day tripping: a visit to ojai.
There must be a serenade called “I left my heart in Ojai”, because it seams to be really easy to leave your heart in this small town in California, only 45 minutes up-country from Santa Barbara. I’m not sure how Ojai got on my radar, probably through Instagram, but I’m glad it did. Few weeks ago we rented a car and drove all the way down on the Highway One for a long weekend of relaxing, bike riding, sleeping, lounging at the pool and some hiking. It’s one of those places where you, as soon as you cross the “welcome” sign, feel like you’re in a different time zone.
Everything moves slower, there are more locals on the streets than tourists, local stores are lined up in Spanish style houses -– they have this law that forbids chain stores -– and then there is this scent in the air. The scent of fresh tangerines & oranges. Ojai’s hills and valleys are full of groves growing the pixie tangerine — the sweetest of all tangerines. I lived on tangerines for 3 days. Not only is Ojai famous for the sweet fruit and the many spa hotels and pilates studios for your wellbeing – rumor has it, it’s the celebrities’ hidden getaway – but also for being a center for positive cosmic vibes, thus the calmness of the city and its people. My serenade penning about Ojai aside, I think it’s a really great place to relax and be present for a while.
Our weekend started at the Ojai Rancho Inn, an old motel turned into woodsy-cabin feel place with passion for detail and local artists. The husband and wife team behind Ojai Rancho Inn jazzed up the rooms with lots of wood elements, desert style details and vintage accents. Big cozy beds and woven leather beach chairs on the front porch invite you for some napping and reading time all day long. And if it’s too hot, you can take a dip at the pool, which we did a lot. Or jump on the complimentary bikes and take a ride along the bike path just behind the motel. Be prepared to share the path with horseback riding folks.
When the evening comes, you can enjoy some s’mores, wine or hot chocolate in the garden at the pool, warmed by fire pits. Next morning, it didn’t take us long to figure out where the place to go for breakfast, and for the next tree days we where regulars at the Knead Baking Company. I won’t tell a lot about this place, only that the freshly baked goods scent is competing with the tangerines one. Located in an old gas station under trees, this spot is perfect to fuel on energy and start your day right.
After the breakfast we hit the road to Shelf Road Hiking Trail. Hiker or not, I can recommend to take this small adventure and get lost in the hills, passing by orange groves and overlooking the Ojai Valley. The hike is done in less then two hours and you will be lightly exhausted. I know we should not steal, but I think, snitching one or two tangerines on your way is fine, they just taste so much better in their natural habitat. By the end of the trail you will find yourself in the residential area of Ojai. Beautiful homes, tree- and palm-lined with even more beautiful sculpture-like succulents and cacti abound. With slightly tired feet we needed a place to rest and have some lunch. Hip Vegan Café had everything we wanted –- a nice hidden patio, a big delicious salad and tasty lemonade. Their menu of salads and dressing — all home-made — is great, but be aware the big salad is really big, like big enough for two or big enough to have it for dinner too.
The next few hours we spent strolling the streets and stopping by at some local shops. The ones that especially caught my eye where Summer Camp and Modernfolk Living, both with a great selection on local artist. The bookworm in us will also be pleased with a stop at Bart’s Books — “world’s greatest” open air book store filled with aisles and aisles of books.
At some point the pool was calling us and we returned to our room, to relax and do nothing. I feel like, doing nothing is something we should try to do more often. Even if it’s only for an hour. Long nap and three pool dips later, abound 6pm, we drove up to the Meditation Mount to witness a breathtaking sunset over the hills. As the name already implies, it’s all about mediation and quietness up here. Visitors are welcome to spent time at the property, reflect, think, unwind or even have a picnic on the lawn, but to be respectful and mindful of others. The gardens of the Meditation Mountain are carefully cultured to relax not only your spirit but eye, too. We stayed there for about an hour and it’s one of the most, if not, the most quiet place I have ever been to.
On our way back we grabbed food from the local grocery store, the Westridge Market and enjoyed dinner in the backyard at Ojai Rancho Inn. Shorty after the sun was completely behind the horizon chilly temperatures moved in and we moved into our room. I think I took us only 3 minutes to fall asleep. So next time when you have some days off or you are road tripping trough California, maybe consider spending a day in Ojai. I bet after your visit you will want to write a serenade about it.
— until next time, ana — fluxi on tour.
• all photos and story by ana kamin, fluxi on tour.