Oh hey, Ojai
In LA everyone touts the natural beauty that's always just a short drive away (You can be in the mountains in the morning, the desert for lunch, and the beach for dinner blah blah). While we are living what I like to call our “California Years,” we agreed that we should explore a bit more. We should cast off our New York crusty exterior and attempt to enjoooooy California a little. I needed a long weekend so off to Ojai we went with very little knowledge of what we would find there. First thing, we tried to visit the Ojai Olive Oil Ranch because who doesn’t want to chug olive oil by the glass? On the drive from LA, I’d read rave reviews about olive oil tastings and the fun of watching olives get crushed or pressed or whatever and then drinking their fresh little souls. Yes, please! Sadly we discovered it was closed that day, but I would still recommend it even just for the orange tree lined drive there which feels very regal and smells just super.
Next we checked into the Ojai Rancho Inn which, and they are very careful to point out, is NOT a hotel, it’s a social club. What does that mean? I’m still not entirely sure, but I can tell you the decor is that special flavor of hipster that includes teepees, firepits, and carefully placed arrowheads. The lobby is white painted wood and all clean geometric art. We waited our turn while a thin, manicured, denim-clad gay couple quizzed the front desk clerks about what there is to do around here (Just relax, man) and what the in room jacuzzi’s were like to which the desk clerk eagerly offered, “Do you want to tour the property?” I settled in for what I feared would be a loooong wait while they all went to tour the whole property, the whole property.
I looked around for what felt like a half hour or more while Tim read the local foodie magazine, Edible Ojai, which showcases all the local, homespun delights an organi-vor could wish for. After I’d poured over all the homemade jams and silkscreened tshirts with sparse yet cryptic designs in the hotel's (Sorry, social club's) gift shop, I read about the wooden twig you are encouraged to burn in your room to cleanse it of spirits (Just stop it). Finally my dormant New Yorker awoke and I began to seethe in impatience and silently screamed a message to the universe with my mind (Come on, hipsters, check me in. I cannot listen to you discuss the “culture” of your "social club" anymore) and the woman behind the desk suddenly looked up at me and said reassuringly that they’d be right with us, seemingly sensing the disturbance in the force my telepathic pissiness has created. People in Ojai are just more intuitive, man.
We (at long glorious last) checked into the garden cottage and were greeted with a fantastic worn leather couch, pendant lamps made out of pottery, a bed seemingly carved from a whole ancient redwood and a record player rescued from the local school district (Of COURSE there would be a record player). Tim puts on Johnny Cash and we have a look around. Heading outside we discover that there’s a real life, full sized HORSE in a pen next door to the cottage and I trick it a few times into thinking I have snacks so I can pet it. Love me, horse, loooove me!
The pool is closed (BOO!) due to some dispute with the health department (Concerning) and that means the area around the pool is also off limits (Double boo). I don’t feel like going into the bar, though I have to say, it’s adorable. We wander out back to find vintage airstream trailers and a gaggle of bearded hipsters lounging and throwing a frisbee to a golden lab. “Christ, is this going to turn into a Levi’s commercial at sundown?” Tim whispers and I love him more for it.
Our room has a fireplace and I lounge on the magnificent leather couch and read the last of a novel which, I can't lie, is a pretty damn fine way of spending an afternoon in my opinion. My shoulders start to drop, am I actually relaxing? Tim goes for a long bike ride (bike provided by social club) on a bike path that spans multiple towns and is side by side with a horse trail. It’s quiet and a little chilly and the air smells like pine needles and angel wings and pure white fluffy kittens. It gets dark and it doesn’t turn into a Levi’s commercial; it’s actually pretty fantastic. I drift off to sleep in the fluffy white comforter and dream the dreams of the just. Hipsters, I take it all back. You got it going on. Fix the pool and I will happily move into whatever airstream is empty when Coachella happens. Seriously, hit me up, brah (See, I'm learning Californian).
The next morning we head over to Bart’s Bookstore. It's a series of tiny buildings joined by very handmade awnings which means it’s essentially an outdoor bookstore and that is a pretty cool idea (California 2, Cranky me 0). I love books and all things book and this place has a fantastic collection of bookity book books. We spend an hour or so there giggling over weird titles we find and Tim picks out a hardcover copy of Under Glass: A Victorian Obsession by John Whitenight for me (Review forthcoming). Taxidermy birds under bell jars? Heaven.
We shopped around town a bit. I was happy to discover Fig, a meticulously curated home décor store with these fantastic pads of paper placemats by Hester and Cook Design and beautiful ceramics and then there’s cute as a button Summer Camp, a décor store inside an old vintage gas station that's so adorable I want to smack its face off.
Want a pretty view and delicious farm to table fare? Try Ojai Ranch House. It was a bit of a wait and was pretty crowded with tourists but it was worth it.
If I’d had more time I would have found a massage, bought some olive oil, eaten some famous Ojai Pixie tangerines, and stolen that pony at the hotel (Sorry! It's a social club) but alas, I think we might return again because once I put my sarcastic self on a shelf, I liked it a whole lot (Shut up).