CALIFORNIA OR … DENMARK?

United States are so big and variegated, you sure already know. Few years ago someone told us about Solvang, a small town in California, Santa Barbara County, really particular. Why? Because in this tiny pretty town you seem to be teleported in a Denmark village.

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Solvang means “sunny field” in danish. The city infact was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the midwestern winters. The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the façades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. There is also a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenaghen.

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History tells us that, between 1850 and 1930, a considerable number of Danes left Denmark, which was suffering from poor economic prospects. According to some estimates, as many as one in ten Danes emigrated during this period, mostly to the United States. The most popular destinations for Danish settlers were States like Utah, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

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And now, let me tell you why you should visit it, maybe in a couple of hours, like we did. It’s true that it’s not a main attraction, but it’s funny to suddenly feel the sensation of not being in California anymore.
The architectures will surprise you: there are several windmills that have been converted into small businesses on many street corners. If you look carefully, there are storks perched above several buildings. Horse drawn carriages are a common sight in its streets. Businesses are linked close together and have wood trim on the facades, that are often in the form of a pattern, usually crisscrossed. This gives the city more character.

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If you want to taste something different, pastry shops and bakeries will be your main attraction: you’ll be pleased to find lots of Danish cookies and pastries to taste. If you love chocolate, you’ll find as well great shops: maybe a little pricey, but it’s normal for a touristic place, after all.

CITIES OF THE WORLD: SAN FRANCISCO

In this period I feel like I just want to travel: put something in the suitcase and leave for unknowed destinations . Maybe ’cause summer is arriving, and summer for me means the longest holidays in a year… Today I was thinking at my trip in California, three years ago, and I wanna share with you my photos and first impressions of San Francisco. I must say that for me it was love at first sight: I could live there one day.

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I think that San Francisco is renowned for its mixture of scenic beauty and unique culture that makes it one of the most vibrant cities in America, if not in the world. Great ethnic and cultural diversity shows itself in the city’s varied neighborhoods, from the crowded and exciting streets of Chinatown to the eclectic attitudes of the Castro Quartier. Each district of San Francisco carries its own unique and distinct culture.San Francisco prides itself on its openness to diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation and personal style.

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To understand the several souls of this city, you must know that it has been corrupted from several cultures: the first European settlement in the area was founded by the Spanish in 1776 as a mission community surrounding the Mission San Francisco de Asís, in what is today called the Mission Dolores in the Mission District. Upon gaining independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico.In 1846, the United States claimed this area “California”. Over the next couple of years, California officially became part of the United States following the Mexican-American War, and the name of the town was changed from Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

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In 1848 the California Gold Rush started in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Waves of fortune-seeking immigrants arrived by boat in San Francisco, increasing the City’s population from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands.But in 1906, a devastating earthquake shook the city and a resulting fire destroyed much of the city. After World War II, San Francisco continued to grow in population. Aggressive urban planning projects led to a changing skyline, with the city adding more highrises to its financial district. With the demographic increase, some problems arrive, like the uptake in the crime rate, and the increasing number of homeless people – a problem still exhisting nowadays -.

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Speaking of attractions, San Francisco is well-known for its Victorian architecture, particularly in the central and northern neighborhoods (e.g. Alamo Square,Castro, Nob Hill and Pacific Heights). The city has one of the most restrictive building and planning codes in the world, which helps preserve the historical architecture in certain areas.In many ways a boat is the ideal way to approach San Francisco. The city’s spectacular skyline is best appreciated from the water: we took the ferries running from San Francisco to Sausalito, which is a unique and picturesque community, perched on a hillside between the San Francisco Bay and the Marin Headlands.

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San Francisco as you surely know, has some famous “landmarks”: one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is the first thing you see of San Francisco if driving in from the north, as it is one of the major road routes into and out of the city. A classic view of the bridge is when it’s surrounded by a thick fog that covers the upper part of the bridge.

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Within the center of the city, the famous cable cars run up and down the hills of San Francisco between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf and offer quite a ride. We make a long queue to take it, but finally we took a great funny ride standing up on a side of the cable car… a beautiful way to visit San Francisco.

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We stopped ourselves near Chinatown, that today is part a “tourist trap”, part an exhibit of local life. Sure builduings and shops mantein a characteristic aspect, but it’s not that the Chinese community lives and makes errands daily only in this quarter.

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Most tourists start the tour of the city with Fisherman’s Wharf; it is a great place to see amazing street entertainers, watch sea lions at Pier 39, visit museums, or take a cruise to the infamous Alcatraz Prison or to the pleasant Angel Island. Working fishing boats still come into the small harbor here, and the district is home to several excellent seafood restaurants. Don’t miss the chance to eat the famous “clam chowder”,  a seafood and vegetables stew, served in sourdough bread bowls.

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Nearby at the top of Market Street is the Castro Quarter, the center of San Francisco’s Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Transgender (LGBT) community, with numerous theaters and small shops and restaurants. Next door is the Mission District, home to the Mission Dolores Church, one of the oldest structures in the city, and a fantastic collection of murals of all sorts on the walls of many nearby buildings.

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Always speaking of landmarks, don’t miss the chance to visit,in the Civic Center Area, the San Francisco City Hall, re-opened in 1915, in its open space area. It’s a Beaux-Arts monument that epitomized the high-minded American Renaissance of the 1880s to 1917.

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Another prominent tower nearby is the Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest and most recognizable building in the San Francisco skyline, located among the skyscrapers and highrises of the Financial District. Perhaps the most famous view of that skyline is from Alamo Square Park in the Western Addition district, home to the famous Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses, with many other pretty Victorians encircling the lovely park.

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