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Exploring the Danish Village of Solvang

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Whenever we road trip to Santa Barbara for a long weekend, it's customary for us to stop at Solvang along the way - "A little slice of Denmark in Southern California". This historic Danish village tucked into the Santa Ynez Valley hills 45 minutes north of our destination provides more than just a much-needed pit stop; it offers authentic food, drink, and shopping that transports us to the quaint streets of Denmark for an afternoon. The Danish-inspired architecture completes the convincing experience, with every restaurant, shop, and hotel sporting dark, decorative crossbeams in the classic medieval style.

Don't have time to fly to Denmark to see how real Danish folks live? Then come have a bite with us as we explore Solvang, the next best thing.

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All that driving will make anyone hungry! We stopped at Solvang Brewing Company for an adorable pig-shaped charcuterie board as a salty pick-me-up before testing the sweeter fare at bakeries and confection shops around town.

Here a guide for making your own incredible charcuterie board.

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Iconic windmill at the Solvang Brewing Company restaurant, one of several windmills in Solvang.

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My brother Josh and his new Viking friend.

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It's Christmas year-round in Solvang at Jule Hus Christmas Shop, where you can admire hundreds of fragile ornaments and buy a few to decorate your family's holiday tree. My favorite ornaments are the ones that look like little cakes and candies.

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Pastel confections with surprise cake centers, found at Mortensen's Danish Bakery.

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Some flags from European countries - white with blue cross is Finland, red with white/blue cross is Norway, red with white cross is Denmark, blue with yellow cross is Sweden, green/white/red flag is Italy.

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Have you ever had these before? They're called ebelskivers (roughly pronounced "able-skee-vers") - round Danish pancakes filled with wonderful things such as fruit jam, spiced apples, or even Nutella. Their special shape makes them super fun to eat, especially a la mode. The funny-looking cast iron pan below pops out these warm delicacies with the flick of a wrist. Here's an article showing how they're made.

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We stopped for coffee and an authentic Danish pastry from the Danish Mill Bakery & Coffee Shop.

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Savtap Winery at Hamlet Square

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We couldn't resist tasting the caramel apples, fresh pecan turtles, and honey sticks at Old Danish Fudge Kitchen.

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Palm trees everywhere - this is still California, after all.

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Swedish Candy Factory, makers of Polkagris (literally translated to "polka pig"), which are long sticks of hard Swedish taffy that get softer as you chew them. I loved the Tutti Fruity version, but dozens of other flavors were for sale, such as peppermint, sour apple, mango, and root beer. Apparently, the Polkagris is rolled out by hand on a table made from a bowling-alley floor, as is tradition in Sweden. Fascinating!

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At the Swedish Candy Factory, the kind store keeper gave us a free taste of double salt liquorice, a traditional candy from places like Holland, Germany and the Nordic countries. Let's just say, those sweets were not for me. I usually love American black licorice, so I popped one into my mouth with great expectation, but immediately regretted it. Double salt? More like quadruple salt! This liquorice was SO salty, it was burning my tongue like an acid. I ran outside and spit it into the street. Not a cool reaction, and the store keeper's face told me "get out of here," so we left, mortified but also cracking up at this candy that tasted like torture. That said, if you ever get the chance, you need to try it for yourself!

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For the young ones who may not know, these are called postcards. They're like Instagram, but on paper. You send them to your friends and family through the mail, which is like a DM, but slower. Get it?

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Thanks for touring Solvang with us! Grab some aged cheese from The Vinhus before you go; we certainly did! It doesn't get more European than that.

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