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USA: California: Bishop, Coloma, Hearst Castle, Laguna Beach, Lone Pine, Los Angeles, Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake, Monterey Bay, Palm Springs, Pismo Beach, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Solvang, Yosemite National Park
Pismo Beach & Solvang, California, USA: Another gem and a piece of Denmark
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
California’s Pacific Coastal highway has beautiful towns all along the road. In every town a visitor can spend hours or days depending upon the time available on hand. Pismo Beach is one such small community offering a great holiday.
I was on a 3 day mission trying to soak in as much as I could on the coast. After a whirlwind tour of Hearst Castle, I was hosted at Paso Robles Inn for the night. Paso Robles Inn is a historic hotel and probably the only of its kind in town. The hotel was built in 1890’s and was burnt down in 1940. It was restored to its original grandeur with special attention to gardens that are an integral part of the layout. And like all historical hotels, a story runs here too. Helen, daughter of the hotel’s accountant is believed to haunt the hotel albeit she is harmless. I was told room 1007 is her favourite. So when you are in Paso Robles you know which room not to look for… or insist for that matter.
Paso Robles is a town with 45,000 inhabitants. It boasts of 240 wineries in a 240 mile region. Day trips and overnight wine tours are quite popular from here. By the way, the town believes only in sustainable and locally raised ingredients – from Farm to Table is the concept. So much so that chains like Wal-Mart are there but are not allowed to stock meat, vegetables and groceries! This came as a pleasant surprise to me.
Pismo Beach is only 40 miles from Paso Robles. I left after breakfast at about 8:30AM and was at Pismo Beach at around 9:30AM. It’s a quiet beachside town with a population of only 8500 people. Yet it boasts of many hotels and activities to keep visitors busy. Highlight is Pismo Beach’s 26-mile beach of which almost 14 miles is drivable. This makes it the only of its kind in California.
I walked on the beautiful pier. Being a weekend and the weather favourable (which is usually the case for at least 300 days every year) scores of surfers and beach runners were in action. After spending about 45 minutes on the pier, I was ready to learn the craft of making Salt Water Taffy – simply put it’s a candy made from sugar and salt water.
What better way to learn the tricks of the trade than watch Robert, owner of Tomasko (California Coast Candy Company) located on Dolliver Street just across the beach. Robert has been making these candies for decades. Dough using fine sugar and salt water (not sea water) was prepared. It was rolled with red coloured dough to give the typical lining. And that’s it. The dough was passed through a machine that cut and wrapped the candy up. On checking I realized that the process looks simple but not everybody can get it right. Try it out. Tomasko is also famous for its ice-creams. A flavour ‘dark motor oil’ caught my fancy. Reading the name, one wouldn’t want to put the ice-cream in the mouth… I tried a scoop… it was dark chocolate. Yummy!
Quite like Salt Water Taffy, Cinnamon Rolls from Old West Cinnamon Roll Store has made Pismo Beach equally famous. The store bakes fresh cinnamon rolls on premise. I tried their basic roll. It went really well with coffee. The portion can easily make for a full breakfast. The store makes rolls with various combinations of toppings. On a good day they easily roll out over 1000 rolls. For those interested can buy readymade flour to bake the rolls at home.
After this little gourmet trip, I was ready to leave for Denmark… about 54 miles away from this beach town! Don’t get me wrong. I am referring to Solvang, a Danish community established in 1911. In the year of my visit the community was celebrating its 100th birthday. Henrik, His Royal Highness the Prince Consort of Denmark is expected to visit Solvang to take part in the centennial celebrations.
The local population stands at just 5000 but this town is home to over 2 million visitors every year. Solvang is easily accessible by road and rail. From Los Angeles airport, shuttle ply regularly. It’s only a two and a half hour drive. With Amtrak visitors can alight at Santa Barbara and can take a connecting bus to Solvang.
For the sake of records, you may want to know that Michael Jackson’s Neverland is just 13 miles away from Solvang. There used to be a sign on this 2800 acre land. However, the sign has been removed. Unless you know the exact location, it would be difficult to find. The plans to make Neverland a commercial venture (on the lines of Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis) has been turned down by the local county, since the land is in a residential zone.
The best way to enjoy the town is footing it. Or taking a 4-wheel tandem cycle that I would love to call a rickshaw. And that’s exactly what I did. I explored the main streets and while doing so made it a point to make a stop at Arne’s famous aebleskiver. The restaurant makes these ‘pancakes’ and the owner, 4th generation in business, made it a point to spend some time with me explaining the art. Simply put they are balls that are served hot, drenched in raspberry jam, and sprinkled with powder sugar. Eat it for breakfast, dessert, or an afternoon snack, an aebleskiver is good at any time during the day.
The next stop was at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery known for its butter cookies. They sell it by the bucket. I was good to taste just one cookie. I had pushed enough calories since morning. The day, I think was made for sweet samplings! But all was not over yet.
Santa Barbara was calling.
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