Subject: Re: Santa Barbara Area
Hi Ziners-- I live near Solvang, and both I and my family have stayed at the Royal Scandinavian. It has fairly standard rooms, is neat and clean, has a very nice lobby area with a fire, and very friendly staff. The most desirable rooms are at the rear of the building on the top floor with a view of the mountains and the valley. There is a restaurant onsite--Meadows--which has reasonably priced meals. There is a vacation timeshare that is still being constructed, but it is about two blocks away, and it's doubtful that you will be able to hear it.

Solvang is a nice village for walking, and there are now at least 5 tasting rooms in the village alone. However, it would really be a shame if you missed the dozens of wineries out in the countryside which tend to be a little bit cheaper and a whole lot prettier. You can pick up a map of the "wine trail" at the Solvang Chamber of Commerce, probably a 10-15 minute walk from your hotel (if you're kind of ambling along--not forced march). Rusack winery is hands-down the best one for a picnic lunch--you will be hard-pressed to find a more serene, beautiful location.

The small town of Los Olivos has a number of wineries on the main drag, but if time is pressing, I would go to Wine Country (heading north into town, go right at the flagpole, on your left just before the coffee shop)-- there you can sample a number of different wineries' products. The Fess Parker hotel in Los Olivos is terribly un-PC right now, but I admit to their having a very nice dinner menu in their bistro, Intermezzo, which is actually a branch of a Santa Barbara restaurant. Oh, the Ballard Country Inn also has wine tasting--wide variety. If you like reds, do not miss either Foxen or Foley. Andrew Murray in Los Olivos is also good, but they are very much in love with the whole Sideways thing (a mixed blessing for the valley).

Do try the danish pastry while you are in Solvang-- Mortensen's has the most delightful cinnamon raisin bun--get one with lots of frosting! VERY crowded on weekends. If you're going to do wine-tasting, get your carb-load at Paula's Pancake House, but do it early--also gets very crowded on weekends. If you sit at the counter, you might get to chat up some interesting folks though--and avoid the long wait--we met a man there who ran a little operation with John Wayne, sending bulls to Saudi Arabia.

I realize that I could fill way too much space with this, so if you have any questions, I'd be happy to help. I also have numerous pix of the valley.