Sideways – through the Santa Ynez Valley

santaynezvineyardsTraditionally Mr. Black and I have had the good fortune of traveling somewhere to celebrate our annual Birthdays. I suppose we like to wake up somewhere new, to help ring in the spirit of adventure each year. My Birthday month is November; his in February. Later this week to celebrate the day of my birth, we’re making the Sideways journey through the Santa Ynez Valley just north of Los Angeles.


We’re renting a car, not sure if it’s a Saab, like the one Miles drove – and I hoping we both come back unscathed from our trip, unlike Jack did upon his return from vino country.


Sideways to adventure into another year ~
Neve Black

European Rode Trip through California

Slowly, but steadily, my Western world begins to eclipse my previous, Midwestern one. There are many advantageous to this new world – I’m always minutes away from the majestic ocean, with its crystal, white sandy beaches, healing waves, and the salty fresh air, which are all priceless jewels. But, even with the entire Pacific’s grandiose splendor, I sometimes find myself missing some of those gems my previous world offered me too, and in my melancholy mood, I search for their replacements while living here.

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had to grapple with is travel. The first and obvious difference for me is how quick it was to get from Ohio to Europe, when I was so inclined. Back in the day when Continental Airlines ruled the skies for air travel, some of us lucky ones traveled from Cleveland to London, non-stop. That flight took about seven hours, and was a do-able long weekend trip. If you had the good fortune of more time to explore other cities, you could easily choose one of the many European airlines, and be somewhere else, like Italy, faster than you could say, Limóncello.

Those were the good old days.

If you were feeling a bit less ambitious, you could skip going over the pond, and be in the United Sates’ version of Europe, New York City by taking a 1.5 hour puddle jump ride. Out here in the good old, Wild West, it takes about 5-6 hours via plane to get from here to The City That Never Sleeps, and another 6-7 hours to get over the pond. And instead of knowing some of my favorite European destinations are just six, short hours ahead of me, they are now clocking in at about nine hours, which is practically an entire day.

Le grumble.

Fortunately, I am a positive person, and there are two sides to every coin: living here, I’m traveling distance via automobile, train or plane to some of the most wonderful places on earth, like Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Mammoth Mountain/Yosemite, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Carmel, San Francisco, California’s wine country and Viva Las Vegas, baby.

It almost makes up for the longer time travel trip to Europe.


So I ask you dear reader, what’s a girl to do who lives out west that possesses a European craving so fierce, even Sees’ dark chocolate isn’t satiating her craving? Does she splurge and buy a round trip ticket to some fascinating place in Europe, along with a 30-day Metro pass, so she can be sure and work-out her European fixation? Well, yes of course she does!

So, what’s the second best thing a girl can do to quench her European thirst if she’s tied to the California shore for a bit? I’m going to tell you! She discovers slices of Europe  in her own back yard. Here are just a few examples of European-influenced places I’ve found, thus far:


Oceanside, California – Mission San Luis Rey de Francia has Mosque-influenced architecture:

Old Mission San Luis Rey

You don’t think the Moors would have ever reached California, especially after the  Reconquista of Spain in 1492, when the Islamic Kingdom of Granada fell to the forces of  Christianity, but the architecture found in this mission say’s they did. Founded in 1798 by  Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, successor to Padre Junipero Serra, the Mission was named  after St. Louis IX, King of France, who lived during the 13th century. The church is recognized  as the most unique and one of the most beautiful in the mission chain. It is the largest of the 21  California missions and the only one adorned with a wooden dome and cupola. Unique also to  San Luis Rey are the side altars and the Madonna Chapel which originally served as a  mortuary chapel. This mission was built in the San Luis Rey (Spanish), or Saint Louis the King, was taught by the early Franciscans and is the patron of their 3rd order. He also was of Spanish blood on his mother’s side and died fighting in the Crusades. He was canonized in 1297.  4050 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA  92057 (760) 757-3651

A French Barn resides in Glendale, California:

French Connection

 According to an article I read in an on-line Magazine called, Westways,  in 1827, a man named Bauchet, who was a former officer of Napoleon  Bonaparte’s Old Guard, moved to Los Angeles, where he bought a  vineyard along present-day Bauchet Street. Later, a man named,  Vignes followed in 1831; he planted 104 acres of Bordeaux grapevines  on the current Union Station site, becoming one of California’s first  commercial winemakers. Vignes ushered in the first wave of French  immigrants, who were lured by California’s Mediterranean climate and  the promise of cheap land.

Note: so much has changed regarding those last two words around these parts.

Le Mesnager Barn offers visitors the closest thing in Southern California to an authentic French farmhouse. Using local river rock, the French Le Mesnager family built the barn in 1914 and used it to store grapes for their downtown Los Angeles winery. Today, the City of Glendale has restored the barn as part of Deukmejian Wilderness Park. Visitors can enjoy a short loop trail, picnic area, and spectacular views of the Crescenta Valley and Verdugo Mountains. A modest vineyard tended by the Stonebarn Vineyard Conservancy still produces a small amount of wine yearly.  3429 Markridge Road,  La Crescenta, CA.  1-818-548-3795

 Denmark has been relocated to Santa Barbara, California:


Solvang (Danish for ‘sunny field’) is a beautiful little city nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. Founded in 1911 by a small group of Danish teachers, Solvang now is a diverse, modern city, with fine restaurants, lovely shops and outstanding activities to enchant young and old alike. There are Danish festivals, quiet tree lined streets, horse drawn wagons, Hans Christian Andersen Park, windmills, Danish pastries and dozens of quaint shops to explore. Solvang was incorporated as a city on May 1, 1985 and now has a population of approximately 5,283. Solvang Chamber of Commerce | 805-688-0701 | P.O. Box 465, Solvang, CA 93464.

Happy Traveling!
Neve Black