pacific, called for a walk up the tallest structure in Astoria. The 125 ft tall Astoria column standing on a 600-feet-above-sea-level hill, promises to show us sweeping views of Astoria, several rivers making their way to the estuary, a few bridges across the blue waters, a part of Washington (State) and even a couple of volcanoes of the Cascade Ranges.

Astoria Column
I had to see it all. So I went up to the top of this 120 ft tall Astoria Column.

Astoria Column
The top - My destination!
This was where I had to go to see Astoria from Astoria Column.

Inside Astoria Column
The climb, a 164 step one was a bit tiring but so worth it.
If found that it was the descent down this winding staircase that was a bit more difficult. It was dizzying considering the almost circular motion  you make on the way down. And then there was the strain on my eyes trying to keep looking at the steps that wound down. But then again, it was all worth it.

The winding stairs to the top of Astoria Column
A picture of the inside of the column, taken on the way up.
My destination was up there where you see some light at the end of the column. 

Views from Astoria Column.
The jaw-dropping first look at what Astoria Column had to show me: The Columbia River, The Astoria-Megler Bridge, Downtown Astoria and  a corner of Washington across the river. And a bit of the Pacific Ocean too.

Views from Astoria Column.
Another sight, a little right of the first view -- the river and barges and Washington State on the other side of the Columbia River. And a part of Downtown Astoria. 

Views from Astoria Column.
The winding road to Coxcomb Hill that houses the lofty Astoria Column.

Views from Astoria Column.
More right of there. Can you spot Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens?
They are those snow capped mountains you see beyond the vegetation and the blue of the river and the hills beyond it.
Both, Rainier and Helens are volcanoes of the Cascade Range.

Views from Astoria Column.
Zoomed in: Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, both on the Washington side. 

Views from Astoria Column.
A look down below.
And the shadow of the Astoria Column itself. 

Views from Astoria Column.
Apart from taking in the views, people send these miniature gliders gliding down the column. They can be picked up at the gift store, down below. 

Views from Astoria Column.
Youngs River making its way to the mouth of Columbia River.

Views from Astoria Column.
 Lewis and Clark River joining the waters of Youngs River in Youngs Bay. 

Views from Astoria Column.
Youngs Bay, the estuary and the Pacific Ocean, not to mention the Astoria Megler Bridge.

Views from Astoria Column.
The waters of the rivers becoming one with the waters of the Great Pacific. 
"The Astoria Column was completed in 1926 by The Great Northern Railroad and Vincent Astor, great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, who founded Astoria. The column is a historical monument which depicts the discovery and settlement of the Columbia River until the arrival of the railway."
-- From a plaque put up by 'Friends sof Astoria Column' at the column on Coxcomb Hill

Linking to the meme:
Our World

Big screen, popcorn and entertainment.
Found @ Cinemark Movies 14 in West Valley Mall in Tracy, CA.

Linking to 
Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University.

For today's murals, we go back to Stanford University in California, this time to see the biblical images on the walls of the Stanford Memorial Church.

Stanford Memorial Church was erected by Jane Lathrop Stanford in memory of her husband Leland Stanford. She wanted it to be open to all and hoped that it would cater to the spiritual needs of the university, says the official site of the university.

The church was completed in 1903 is said to have been rebuilt and strengthened after the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989.

This church in Stanford University is open to visitors during week days and on Sunday. The attractions in here include the artwork on the walls, the stained glass windows and the ornamental lights. The church also has a grand dome, one cannot miss.

Coming to the artwork on the walls of Stanford Church, I learnt that the facade outside is a mosaic of tiles. As for the work inside, there are mosaics as well as paintings made to look like tiles put together. I hear the glass tiles used here have been put up at with some tilt to reflect the lights from the glasses that have golden embedding.

And the images you see inside the church include depictions of Jesus's life, angels, people from the bible and biblical traditions of  Jews and Christians.

The mosaics on the outside:

Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University.

Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University.

Mosaic, Stanford Church

The work inside the church:

Now let's go indoors and be mesmerised by the lights, the stained glass and of course the mosaics that adorn the interiors of the church.

Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University.

Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University.

Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University.

Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University.

Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford University.

The large mosaics are said to have been created on large drawings in Venice and later brought here for installation. Other people who contributed to the grandeur of Stanford Memorial church include mosaic master Maurizio Camerino, stained -glass artistis Frederick and Charles Lamb from NY, designer Antonia Paoletti and several architects who worked on it at different points.

Linking to the memes

Mt.Shasta, California

Mt Shasta is one of the taller volcanoes of the Cascade Range. This active volcano lies in Siskiyou County in Northern California is visible from Interstate 5 if you are on the way to Oregon (or if you are driving down from there).

If you are on your way South, there is a viewpoint just off I-5 that gives you a great view of this Stratovolcano. These pictures of Mt. Shasta are from one of my stops there.
Mt.Shasta, California
Mt. Shasta and I-5 S.

Mt.Shasta, California
Mt. Shasta from a viewpoint just off I-5 South. 

Mt.Shasta, California
Mt. Shasta is 14,162 ft high.
That's over 4300 metres. So it is visible for several miles, if  you are on Interstate 5 in N. California.

Mt.Shasta, California

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