Thursday, April 28, 2011

Joyeux anniversaire, Chanel no. 5

Next week, Chanel No. 5, one of the most iconic fragrances in the world, turns 90. A superstitious person, Coco Chanel planned for the new fragrance to be released on 5.5.1921. She believed "5" was her lucky number and she was proven right. It has been said that a bottle of Chanel No. 5 is sold every thirty seconds somewhere in the world. 

You may remember I am a huge fan of "Mademoiselle" and her remarkable career. Last December, while in Paris, I wrote a story about her.

This week, I had to work on an assignment for a travel writing class I am taking. Students were required to write a 250-word description of a location, an object, or a person. They were instructed to "avoid mundane adjectives, and [to] favor hyphenated adjectives, metaphors, analogies and anecdotes." In addition, the piece was to include "plenty of sense information (not just visual)." 

Well, mes amis, this is easier said than done. 

Two days ago, as I was going through my desk drawer looking for a paper clip, I found an old picture of Coco Chanel.  As soon as I looked at it, I knew I was going to write about "Mademoiselle." For over two hours, I struggled over the short description, fine-tuning every word. When I was finished, I emailed it to my instructor. She replied that afternoon.   I looked for her editorial comments in the margin where she often writes liberally. This time, I did not find corrections or suggestions. Instead, I read this paragraph, typed at the end of the story: 

Beautifully done.
Nice choice of details to share and nice use of some authorial analysis of things like her pose in the photo. Great photo too, of course. This could easily be the placard to go with this photo in a museum.

I confess this student felt very proud.  If the piece was good enough for my demanding writing instructor, it will make a fitting tribute to Chanel No. 5. I hope you enjoy reading it. Madame Chanel, merci, once again, for inspiring another good story. 

Joyeux Anniversaire, Chanel No. 5!

In this old sepia picture taken by Richard Avedon at the end of her life, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) stands next to one of her models. “Mademoiselle” is well into her seventies, and in the later years of her impressive career, but she appears as elegant, determined and daring as ever.  Defiant, the dark-haired, slender woman looks straight into the camera lens, the ubiquitous cigarette dangling from the corner of her thin mouth. In a casual pose, her left hand is perched on the young model’s shoulder, while her right hand is nonchalantly tucked into her skirt pocket. This is a manly pose, a sharp contrast with her chic and feminine outfit. She is wearing Chanel garb:  Monochromatic palette, signature tweed suit, hat, pearls, and a few carefully selected accessories.  Unusual and exceptional, as always, she carries herself with aplomb. This is Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, French icon, designer, business woman, rebel, trend-setter and survivor doing what she does best: Impersonating a tough cookie. She is savoring the moment. Is this a smile peeking on her perfectly made up lips? While looking at the faded picture, one can almost detect a whiff of Chanel No. 5, her eponymous best selling fragrance. The legend says she had instructed her associates to spray the perfume around her Paris office every morning before she arrived. What Mademoiselle wanted, Mademoiselle got. She once said: “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” Mission accomplished, Madame Chanel.

-- French Girl in Seattle.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A quick trip to the ice-cream store

Has spring finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest? For those of you who do not know the Washington coast, this is the time of year when even locals start complaining about the weather [a lot.] No more of that "Ah, rain! It is liquid sunshine, you know!" Everyone is just desperate for sun and natural light. Every year, the 3-month stretch between spring break and July 5th tests all Northwesterners, and separates the men from the boys. Why July 5th? Many Seattleites are under the impression that the weather magically changes overnight after July 4th. It is Seattle's Declaration of Independence. On July 5th, they claim, the Emerald City resolutely dismisses clouds, cool temperatures and rain; stands up; stretches; and starts shining and delighting pasty and exhausted locals. Voilà: They have survived another Northwest winter and spring.

Imagine the collective waves of happiness when the weatherman predicted o.n.e. sunny day this weekend, just in time for Easter. You'd better believe we were all ready to get out, spend time outdoors and celebrate. 

This French girl decided to welcome spring by renewing with a favorite tradition: ice cream from Mora Iced Creamery. Une excellente idée: Mora ice cream can only be found on Bainbridge island, one of the largest islands in the Puget Sound, and our family's favorite sailing destination for short weekends. What is so special about Mora ice cream? Everything. It is old world style ice cream at its best, prepared in small batches with natural ingredients. They offer at least seven different chocolate flavors, but my favorite, always, is dulce de leche. I digress.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you may remember that it takes a while to leave our suburban piece of Heaven to reach Seattle, and ultimately Elliott Bay marina, where our sailboat, Mistral, is docked year round. A day like today, we do not mind taking the long drive, because if we get stuck in le trafic somewhere along the way, there are many breathtakingly beautiful sights to keep us company.

Crossing the 520 bridge with the snow-capped
Olympic mountains in the distance

Seattle skyline, Space Needle and Cascade mountains

Cause for celebration: "The Mountain (Mount Rainier) is out!"

Today was perfect sailing weather. A gentle breeze pushed Mistral and her crew across Elliott Bay towards Bainbridge island. Ahhh, sun!

A lot less traffic on the water than on the 520 bridge

Les Boys, goofing around on the bow

Junior "fishing"

Enjoying the best seat in the house

After less than an hour, Mistral entered Eagle Harbor, the main port on Bainbridge island. Most visitors and commuters arrive on the island on one of the green and white ferries operated by the State of Washington. With 20 boats, this is the largest fleet of passenger and automobile ferries in the United States, and the third largest in the world. When Le Husband and I moved here after leaving Paris, we immediately fell in love with the green giants and traveled with them all over the Puget Sound area. One remarkable feature of WA. state ferries is the double-ended open vehicle decks, located at each end so they do not need to turn around. 

Ferry passengers are boarding as we enter Eagle Harbor

Open vehicle decks on both sides of the ferry
Eagle Harbor and the sleepy town of Winslow, Bainbridge Island

Once at Eagle Harbor, Le Husband expertly tied up Mistral at the public dock. Junior and I did not waste time and headed to downtown Winslow to buy our ice cream. We were not the only ones there but we lined up in civilized (a.k.a. American) fashion. Ten minutes later, we left, with one 8 oz cup of espresso-mocha ice cream, one pint [to be on the safe side] of dulce de leche, and one root beer float for Junior. It was really starting to feel like spring.

Ah, Mora. I have missed you so!

Mistral waits for her crew at the Eagle Harbor public dock

Le Skipper and Mistral, our gorgeous 22-spring old girl

Forget diamonds: Dulce de leche is a girl's best friend!

It was getting late and it was time to head back to Seattle. We said goodbye to our new friends, a brave couple who risked pneumonia while paddle-boarding, a trendy water sport.

Notice pasty legs, commonly found on the area's natives

Madame Paddle-boarder

Brave souls or future popsicles?

Little did we know, as Mistral left the harbor, that we were about to experience our first "adventure" of the sailing season. Even though Le Husband sails year round, rain or shine (rain, more often than shine), Junior and I are fair-weather boaters. We had not been on board for several months when we took off today, and we found out the hard way that we were all a bit "rouillés." (rusty)

I will make a long story short and summarize today's events.

1. Boats enjoy fresh air like the rest of us. After aerating for 15 minutes, skipper and crew should make a mental note to close all hatches and portholes on board.

2. Once underway, check that all hatches and portholes have been securely fastened

3. Even if the water is calm, and the cruise a short one, check all hatches and portholes again.

Leaving Eagle Harbor: Notice open hatch above Junior's cabin

4. When skipper notices a GIGANTIC wake, likely created by tanker returning to the Seattle harbor, rushing towards Mistral across the Puget Sound, all crew members should, once again, remember to check all hatches and portholes.

5. Crew should refrain from laughing and shouting "YEE-HAW" while riding the mini-tsunami until they have checked that all hatches and portholes have been securely fastened.

6. Too late. Gigantic wake has entered boat through open hatch and portholes and left several inches of salty water in front cabin. 

7. Return to port and spend the rest of the afternoon soaking up water, drying gear, linens, and doing laundry. Next time, CLOSE THE @#$& HATCHES AND PORTHOLES!

Hey, you in the red! It was you, wasn't it?

Bienvenue, le printemps! Welcome, spring!

A bientôt...

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Tous pour un. Un pour tous"

This is an article en français for strong intermediate students.  As always, look for a translation at the end of the story. This article is important to me.  A Toulouse native,  I grew up in the Southwest ("le Sud-Ouest").  My grand-parents lived in a small town 30 miles away from Auch (mentioned in this story) and I spent many summers in Gascony.  My family relocated all over France.  Later on,  I moved to the United States and started a family of my own.  Still,  I remember where I am from,  and I like to think that where I am from is Gascony,  d'Artagnan and Cyrano de Bergerac's land.  Mon pays.  Bonne lecture. 
--- French Girl in Seattle

D'Artagnan rencontre les trois mousquetaires...
Aujourd'hui, j'aimerais vous raconter une histoire. C'est un récit d'amitié et de courage, comme on les aime, avec des personnages hauts en couleur, de l'aventure, de l'action, des rebondissements... C'est l'histoire de d'Artagnan et de ses amis, Athos, Porthos et Aramis, mousquetaires du roi Louis XIII (1601-1643). 

"Les Trois Mousquetaires" est sans doute un des romans les plus célèbres de la littérature française. Son héros, d'Artagnan, est connu dans le monde entier. Des acteurs renommés ont interprété le rôle de d'Artagnan à l'écran. Depuis 1912, plus de 20 films ont été réalisés, en France et aux Etats-Unis, sur le sujet. Il y a aussi des dessins animés, des bandes dessinées, des pièces de théâtre. Clairement, "les Trois Mousquetaires" est une histoire qui a inspiré (et continue d'inspirer) plusieurs générations.

Une version américaine des Trois Mousquetaires,
avec Douglas Fairbanks, dans un film muet de 1921
Gene Kelly est d'Artagnan en 1948
Mickey, Goofy et Donald sont les Trois Mousquetaires en 2004 
Chris O'Donnell est d'Artagnan en 1993.
Charlie Sheen (que t'est-il arrivé, Charlie?) est Aramis!

Les aventures des trois mousquetaires fascinent le public dans le monde entier. Les thèmes illustrés dans cette histoire (amitié, loyauté, bravoure) sont universels. En France, "Les Trois Mousquetaires" a une résonnance particulière. 

Tout a commencé quand Alexandre Dumas Père a écrit un livre intitulé "Les Trois Mousquetaires", publié en France comme un feuilleton dès 1844. Une légende était née, ou au moins, le roman de cape et d'épée par excellence (the swashbuckling historical romance par excellence). Il s'agit en fait d'une série de trois romans car "Les Trois Mousquetaires" a été suivi de deux autres volumes, "Vingt Ans Après" (1845) et "Le Vicomte de Bragelonne" (1847).

Dans le premier volet de l'histoire, nous découvrons les aventures d'un jeune Gascon pauvre de 18 ans, qui cherche fortune à Paris.  Il rencontre Athos, Porthos et Aramis, trois mousquetaires du roi Louis XIII. D'Artagnan les rejoint et ils deviendront ses amis. Ensemble, ils connaitront de nombreuses aventures, au service du roi de France.

La statue de d'Artagnan à Auch, dans le sud de la France
D'Artagnan est gascon. Le détail est important. La Gascogne est une ancienne province du sud-ouest de la France. Elle se est délimitée par les Pyrénées au sud, l'Océan Atlantique à l'Ouest, et la Garonne (rivière) au nord. Cette région (aujourd'hui incorporée en partie dans les régions du Midi-Pyrénées et de l'Aquitaine) a toujours eu une forte identité culturelle et historique. Pendant longtemps, on y parle un dialecte local. Jusqu'au 17ème siècle, les Gascons se considèrent comme un peuple distinct des Français. La capitale historique de la Gascogne est la belle ville d'Auch.

L'ancienne province française de Gascogne (en vert sur la carte)
L'Armagnac: une spécialité gasconne

Le confit de canard: autre spécialité locale
Les Gascons ont toujours eu la réputation d'être des personnages hauts en couleur. Des Gascons célèbres sont D'Artagnan et Cyrano de Bergerac (qui ont tous les deux existé avant de devenir des personnages de fiction dans la littérature française) sont des Gascons célèbres. Cyrano, en particulier, est un Gascon typique: Généreux, fidèle en amitié et en amour, exubérant et jovial, il peut aussi se révéler impatient, impulsif, colérique et même violent. Très indépendant, il aime avoir le dernier mot. 

Les rois de France (Louis XIII et Louis XIV en particulier), ont compris et utilisé le courage et la loyauté des Gascons. Dès le 15ème siècle, les familles nobles de la région mettent leurs plus jeunes fils au service du roi, dans un régiment d'élite, "Les Cadets de Gascogne" (Cyrano de Bergerac en fait partie). 

Dans le roman "Les Trois Mousquetaires", le jeune d'Artagnan arrive à Paris et devient mousquetaire du roi Louis XIII. Les mousquetaires sont un corps militaire de fantassins. Ils sont armés de mousquets, ancêtre du fusil, d'où leur nom, "mousquetaires". Ils constituent un corps spécial qui appartient à la Garde Royale. Les mousquetaires sont très proches du roi et de sa famille. C'est donc un grand honneur de rejoindre leurs rangs!

Galant, homme d'honneur, noble, fidèle, fine lame, et souvent héroïque, le mousquetaire était destiné à devenir une légende. On aime son caractère sympathique et attachant, même s'il est souvent impétueux, querelleur, et très indépendant. 

D'Artagnan et ses amis Athos, Porthos et Aramis, symboles des mousquetaires français, sont populaires parce qu'ils représentent depuis plus d'un siècle des valeurs universelles. Leur célèbre devise ("Un pour tous. Tous pour un") est souvent adoptée par des associations caritatives, des organisations (par exemple la Résistance française pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale), pour faire appel à la solidarité et à l'unité. 

En 2011, ces valeurs sont toujours d'actualité. Vous ne serez sans doute pas surpris d'apprendre qu'une nouvelle version cinématographique des "Trois Mousquetaires" sortira sur les écrans à l'automne 2011. Il s'agit d'une co-production européenne et américaine avec le jeune acteur Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson!) dans le rôle de d'Artagnan. Il est bien entouré par Matthew McFadyen, Christopher Waltz et Orlando Bloom, entre autres. Je ne sais pas ce que vous en pensez, mais Alexandre Dumas, Cyrano de Bergerac et (le vrai) d'Artagnan seraient probablement choqués par les effets spéciaux (et la technologie 3D) dans cette nouvelle version... A suivre...

A bientôt!

English translation: 
Photo: D’Artagnan meets the three musketeers

I would like to tell you a story today. It is a tale of friendship and courage, with colorful characters, adventure, and an action-packed plot. It is the story of d’Artagnan and his friends, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, musketeers under French King Louis XIII (1601-1643).

“The Three Musketeers” is undoubtedly one of the most famous novels in French literature. The hero, d’Artagnan, is well known around the world. Famous actors have played the role of d’Artagnan on the big screen. Since 1912, more than 20 musketeer movies have been directed in France and in the United States. There have also been cartoons, comics, and plays. Clearly, “The Three Musketeers” is a story that has inspired (and continues to inspire) several generations.

Photo: A silent American version of the Three Musketeers with Douglas Fairbanks (1921)

Photo: Gene Kelly is d’Artagnan in 1948.

Photo: Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck and Goofy are the Three Musketeers in 2004.

Photo: Chris O’Donnel is d’Artagnan in 1993. Charlie Sheen (whatever has happened to you, Charlie?) plays Aramis.

The Three Musketeers’ adventures captivate audiences around the world. The themes illustrated in the story (friendship, loyalty, bravery) are universal ones. “The Three Musketeers” touches a special cord with French people.

It all started when Alexandre Dumas Sr. wrote a story entitled “The Three Musketeers”. It was originally serialized and released in 1844. A legend was born, or at the very least, the swashbuckling historical romance par excellence. “The Three Musketeers” was followed by two more books, “Twenty Years Later” (1845) and “The Viscount of Bragelonne” (1847).

In the first part of the trilogy, we discover the story of a poor 18-year old Gascon who seeks his fortune in Paris. He meets Athos, Porthos and Aramis, three of the King’s musketeers. D’Artagnan joins them and they become his friends. Together, they will experience many adventures while serving King Louis XIII.

Photo: D’Artagnan’s statue in Auch, Southern France

D’Artagnan is a Gascon. This is an important detail. Gascony is a former province in Southwestern France. The Pyrenees in the South, the Atlantic Ocean in the West, and the Garonne river in the North border it. Today, Gascony has been incorporated into the Midi-Pyrénées and Aquitaine administrative regions. Gascony has always boasted a strong cultural and historical identity. For a long time, the Gascon dialect was the only language spoken there. Until the 17th century, locals were referred to as “Gascons”, not as “French”. The historical capital of Gascony is the beautiful city of Auch.

Photo: Former Gascony province (green on the map)

Photo: Armagnac brandy, a local specialty

Photo: Duck confit, another local specialty

Gascons have always been a colorful people. Famous Gascons include d’Artagnan and Cyrano de Bergerac (both actually existed before they became fictional heroes in French literature). Cyrano, in particular, is a typical Gascon: generous, loyal to his friends, exuberant and jovial, he can also be impatient, impulsive, irascible and even violent.  Resolutely independent, he likes having the last word.

French Kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV understood and used the Gascons’ loyalty and courage. As early as the 15th century, noble families from Gascony put their younger sons at the King’s service, in an elite corps, “The Cadets of Gascogne” (Cyrano de Bergerac is a famous Cadet).

In “The Three Musketeers”, young d’Artagnan arrives in Paris and becomes a musketeer. Musketeers are infantry soldiers. They are named after the muskets they carry (muskets are ancestors of the rifle.) They are a Junior unit within the Royal Guard. Musketeers are very close to the king and his family. It is a great honor to join them!

Photo: Musketeers.

Gallant, honorable, noble, loyal, skilled swordsman and often heroic, the musketeer was bound to become a legend. It is easy to fall in love with his endearing personality, even if he is often impetuous, quarrelsome and fiercely independent.

D’Artagnan and his friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis, symbols of French Musketeers, are popular because they have embodied universal values for over a century. Their famous motto (“One for all. All for one”) is often adopted by charities and organizations (for example the French Resistance during WWII) appealing to solidarity and unity.

In 2011, these values are still relevant. You will not be surprised to hear that a new movie version of “The Three Musketeers” will come to a theater near you in the fall of 2011. It is a Euro/American co-production with young actor Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson himself!) playing d’Artagnan. Supporting cast includes Matthew McFadyen (Pride and Prejudice), Christopher Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), and Orlando Bloom, among others.  I don’t know if you agree, but Alexandre Dumas, Cyrano de Bergerac and (the real) d’Artagnan might be shocked by the special effects (and 3D technology) in this new version… To be followed.

A bientôt!

Video: "The Three Muskateers" - Trailer

Friday, April 8, 2011

Merci, Weather-Gods! (California '11 - #8)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what palm trees
 and a California sky are supposed to look like!

I knew that rainy weather could not last. This is Santa Barbara after all. Thank you, Weather-Gods, for hearing my prayer last night. Mind you, you could have worked a little harder and warmed up temperatures too (56F at 11:00am hardly qualifies as Santa Barbara weather), but, hey, the sun is good enough. I'm from Seattle. I'm not that picky. 

We made the most of today, wearing fun new sweatshirts purchased at the local surf shop to fight off the chill in the air. The sweatshirts are very cozy and have fleece inside-- a fabric we are very familiar with in the Pacific Northwest. We tried to pick colors that would not look totally out of place in Seattle. How many people buy these fun Hawaiian prints on vacation only to realize later they have no place to wear them?

Anyhow, the day started in a small town near Santa Barbara, Carpinteria. We found a pristine beach, lined up by quaint little bungalows. Les Boys had fun playing Frisbee in the nearby park. 

I loved looking at the trees! We saw some of the tallest palm trees we have met on this trip. It turns out Carpinteria is well known for its giant palm trees! 

We walked around peaceful streets, lined up with beautiful parasol pine trees... 

There were also a few interesting homes... Look at this specimen. A famous actor was looking down on us from the second floor. Do you recognize him? There were also ceramic animals looking out each window, cats, dogs, owls... a real ménagerie

After a quick lunch in posh Montecito, we headed back to our home base, Santa Barbara. Before we left Montecito, I stepped in a boutique wearing my nicest denim jacket (adorned with a denim flower), jeans, a matching scarf, and still felt like "Pretty Woman" a.k.a. Julia Roberts when she goes shopping on Rodeo Drive and meets snotty sales people who give her the once-over. First time on this trip I ever felt so out of place. The only reason I got into the boutique was the name, "Maison K". Nothing in that store was French, and least of all the shopkeeper and her two customers. They would have looked overdressed even on Les Champs-Elysées! An interesting encounter with "Les Montecito Betties", certainly (better to stick to surf shops while I am down here).

Early afternoon, we braved the wind and took a long walk on the Santa Barbara pier where things were more laid-back.

Junior had fun looking at sailboats, the occasional seal, seagulls, and whatever it is that little boys enjoy looking at when they walk by the ocean...

"A cannon! Jackpot!"

Learning about that J. P. Stearns guy

"Where did that darn seagull go?"
La voilà!
We spent the rest of the day enjoying Santa Barbara. Some fun time in the hotel (outdoor) pool for Les Boys; some strolling downtown for moi.

For dinner, we could not resist and had to pick a local French bistro. The name is adorable : "Le Petit Valentien". They do not have a website, so I could not check their menus beforehand.  I was comforted by the fact that most online reviews of the place were promising.

1114 State Street and Figueroa - Santa Barbara
The restaurant is tucked away in a charming alleyway off of State Street, La Arcada. It is a very small room and reservations are highly recommended. The food is "fusion French", or French dishes with a creative twist! They gave us one of the two tables upstairs, overlooking the room. From there, we could watch the old Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall classic, "The Big Sleep", projected on the wall. Next to us was a guy playing the piano... Wonderful atmosphere. 

Le Petit Valentien (courtesy of Le Husband's iPhone)

Ah, Bogart!
Our friendly and efficient waiter was a Will Turner look-alike (that's Orlando Bloom, for the non-movie fans), lucky moi! The food was spectacular and prices more than fair for the neighborhood. I ordered frogs legs (lightly fried and served on a red pepper coulis), and an escargot-filled crêpeA French girl's got to do what a French girl's got to do, after all. 

Cuisses de grenouille - Crêpe aux escargots

Dessert came too early. So did the check. We could have all stayed longer. Le Husband and I decided that if we lived in Santa Barbara, le Petit Valentien would become our "cantina", an easy thing to do since menus change daily. 

We will be sad to leave California in the morning. This has been an excellent week, with visits to some old hunting grounds, but also surprises and discoveries along the way. Tomorrow, we will drive along the Coast towards Los Angeles, and will probably make a stop in Malibu. There is a mall there, and a playground, where Junior has played several times since he was born. It's become a family tradition and he will probably refuse to go back after this trip. He is getting older, you see. 

One last note to thank all our friends, in Seattle and elsewhere, who have emailed, called, or Facebook-ed (if that's a verb) their suggestions along the way. This trip was made all the more entertaining thanks to you. As for me, I have had a wonderful time telling the story of our travels along the California Coast. Several posts will be used, and edited, and (no doubt) improved during the travel writing class I am currently taking. 

Merci et à bientôt...

Au revoir, Californie!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A sad day for palm trees... (California '11 - #7)

Lonely palm trees in Pismo Beach

The rain is back! A few raindrops were falling when we left SLO this morning. By the time we drove out of Pismo Beach around lunch time, it was officially raining. We expected it, so we weren't too disappointed about it. Still, after five days spent outdoors in the California sun and temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to the low 80s, it was hard. I did take pictures today, but my heart was not into it. There is something terribly sad about looking at palm trees in the rain. When we go on field trips in Seattle, I take pictures anyway. If you wait for the sun to shine to shoot away, you would never use your camera. Here in California, it is different. 

As I have just mentioned, our first stop of the day was a surf town, a.k.a. Pismo Beach. Le Husband always stops by on his way along the California Coast to walk on the pier and get a T-shirt at the local surf shop. Rain or no rain, a tradition is a tradition. Le Husband is adaptable, so instead of a T-shirt, he invested in a warm sweat-shirt because of Le silly weather.

Junior is a good sport and keeps the troops' morale high!
After Pismo Beach, we got back on Highway 101. It took us to our next destination, Buellton, a small town in Santa Barbara County, CA. Fewer than 5,000 people live in Buellton and I had honestly never heard about it until I watched the 2004 movie "Sideways". 

We had another reason to stop in Buellton today. Friends had highly recommended Andersen's Pea Soup as "one of the Central Coast's best kept secrets". Some of you may know what I am talking about. Others probably don't. Let me tell you: I just l.o.v.e.d. our visit chez Andersen!

This is a restaurant that sits in a building the exact same color as split pea soup! Even though there are other more "traditional" items on the menu (salads, hamburgers), the reason people really go to Andersen's is... you guessed it: Split pea soup. Mine came in a bread bowl with all the trimmings to turn it into a delicacy. Miam! (Yum!). I love a good split pea soup and Andersen's is excellent!

Split pea soup does not photograph that well,
but it is so easy to eat!
Andersen's: A piece of Americana!
I learned on the menu that Andersen's was created by a Danish man and his French wife. (Who would have guessed?) They opened the first restaurant in 1924 and today, Andersen's serves over two million bowls of soup each year! Incroyable! A true American success story, the company runs a profitable mail order business and the number of pea soup-related knick-knacks at the gift shop tells me that they have fans all over the United States - maybe all over the world!

After Andersen's, we made a quick stop in Solvang, CA, another town made famous by the movie "Sideways". I was not as impressed with Solvang as I should have been. 

1. The rain was falling hard when we drove through town.

2. There is a similar place in Washington state named Leavenworth. Even though Solvang is a Danish town and Leavenworth a Bavarian town, they seem to be related. Granted Solvang has several windmills, but both towns share quaint streets lined with boutiques, souvenir shops, eateries and pastry shops. Both towns hold Bavarian/Danish festivals. Both towns are big tourist attractions. 

I said I was not inspired today. I did take a couple of pictures of Solvang buildings and streets but my favorite is this photo... 

Danish dog in an American truck?
Our last destination for the day was Santa Barbara, CA. This is not our first visit. We both love Santa Barbara and this charming city never fails to remind us of the French Riviera. Let me tell you a secret: One does not expect rain when visiting the French Riviera. One does not expect rain when visiting Santa Barbara either. Unfortunately, the wet stuff and cool temperatures stayed with us all afternoon. We made the best of it: We checked into our hotel (overlooking more sad looking palm trees, bullied by the wind and rain), drove around town, walked to the local Yacht Club, had dinner downtown. We finally gave up around 8:30pm and retired for the night. 

Les Boys entertain themselves with old palm fronds

To quote Scarlett O'Hara at the end of "Gone with the Wind": "After all, tomorrow is another day." We hope the weather finally cooperates but if it doesn't, we will make do. You don't live in Seattle, WA for fifteen years and stop living when it starts raining. I guess after all that time, these French people have finally turned into true North Westerners!

In case the Weather-Gods are reading this blog, this is what we expect to see in the morning when we wake up (and if the thermometer could go past 60F, it would be wonderful too)...

A bientôt, yours truly, 
French Girl / Scarlett