I think the great opportunity in traveling happens when you truly immerse yourself wherever you are. Being open to the natural movement of a place, immersing yourself in traditions built over many years and getting in the spirit of a particular way of life is how you come to see the world with new eyes. I believe in celebrating the intricacies of a culture and figuring out what makes a place tick. There’s a rarity to every culture, and I feel a responsibility to preserve those through these stories and not detract from them.
My travel stories aren’t meant to be comprehensive nor are they meant to be a complete guide of must do’s but rather a reveal into a place that spoke to me and perhaps might speak to you and inspire you to visit or find a place that evokes emotion as these places do for me.
I hope you enjoy this new series of stories.
Just under a two hour drive from Los Angeles, tucked away between hills and mountains in a valley originally settled by the ancient Chumash Indians, lies Ojai.
Growing up I’d heard about it; hearing more about their hot springs than anything else. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started to hear stories of it’s beauty and charm.
It took quite some time and a last minute canceled trip to Mexico and an overwhelming sense of needing to get away and recharge to impulsively book a stay at the Ojai Valley Inn.
My photographer Felicia and I showed up mid-day. The air was warm the grounds were beautiful and the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming. You know those places that instantly speak to you? That make you feel like you’ve belonged there all along? That was Ojai Valley Inn for me.
We quickly unpacked and were eager to adventure the property.
To give a brief history; the Chumash Indians believed that the valley in which Ojai lives held mystical powers. It’s a place they felt was a driving force of energy, a vortex have you. Regardless of whether or not you believe in things like energy that draw you toward something, there is something incredibly special about Ojai that does draw you in.
A quick drive into town and you’re welcomed by bohemian styled boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. The artisans that own these small businesses are part of what keeps Ojai so unique.
Picture Spanish-style architecture with a bell-tower that’s housed on the main street. Every staircase is adorned with colorful and intricately designed tiles reminiscent of Spain or Mexico. The people are mostly locals who were born there and couldn’t be friendlier offering tips on where to walk to and explore.
We visited Ojai Harvest for dinner at the recommendation of the concierge team at Ojai Valley Inn. We arrived just before sunset to a patio decorated with Spanish tiles, agave plants and potted olive trees (my favorite) with tables for outdoor seating and patio lights strung overhead. We first stepped into the Ojai Harvest Bar. The decor was perfect -- old quilts filled with decades of history sat atop just under the ceiling perfectly styled. The vibe was slightly rustic and kind of moody but in an inviting way that makes you want to pull up a stool and chat for hours.
We imbibed on a Wilder Cup & Harvest Margarita. They were beautifully made. Following the cocktails we ventured to the restaurant. It was just as inviting with more light entering in from the all of the windows. We chatted with our server with whom we found out was born and raised in Ojai and had raised her children there as well. She was lovely.
We sat outside under the tea lights by the olive trees. I ordered a cheese plate. It arrived on a board and couldn’t be more picturesque. From the perfectly toasted and stacked bread, to the colorful & edible marigolds and delectable cheeses, this was one for the books. Simple but the cheese pairings with the prosciutto, capers & grapes was exactly what I needed. Perhaps it was the cool breeze, the wine and that energy the Chumash talked about, but was a beautiful and perfect evening.
MEANWHILE BACK AT THE INN….
We decided to have a nightcap at the Oliveella Bar. I loved everything about it. The lights were dimmed now that the dinner crowd was winding down. The fireplaces were lit and it was the perfect setting to unwind before bed.
The next morning the fog rolled in and coated the sky. It was beautiful. We walked around and were greeted by bunny rabbits hopping to their den. We ordered breakfast on the patio and by the time it arrived the fog had cleared, the sun was out and the air was warm. The bacon was crisp to perfection and the juice was so freshly squeezed. Our waffles were fluffy and the homemade whipped cream melted on our tongues; we enjoyed every bite. One last peruse around the grounds to walk off breakfast and we couldn’t help but admire all the beautiful landscaping. Cottage roses, birds of paradise and more olive trees.
As we drove away we passed one of the Ojai Valley trolleys -- a staple in town that adds to the quaintness of Ojai. I knew I would return soon. It was as if I were saying “see you soon old friend.”
I came seeking inspiration, rest and adventure. I left with much more than that.
Thank you Ojai for bringing a little magic into my life and thank you Ojai Valley Inn for an amazing stay!