When one thinks of Central to Sourthern California, one doesn’t usually think of Bavaria or Copenhagen. More likely you’d think of the Spanish influence, Mexican food or warm sunny beaches and palm trees. We don’t get snow –hardly ever (maybe a rare hail storm if that qualifies). Though we’ve got our quota of rain recently, even that’s not too common here. Certainly not similar to the climate you would expect to find in Northern Europe.
When I think of Bavarian-looking architecture here in California, the first place I think of is Disneyland. My family is going to be spending some time here this Holiday Season.
Yet all around us on the California Central Coast, we are surrounded by Bavarian-looking architecture (I like to call it Disneytecture) intermingled with the Spanish buildings with stucco walls and tile roofs. Handily, the Bavarian designs often have stucco and tile roofs too.
There are many examples of “Disneytecture” in Santa Maria:
Just down the road (about a 25 minute drive) is the town of Solvang. The town was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish immigrants looking for warmer weather than most of the other Danish pioneers that settled in the midwest in states like Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa that had weather similar to what they were accustomed to.
It is now a popular tourist destination in the center of wine country in the California central coast region that is just about a half-hour’s drive north of Santa Barbara. Solvang has lots of places to taste wine, but there are also plenty of other shops vending Danish pastries and other specialty foods including cheeses and sausages. There are lots of specialty shops there too from Christmas ornaments year-round and hand-made candles. One of my favorite places is this shop for ice cream, candy and GREAT coffee:
The Madonna Inn opened it’s doors about the same time that Disneyland did. To say there are similarities in the design is truly an understatement. It was created by real estate developer Alex Madonna for his wife Phyllis. “The Madonna Construction Company, under his leadership, was responsible for the construction of much of US 101 between Santa Barbara and Salinas between 1953 and 1970. In 1958, Bridges magazine named the bridge above the Twitchell Reservoir the most beautiful bridge in the country.” Alex passed away in 2004. Phyllis still lives in San Luis Obispo in a newly built house that looks not unlike the inn with organic-looking shingles on the roof made to look like thatching.
The rooms at the inn are themed to include unusual names such as the Yahoo, Love Nest, Old Mill, Kona Rock, Irish Hills, Cloud Nine, Just Heaven, Hearts & Flowers, Rock Bottom, Austrian Suite, Cabin Still, Old World Suite, Caveman Room, Elegance, Daisy Mae, Safari Room, Highway Suite, Jungle Rock, American Home, Bridal Falls and the Carin.
Several years ago one of the men’s restrooms of the inn became famous when it was featured on The Travel Channel’s Worlds Top 10 Most Unusual Bathrooms.
At Christmastime, many families like ours have made it a traditional trek to the Madonna Inn to view the over-the-top decorations in all their bravado and garishness. It’s never the same any given year. The food is OK. Well -except for the Black Forest Cake from their bakery that is out of this world!