Santa Ynez – Our Big Move to California + Our Summer in a Tiny Town

It seems that every time I sit to write a blog post now I want to start it off with “WOW! It has been so long since my last post. Time has really flown by!”… and indeed it has. We left our story in Santa Ynez…

Our Big Move to a Tiny Town

After our Ultimate 2 Week California Road Trip last year, we decided to stay put for a bit in the Golden State. Our original plan was to start in Southern California and make our way north taking different contracts along the way. We quickly realized that California was an awesome place to be and we weren’t the only ones who thought so. Turns out that finding travel Occupational Therapist contracts in lovely places like San Diego, Santa Barbara etc. is really freaking hard! Once therapists are in these positions and living in what many consider paradise, it seems like they never leave! Who can blame them?

Checking out the beaches in Santa Barbara

Checking out the beaches in Santa Barbara

So in the spirit of remaining open and positive, we decided to take a chance and take a contract near Santa Ynez, Ca. … Where?!? That was our reaction too and everyone else’s when I tell the story of where we lived last summer. We were a bit hesitant at first since this tiny town was a far cry from the big cities we had lived in and loved before. That summer we gave the place a shot and discovered it had many big surprises to offer.

Viewpoint near Cachuma Lake

Viewpoint near Cachuma Lake

Being the big city gal that I am, I was worried (after jogging around the whole main part of town in under 15 minutes) that there would be nothing to do out there in the valley but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Located about 45 minutes from Santa Barbara, this charming little place looks like it came straight out of a Hollywood Western (there’s even a real saloon in town!). Surrounded by wineries, breweries, superb eateries, vistas and even the world-famous “Little Denmark” (Solvang), Santa Ynez was a great introduction to life on the West Coast.

Our temporary place in Santa Ynez

Our humble abode in Santa Ynez — Can’t resist a good red door!

Over the summer we soon began adjusting to what I would consider “country living” as Santa Ynez reeled us in with its small town charm. The slower pace of life allowed us to do nothing and everything all at once. Those summer days were spent reading all kinds of books, picking up new hobbies, going on hikes and photographing some fantastic scenery.

Pick clouds in Santa Ynez

Warm afternoon skies

Clear full moon in Santa Ynez

Full moon in Santa Ynez

Spending a lazy Saturday driving up to see wildflowers bloom on Figueroa Mountain, meandering through the rolling hills surrounding us in the valley, or the simplicity of visiting the farmers market on a golden California afternoon were positive experiences that will be forever etched in my mind (That was some of the freshest produce I ever had in my life!).

Fresh fruits and veggies from the farmers market in Santa Ynez

Fresh from the farmers market — The best fruits and veggies!

Delicious figs from the market

Delicious figs from the market

If we ever got cabin fever, our little town of Santa Ynez was just a stone’s throw away from Solvang (nicknamed the area’s “little Disneyland”). Here we could admire decorative Danish inspired architecture, dive into a different culture, and stuff our faces with the most decadent Danish goodies (my mouth is watering just thinking about those aebleskivers). We met tourists from all over the world who came to marvel at this delightful Danish settlement.

Danish Days - Folk Dancers

Celebrating Danish Days in Solvang

Beers at Copenhagen Sausage Garden

Many Danish sausages and beers were happily consumed at Copenhagen Sausage Garden!

We also found ourselves visiting other wonderful neighboring towns Northwest of us such as Los Alamos, Buellton and the ever-enchanting Los Olivos—each tiny town offering up their own specialties. On any given weekend you could find us hopping around from one wine tasting room to the next in Los Olivos, trying out some good brews at Figueroa Mountain Brewing, visiting a real Ostrich farm along the highway in Buellton, sipping wine at local vineyards or even checking out the authentic western heritage of Los Alamos.

Los Olivos General Store

Los Olivos General Store

Saloon in Los Alamos

Western vibe in Los Alamos

Alamo Motel complete with a wine shop

Alamo Motel complete with a wine shop

Beer Emporium in Los Alamos- Numerous craft beers sold

Babi’s Beer Emporium in Los Alamos

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.- Inside the brewery

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.

Ostrich close up at Ostrich Land

Making new friends in Buellton at Ostrich Land

Vineyard grounds in Santa Ynez

Discovering vineyards in Santa Ynez

Enjoying an afternoon at Bridlewood Vineyards

Enjoying an afternoon at Bridlewood Vineyards

For a touch of nature, we hiked the Gaviota Caves, drove the scenic highway winding through Los Padres National Forest, soaked up the sun at local beaches and climbed the highest peeks in the area to get a glimpse of some of the best valley views.

Hiking up to Gaviota Caves

Hiking up to Gaviota Caves

Views from the top of Figueroa Mountain

Top of Figueroa Mountain

Driving through Los Padres National Forest

Driving through Los Padres National Forest

As our short but memorable summer in the valley drew to a close, we couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about our time in Santa Ynez. Even now, I reminisce about the warm earthy feel and summer glow that blanketed the valley. I am always amazed at how our time spent in this tiny town made such a huge impression on us.

Enjoying views of the valley- Santa Ynez Valley

Enjoying views of the valley

It finally rained on our last night in town (it had been an extremely dry summer and I was already beginning to think I would never see rain again!). It was the perfect send off and an introduction to what we were about to encounter next (hello fog and rain in the Bay area! … more on this later). Grateful for our experience, we once again packed our tiny car and rode off into the sunset. As we watched Santa Ynez fade slowly in our rear view mirror, we were headed North for even more adventure.