Do you remember that part of “Beauty and the Beast” when Belle twirls through her tiny adorable town, singing to the baker, the bookseller and other townspeople?
Little town, it’s a quiet village.
Every day, like the one before.
Little town, full of little people,
waking up to say…
Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour!
Belle’s little town? It might as well be Solvang, California:
Kind of looks like a movie set, right? Solvang was founded as a Danish colony 101 years ago, and now it’s one of a few small towns in Santa Barbara’s wine country where boozy tourists like us rest our heads. We stayed here four nights on our birthday party/wine tasting trip — the location was so convenient for darting to wineries in the region, and it was pretty fun to wake up every morning in this cheery little place.
The few streets that make up Solvang’s downtown are full of Danish-style architecture: cream buildings trimmed with dark brown beams, windmills, turrets, rooflines that go up and down like a heart rate reading. Everything is set against big, gorgeous green hills.
The streets are lined with stores and restaurants, bakeries and wine tasting rooms — and so many flower beds! — and twinkly lights come out at night. It’s nearly Disneyland-ish, but so darn cute.
We stayed at Wine Valley Inn & Cottages, a cozy place that fit right in with Solvang’s charm. Set one street off of the main drag, it felt quiet and small (though I think there are actually quite a few rooms).
When you travel in groups, you’re inevitably waiting for everyone to gather eight times a day, and the inn had great nooks for those idle moments: a fireplace and couches in lobby, and sunny and shady courtyards with bistro tables.
The inn put out breakfast every morning, but all around town there are bustling breakfast places with seating that spills out onto the sidewalk — like The Belgian Cafe, where one morning we ate waffles loaded with strawberries and whipped cream and syrup.
Yep, I felt a little jittery afterwards. Those sneaky Belgians, with their dessert for breakfast and what not.
Let me point out that Solvang’s morning hours are more hopping than its evening hours. The place goes quiet pretty early; there was a brewery open late, and we checked it out but I can’t say it’s a must-see. But when you’re wine tasting all day, what you really want to do after dinner is go directly to bed, and Wine Valley Inn was a great place for that.
UP NEXT: TASTING OUR WAY THROUGH WINE COUNTRY