Ojai holds the remembered promises of tiny hamlets that use to exist near Los Angeles before the urban sprawl engulfed them. Tucked between towering mountains, Ojai embraces the calm and peace that Southern California professes but rarely delivers. My friend Meredith and I have made this journey north of Los Angeles to celebrate her birthday and seek truth to the rumors of restorative powers that our friends have boasted. After fighting over two hours of bumper to bumper traffic through Oxnard and Ventura, we pull off the freeway onto California Highway 33 North, winding our way through little towns, along side the Ventura Bike Trail, a paved nine mile trail that ends at the beach in Ventura.
Our goal is the Oak Cafe
at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa (recently rated the#1 Spa destination in the world by Trip Advisor ). Arriving mid afternoon, we are greeted by unimposing elegance, casual yet formal whitewashed Spanish style buildings spread out over 220 acres, home to the resort, spa, restaurants and golf course.
The outdoor restaurant, surrounded by huge old oak trees, seems populated by resort guests and locals, and exudes a relaxed, take your time atmosphere. As we sit at our table, watching people stroll along the edge of the golf course, the tensions and stress of our fast paced city lives disapates, replaced by
tranquility and quiet. We take this time to catch up with each others lives and eat from the casual American cuisine on the menu, followed (of course) by
After lunch we walk the grounds, enjoying the sparse layout of the resort’s buildings and finally making our way to the spa. I am reminded of my recent visit to the Center of Well Being Spa at The Phoenician Hotel in Phoenix, Az. This would be a perfect place for my next "girls weekend getaway". Just walking the grounds, eating lunch and looking over the spa menu put me in a relaxed frame of mind, I can only imagine what a weekend of pampering would do to my Psyche.
The Ojai Valley Resort and Spa is located on the outskirts of Ojai so Meredith and I decide to ventured deep into downtown Ojai, where the main drag only gets congested at 3P, when school lets out. Having no trouble finding street parking, we wander in and out of art galleries, home stores and tea shops. We just missed the 9th Annual Storytelling Festival , which took place in the park that runs along the center of town.
Ojai has a very laid back atmosphere, infused with artistic and therapeutic qualities. I waited fourteen years before making the short drive there. I won’t wait as long to go back.