We are always looking for a mini-vacation no more than four or five hours drive from Monterey. Several weeks ago we had the wonderful experience of staying at the historic Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, a glorious oasis directly east of Ventura. The wonderful climate of the Ojai Valley draws celebrities and regular folk to rejuvenate their health in a sanctuary of tranquility at the spa or on the vast grounds where tropical birds in large cages talk to you in hilarious repetitions of whatever you say.
The trails –especially the Pratt Loop–are easy and long, with sweeping vistas of the valley below. Along the well-maintained trails we picked avocadoes and oranges that drooped from orchards nearby. Surrounded by hills and mountains, the Ojai Valley Inn celebrates the “Pink Moment” when the sunset casts a pink glow onto the hillside for all to enjoy while drinking a glass of wine from one of the Ojai Valley vineyards.
Although we were at the Inn during the “low season” the concierge service was truly imaginative and helpful. We were able to take an acrylic painting class at the dedicated “Artist Cottage”. Ojai does indeed nurture its art and artists with the Ojai Center for the Arts, downtown galleries featuring both local and international artists, Ojai Studio Artists Tour and Art in the Park.
A combination of art and wine can be seen on the side streets and fine restaurants are scattered throughout. In addition, there are many annual events like the Ojai Film Festival, a cineaste’s destination (every November).
One of our most enjoyable activities was a private cooking class arranged through PalatePro in the back kitchen of Azu, a Spanish tapas restaurant. We were lucky to be their first students. Chef Chris supervised our preparation of dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed with chorizo, brie drizzled with honey, sautéed scallops with lemon and capers, spicy mussels, kale Caesar salad with polenta croutons, filet tacos, and a pear tart all served in a private dining room. I’ll be posting some food photos soon! Azu was a blast. Keep that in mind in light of my warning below. I highly recommend Ojai as a retreat away from home, so close and yet a world away! One note of caution: Do NOT go to the hotel restaurant at the Ojai Valley Inn when the chef has his days off (Mondays and Tuesdays). The food was terrible!