Santa Ynez Valley, California

Temperatures have finally dropped below zero in Toronto – don’t get me wrong,  this is not a celebration, but merely a means of accepting the inevitable. I am facing my eighth winter in the “Great White North” and I have finally come to the realization that fighting the cold months isn’t going to allow me to feel better or make winter shorter than it’s supposed to be. So naturally, diving into lessons on the “Art of Layering” and gaining expert knowledge of the best winter parka brands on the marker, is the route to take into ensuring I don’t turn into an icicle, while on a glorious TTC commute to the next best café in the city. But let’s rewind back to the title of this post, which in no way coincides with this beautiful introduction: CALIFORNIA.

I have a special relationship with the states. Da Kid and I try to make it out there at least once a year – which, let’s face it, is not enough – to visit family, friends and fill up our lungs with the culturally-rich air in San Francisco and the entire Bay Area. We skipped this year, for one reason or another, and my bones are literally aching for some California feels. Whenever we visit, we end up starting on either the North end of the state and make our way down South or the other way around. Last year, on our way back from Mexico, we landed in LA and a few days later tripped over to Santa Barbara to visit our favourite Aunt Jude and spend a few days sippin’ wine to this view:

Santa Barbara, California

One of those days, on a rare occasion, the rain decided to grace us with its presence for a full 24 hrs, so we naturally drove over the hills and on to the other side for a day of wine and views. The Santa Ynez Valley, situated in Santa Barbara Wine Country between the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains, is a beautiful little regions, rich in all things wine country. Think small towns, vibrant communities, delicious red wine notes and a plethora of photo ops (cause, Instagram!)

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Quaint little cafés, antique and vintage clothing stores, along with a plethora of family-owned restaurants and wine-based businesses are interspersed with acres of gorgeous wineries, as long as the eyes can see. You can drive from town to town and never get bored with each populated area offering a new experience for your soul. And while wine is what I missioned out there for, the mention of a dutch-themed town quickly sparked my interest. Solvang, is a small town in California’s Santa Barbara valley with a population of just over 5000 people. What’s incredible is that its people have expertly – and passionately – preserved the soul of the Netherlands, with Hans Christian Anderesen‘s spirit sprinkled all over the town. From the unmistakable architecture to the traditional bakeries, shoe stores and hints of Dutch Culture, hidden within the town’s limits, Solvang is a charming little place to visit.

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And, if coffee or pastries isn’t your thing – (who are you?!) – then a homemade gelato is an option, too. Even when served in a giant cone (and you’re convinced you can bite through it):

Solvang, California

What is your favourite place to visit in California? Share your tips in the comments below, so I can hit some of them up on our next trip in the Spring. Until then, follow me here for some fun adventures in Germany this Holiday season.